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Furman partners with Freeman Foundation to offer internships in Asia

A highlight of Austin Saggus’ time in Asia was his tour of Micro-Mechanics in Penang, Malaysia with company founder and CEO, Chris Borch ’78.

Until this year, Austin Saggus ’18 had never traveled farther than the East Coast.

All that changed when, as part of a new May Experience course at Furman, Saggus boarded a plane and flew 10,000 miles to Southeast Asia. Saggus, a senior business major, stayed on in Singapore for the rest of the summer for an internship working at Ericsson, an international communications technology company.

Saggus’ role in Ericsson’s Human Resources Talent Acquisition Office in central Singapore focused on data analytics. He gathered data and used it to show his manager hiring trends and practices by both job type and country.

“I had to think critically and creatively, and I got to see my manager share my work with her manager,” said Saggus. “It was great to know my work had an impact.”

Saggus was one of 12 students and six recent graduates who participated in the inaugural Furman University International Internship Program in East and Southeast Asia. As part of The Furman Advantage, the program supports students who independently seek and obtain a full-time internship. Students engaged in activities ranging from a medical internship at a clinic in rural Nepal to studying sharks at the Micronesian Shark Foundation in Palau.

Only 24 universities in the nation offer the internship program which is available to both Furman students and recent graduates. This program combines students’ educational goals with immersive internship experiences, said History Professor and Program Coordinator Lane Harris.

Participants receive $8,000 stipends—$5,000 from a Freeman Foundation grant and $3,000 from Furman’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Internships—to cover at least two months of expenses.

One of the goals of the internship program is to build on Furman’s network of relationships in Asia, especially among alumni, Harris said.

Jackson Dumont, Sydney Schirra and Saggus ’18–began their Asia experience with a May Experience course led by Business Professor Kirk Karwan and Internship Program Director Susan Zeiger. They networked with several Furman alumni including Chris Borch ’78, founder and CEO of Micro-Mechanics manufacturing which is headquartered in Singapore. They also attended university lectures, talked with executives in finance and transport and attended a Thai cooking school.

“These students showed a lot of courage in taking on this challenge,” said Harris. “This was an experience of learning how to live and work in the world and doing that in an international context.”


Owen Murphy learns to ride a camel at Terelj National Park in Mongolia.

Before traveling to Ulaanbaatar this summer, all Owen Murphy ’18 knew about Mongolia was what he learned from Harris’ Ancient China course and from watching an episode of Bizarre Foods.

As a researcher at the National Development Agency of Mongolia, a government agency under the prime minister that develops policy plans and promotes foreign direct investment into the country, Murphy researched the development policies of Latvia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Malaysia. Working with his mentor Julie Bayking at the International Finance Corporation in Ulaanbaatar, he learned about the private sector side of urban planning in a developing country.

On evenings and weekends, Murphy was able to do some traveling—by taxi cab and sometimes by camel.

“I never saw more stars in the night sky than when I spent a few nights in gers (yurts) in the Mongolian countryside.” said Murphy, a history and urban studies major. “Mongolia taught me not to fear the unknown.”

Jason Hirsch with his host parents in Gundu, Nepal.

After hearing about the opportunity from Health Sciences Professor Meghan Slining, Jason Hirsch ’17 jumped at the chance to work at a medical clinic in a small town called Gundu in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. He assisted with maintaining records for the World Health Organization, dressing wounds and taking patients’ vital signs.

While he enjoyed visiting historic and sacred sites in the capital city, one of the highlights of his trip was the time he spent with his host family.

“I enjoyed the simplicity of life,” said Hirsch, who earned his B.A. degree in health sciences in May. “Living in a small farming town like Gundu meant that I spent most days working and evenings relaxing with a cup of tea while enjoying the view of the rice fields and mountains.”

The internship also gave him a head start with his plans to apply for medical school next year. “Working in a medical setting outside of the United States made me better versed in how to provide proper care,” he said.

“Not only did I experience a different culture, but traveling alone to an unfamiliar place taught me so much about myself,” said Hirsch.

For more information or for how to apply for the 2018 program, visit https://www.freemanfurman.com/

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