Insight from a Foreign Girl


By Shan Zhou

People talked about how to build a better city. Many ideas got proposed: Subways could be constructed throughout the city; a tree could be built every ten meters. During the past several years, I gradually realized that it does not really matter how convenient it is to live in the city or how beautiful the city is, for you to feel that how wonderful the city is. A city is just like a person. He is probably not super smart or surprisingly good-looking. However, when he cares for you, gives you sincere understanding and supports you like a dear family member, all of a sudden, you would feel connected to him.

Unlike the other interns, I am a sort of “old intern”. The internship with Schneider Downs is my fourth internship. I was born in China and went to undergraduate school in Beijing, which is very far away from my home town. Beijing is an awesome city, for it offers job opportunities on top of different types of industries, and you could meet experts or specialists in different areas. Anytime, even 3 a.m. in the morning, you could conveniently find a place to eat or have fun without safety concerns. However,  the fast life pace and fierce competition make people in Beijing so rushed and so focused on their own life, and sometimes even indifferent to other people’s lives. I don’t blame them because the majority of them spend 12 hours on working and commuting every day. But I don’t want to become one of them.

Half in following my beloved nerdy boyfriend, who started his PhD life at CMU a year ago, half in pursuit of my own interest in exploring the world, I came here, studying at University of Pittsburgh for a master degree in accounting. For sure, cultural shock swamps me. However, the cultural shock I received during the past one year is mostly sweet. The internship at Schneider Downs is definitely a highlight.

Compared to the old school style in China, SD is a very personable firm. As internal auditing interns, we gather together around the two small round tables on the 18th floor, a little crowded comfort zone. I don’t remember how many times someone walked by and kindly told us that we could use the spacious touchdown desks. Shareholders or senior managers are so unbelievably approachable and easygoing. My small invitations for grabbing coffee or having lunch were taken seriously and got set up in their calendars. Sam, a senior auditor in my department, gave me a ride to the client site when I was still a driving novice. Every day around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Jani will walk through the department with her funny grandma style jokes, sometimes with peanut chocolates. Once in a while, we receive emails announcing the birth of a baby, happy hour for someone leaving the firm, transfer of pirate game tickets. I love these moments that makes me feel so close to people in the firm.

As an “experienced” intern, I have the right to say that Schneider Downs does respect every one of us and considers the long-term growth of us. I know how much it costs to recruit an intern and well round train him/her. SD is willing to make these efforts to invest in us even though we only stay here for a short period of time and the contribution we make to the firm surely cannot outweigh the cost to the firm from an economic perspective. During the short 10 weeks, I received three trainings and assisted with six projects, which helped me gained a well-rounded understanding of internal auditing. I usually have a desire to understand all aspects of the thing I am learning and have an “annoying habit” of asking many questions until the answer is clear. Every senior and manager who has mentored me showed great patience and encouragement for my questions. For the first two weeks, I wasn’t assigned much work to do because it took time for the managers to assign us to projects. However, the people in the office never threw me any typical “intern junk work” to fill up my nonbillable hours.

My gratitude to Schneider Downs is beyond my English capacity J  Schneider Downs is a place where young people could feel at home and learn a lot from the seniors, not only on the technical side, but also on the soft skill side. Most importantly, the care from the firm to us interns can influence us to develop the precious habit of helping people and keep an open mindset. The initial employer of one’s career will have a significant impact on his/her own life. I congratulate those interns who have received full-time offers of having the opportunity to continue working for SD.

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