International Cooperative Education





Participating in an ICE Program can have a profound affect on your future. Don't take our word for it, take a look at what ICE alumni are saying.

Click here to read ICE Alumnus Danielle Williams' extended reflection on her experience, or continue down the page to see short testimonials from many students.


Rebecca Nie, Internship in Bhutan, summer 2010, graduate student at Stanford University

"I taught calculus and meditation, in the little known kingdom of Bhutan, a place untouched by Western influence, this summer. International Cooperative Education's program enabled me to travel to unimaginable places, and work with colleagues from diverse background. It was an once in a lifetime experience, and a true eye opener. It is definitely worth while."  Read Rebecca's blog at

Melissa King, University of Wisconsin : Internship at the Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community in Australia

Melissa King

"The summer that I spent in Mutitjulu was the best time of my life so far. I enjoyed my work, I made some awesome friends, and I learned more than I have in all of my schooling thus far. It also changed me a lot: I now have a different outlook on the world and how life should be lived. This experience also strengthened my level of self-confidence. With every day that goes by I find myself missing my life and friends in Mutitjulu. I know that I will return to Australia to work in an Aboriginal community once I graduate, even if it is not Mutitjulu. I highly recommend this experience to everyone with an open mind and a compassionate heart."

Alison Sponseller, University of Michigan : Teaching English in Argentina

One of the hardest things about sharing this experience with others is that I can never truly make them understand what it was like. Many parts of the Argentine culture are very different from American culture, and often in subtle ways that can’t be adequately described. Even more difficult to relate is the range of emotions I went through while there. It is almost impossible to tell someone who has never lived in another country what it’s like to stay with a foreign family for three months, to rely on one's knowledge of the Spanish language, and to survive in a totally different culture. What I can’t even fully explain to myself are all the incredible, valuable things that I learned from this experience. I know that I’m a more independent, cultured and open-minded individual; further, I know that fundamental elements of my self were changed. Although I’m fully re-immersed in the U.S. culture, I sometimes notice that I look at my surroundings a little differently than I did before, I think about other countries and cultures in a more personal way, and when I talk to people, I feel more connected and understood. I don’t actively think about my summer experience all the time, but I think that the many incredible lessons I gained from it will remain with me and help me to be a more conscientious, caring individual.

Ray Hashizume, California Polytechnic Pomona : Consumer Cooperatives in Tokyo, Japan

I believe that someday this experience of working at co-op Tokyo will help me with my professional career because of the lifestyle that I experienced in Japan. Tokyo is the world’s most expensive city. After having survived my time in Tokyo with only modest financial backing, I'm confident that I could survive almost anywhere else on the planet. The main thing that will help me in the future is the number of horizons that this internship has opened for me. I was able to meet and interact with people from another country, gain knowledge of cultural aspects of the city, and observe the difference in normative standards. As an international business major I must keep a open mind and, at times, ignore my American frame of reference. This experience provided me with a breadth of knowledge and respect for a place that had previously been unknown to me, which leaves me with an eagerness to experience a multitude of new places to which my career with inevitably take me.

Danika Dukes, Stanford University : Migros Basel, Switzerland

Although my summer in Basel, Switzerland has ended, this internship is going to be a continuing process for me in years to come. I will forever apply and relate to what I have learned so that I can share it with others. My pre-departure goal of making connections with new friends in Switzerland was only the beginning to a long-term process of professional and personal growth. One summer's time has only allowed me to scrape the tip of the iceberg with regards to cultural understanding; I still feel challenged to further break into its core. Only after this issue diffuses through the public will stereotypes cease and positive relationships maximize. I would like to end this report with a line from a favorite book of mine, Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Erin Pruitt, Anthropology Major, California State University, Cal Poly Pomona, 2007

Broome Historical Museum, Western Australia:   Broome was an amazing and unique experience, not only in terms of work but also culturally speaking. I gained so much information that I am still processing my experiences, each one just as valuable as the next. I am, of course, forever grateful for those who took part in allowing me to see my vision through. I would not have been able to do this without the helpful knowledge and guidance of the ICE program as well as my supervisors and host-family in Broome. Broome itself is a culturally artistic hub, full of intoxicating bohemian charm and humor and laid back attitudes that I as a student of the arts, humanities and social sciences felt quite content and at peace living there. I did indeed achieve my goals, which was to understand cultural integration, obtain a better understanding of another culture on an anthropological perspective to acquire and enhance my research and work experience and to gain the knowledge and respect of becoming a global citizen. ... While doing research I was given access to use "mosaic" which has been a beneficial and worthwhile experience. Having never used the data base system prior, I was able to define my skills in IST data-based collections with access to the vast collection of photographs, under guidance I was allowed to use not only critical and analytical thinking, but to become creative in my assigned projects. The Broome Historical Society is a small organization which has been run by volunteers. It has been well planned and the people in charge have a deep understanding of all aspects or running a museum.

Andrew Jessup, University of Michigan, School of Engineering:

BMW Regensburg:  My summer in Germany was a success. I am thankful for the support I received from Dr. Seefeldt of ICE-Menlo, The Center for International Education and the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, my colleagues at BMW and friends in the Melanchthonheim were also supportive of me and helped me learn every day.   Completing the internship with BMW in Germany was beneficial to me both my areas of study, German and mechanical engineering. I would recommend doing an internship abroad to anybody who has the opportunity and support. ... I learned a lot about manufacturing processes and techniques. For interns there is a large emphasis on documentation of experimentation and results. I got to practice measurement techniques every day... The biggest benefit of an internship as far as engineering is concerned is problem solving techniques... Engineers often prompted interns to use their problem solving techniques. They wanted us to sharpen these skills so that we could complete tasks quickly when time was of the essence.

Aaron A. Hans, University of Michigan's  Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Kreissparkasse München (Bank in Munich).  "Trying capture the experiences of the summer that I spent in Munich and attempt to convey how they changed my life, would be an injustice not only to all of the people and experiences that I had in Europe but also to myself. The time that I spent immersing myself into another culture and effectively assimilating into the life of everyone around me was really something that I'll take with me for the rest of my life. It allowed me to take a step away from everything I was comfortable with and really tried to live my live in a way that was totally foreign to me...There was on teller who worked exclusively with the moneys and then there were eight customer service agents that were there to do whatever was necessary to make sure that the customers were in and out as fast as possible when they were making their visits to the bank. My function was to work as one of these customer service agents that were there on call at all times and to really assist the customer in anything they wanted to do . This experience was such a great benefit to me as I had just arrived, because it not only allowed me to start to see the way that the bank was operating on a daily basis, but it also gave me the opportunity to start really communicating with people and using my language skills as I had never before.

Kyle Smith, University of California in Santa Barbara, mechanical engineering, 2007

Rolls-Royce (being owned by BMW) in Chichester, England. (six months internship)  " My experience here at Rolls-Royce has given me an inside look and a good understanding of how production is set up and run. This experience is very useful and important for aspiring engineers because anybody who designs something needs to have a good understanding of how it is going to be produced. ... by being part of the planning department I have been exposed to this knowledge. I have absorbed it through the creation of process my contract is nearing its end the immense work load that I was given in the wood-shop became evident and its importance became even more visible as an extension to my contract was being offered. ... I accepted the four months extension which will add a great deal to the beneficial outcome of my overall traineeship. ... I have gotten to know many people from different countries and it has been enjoyable getting to know them all. Everyone has a different perspective on things and by interacting with them I have been able to enhance my understanding about different cultures. "

Annemarie Wylie Fina, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, four different summers.

It did not matter if I was working on a dairy farm in Germany or working with management in a Swiss bank.  I was able to not only perfect my German skills, but live like a native for the Summer. At just age 18, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean to enter a new world.  After three months of milking cows in Germany, I returned to the U.S.,  matured and set my goals on studying abroad in Germany two years later. After my study abroad year at the University of Heidelberg, I returned to ICE for three more summers to work in Switzerland for Migros Corporation, Restella Gastronomie, and Union Bank of Switzerland.  I was so excited about my own international experiences, that I became an ICE Student Recruiter at Cal Poly.  These international work experiences gave me the cutting edge in the job market.  After graduating from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo and majoring in Child and Family Development(Minor in German), I landed a job in European Sales at a Silicon Valley high tech company. I spoke German with my clients on a daily basis and continually kept the customers happy and comforted as I could understand their culture and language.  A few years later, I decided to move to Vienna, Austria and work for my Austrian distributor.  This move was meant to be only for a short time.  That was 17 years ago.  I married the young Austrian man that I met at a Viennese ball in the Hofburg palace and now we have three lovely children, reside in Vienna and California.  Our children speak fluent German and English, attend bilingual schools, and fit into the U.S. and Austria.  When I think about my ICE experiences, I know deep in my heart this was what brought me to Europe and affected the way I was to raise my own children in a multicultural environment.  This year, I am celebrating 26 years since my first of four ICE experiences took place.

John Soldano, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Summer 2007, aerospace engineering

AIRBUS INDUSTRIES, AUGSBURG, GERMANY,   " Working at the EADS plant in Augsburg was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I learned a great deal about the people of Germany and their social, professional and everyday worlds. I also developed friendships both in a social and business sense. Finally I accrued significant practical knowledge about engineering and specifically knowledge about flap-track and fuselage construction. Since the journey I have seen a large positive change within myself relating to the way I deal with people. My focus and the efforts I impart to starting my professional career. I believe these are all related to spending three months working at the EADS."

Ryan Good (UCLA)

Summer camp in Norderheide, Germany.  " Overall I noticed that the people by whom I was surrounded lived very modest lifestyles and the idea of saving was much more attractive to the idea of spending. Living there for three months and adapting to this modest lifestyle, I can say that some of the biggest trades that I brought back were the value for saving rather than spending, the value of appreciating and enjoying the much simpler things in life and the importance of the connection between two beings on a humane level without selfish notions and with the humbleness that only asks what both can learn from one another.  While the children were in Room # 1, I cut the apples and bananas in preparation for the morning snack. When the children returned to the main room we would immediately play our cleaning up song during which time the children would clean the room and sit down.  Our inside activities included making papier-mâché molds of the children's hands or paint pictures which they could take home... we would read popular fairy tales and play games... what I found here at Norderheide was that many of these families that attended came for a multitude of health concerns from physical to mental. The attitude for all was the same: to achieve a well-rounded sense of well-being through various forms of activities that boosted the body, mind and spirit. ... One of the biggest differences between America and Germany is the amount of sports and what kind of sports the children play. I noticed that majority of the boys would play only soccer even when given a basketball. In America soccer would be played but a variety of other sports also would be simultaneously played. The biggest joy for children in the pre-school was listening to audio-stories of famous German characters. "

Corrie Janssens, University of Michigan, 2009

Summer camp on the Atlantic Ocean in France.  "Working at the mini-club (day camp for children) was a good experience in many ways. It was exciting for someone who loves both children and French. I was able to interact with the children while practicing my French five days a week. As a sociology major who is hoping to work with children some day, having experience with them is of course an absolute necessity. The mini-club provided me with experience working with a very large group of children. It was a great self-confidence boost to know that I could be well understood in French. The children's age level was from 4 to 12. They came in two groups from 10 a.m. until noon and from 3 until 5 p.m. The goal was to have a variety of activities so that the children would enjoy their time at the mini-club. We would do arts and crafts, outside games, treasure hunts and video time. Twice a week we would put on a show and sing and dance.  Every Thursday we also put on a show for the parents. Early in the week the children would sign up for the show and then we would hold practices. The themes would vary between weeks. Some examples were pirates, high school musical and Disney Cabaret. The kids really enjoyed the chance to get on stage and act, sing and dance for their parents. "

Sharon Guidi - Migros department store, Davos, Switzerland, 1974

When I look back on the almost 3 months I spent working in the men’s department in a large Migros market in Davos, Switzerland, I see it as a very real turning point in my life. Having taken 3 years of high school German, I was excited to live and work in a country where I could ideally make the language mine. Although awkward at first, being forced to step out of my comfort zone and communicate in a new language within daily life and work was such a great way to internalize all the language that had previously just been book learning.

The other benefit besides living in a gorgeous, small Alpine village, and meeting new friends, both Swiss and American, was the confidence this experience instilled in me-all strangers became fellow citizens of the world. I know that it’s important for everyone to have the experience of being the “foreigner” at least once in their life-patience, empathy, curiosity and willingness to help are surely characteristics that are distilled from that experience. I came home (after also traveling briefly in France and England) a changed person. The memories of the richness of these weeks and months linger like the remnants of the finest Swiss chocolate in my mind and heart!

Thank you so much for all that you did and have done to make these experiences possible for me and for the others who are still benefitting!

Dennis Keen, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2009

SUCCESS LANGUAGE SCHOOL IN ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA.  " I can honestly say that I have had an amazing experience teaching English. The teachers, staff, and environment were all great.  As a first time teacher, I was a little worried about what I was getting myself into. I was so lucky to work at "Success" . I could not have asked for anything better. They stand out above the rest for their honesty and integrity. .. Sometimes I wondered how "Success" even makes a profit because so much time and money is spent into giving students a quality affordable and fun education. ... We were always given a long and restive lunch period and were able to relax in the evenings. We were always treated with kindness and paid well. Everyone who teaches at "SUCCESS" is really happy to work there. The school will be able to draw the best teaching talent based on their reputation. My time in Mongolia was everything I wanted it to be. I was made to feel real comfortable while being far away from home."

Jeffrey Martinez, California State University Sacramento, 2009

CONSUMERS' CO-OPERATIVE TOKYO, JAPAN: : "At first my intention was to improve my language ability. However, I was able to learn so much more than that through this program. I was able to learn not only the language but also gained insight about the differences between the Japanese and American work environment, lifestyle and culture. I was welcomed with open arms and people were able to understand most of what I was trying to communicate. The manager was always checking to make sure that I was comfortable and putting me at ease... Japanese people are very time oriented and I had a rigorous schedule to follow. Time was allotted for certain tasks... The term Co-Op is not just the name of the company of random chain of grocery stores that sells cheap goods. Instead it is a consumers' society that we built for its members by its members.  Everything done at Co-Op is done in order to benefit the lives of people all over Japan... The members of Co-Op really care about the world they live in. More than 50% of the products are made from recycled materials that are continuously recycled. By doing this Co-Op is not only benefiting the earth but is also one of the many ways it can cut its cost... I believe that I became a more responsible person because of this experience. ... I came here expecting only to improve language but I left with a new perspective on my career and perhaps even my life."

Amy Ross, University of Michigan, 2009

SPECIAL REHABILITATION CLINIC FOR ADULTS, PFRONTEN, ALLGÄU, GERMANY : "The confidence level I reached both in my personal life and my knowledge of German has allowed me to walk boldly towards the future. My main obligations were to help out the nurses and doctor assistants and all other care-unit personnel and to help the patients with serious mobility complications get to their daily activities. I learned quickly that one was expected to always be doing something during work hours.  If all obligations had been filled, there was always cleaning to be done around the clinic. I was rotated through various divisions of the clinic. My boss was so nice and friendly to me as were my co-workers. The psycho-somatic rehabilitation process was of much interest to me. I noticed early on that the amount and different kinds of therapy offered to patients was immense. The therapy was extensive as the rehabilitation process focused on a complete rejuvenation of the person's body and mind. ... The opportunities I was presented with were vast but it was the people I connected with that made my life better both during the summer and for the future."

Jane Pomeroy, University of California, Davis, 2007

CENTRO ENSEÑANZA DE LENGUA ENGLESA, REÁLICO, PROVINCIA DE LA PAMPA, ARGENTINA.  " The three months I have spent in Reálico have been the most challenging, unique and fulfilling experiences of my college career. I have learned through perseverance and humor that even the most frustrating and lonesome periods can be transformed into an opportunity to learn about another culture, about the universality that is to be human and to learn about myself. Most importantly I have learned that humans share the same simple wants and needs, no matter the borders and flags that divide them, simply to love and be loved. The atmosphere surrounding CELI felt much more like that of a family than like a school. A consistent resource for students to feel supported and loved. Those students are expected to work and excel. Their emotional health and need to feel loved and supported carried great importance. The teaching atmosphere remains seemingly relaxed. .. I found teaching English as a second language to be one of the most demanding and challenging jobs I have ever had. ... I would advise preparing many adaptable elementary language activities and games to be played in the classroom to complement the lessons. "

James Doing, University of Wisconsin 2009

C & A RETAIL DEPARTMENT STORE, HAMBURG, GERMANY.  " I was assigned to the men's department on the first floor and my first task was simple: pick up shirts lying on the floor, fold the ones already on the tables and put the stray pieces of clothing back where they belong. The hard part was dealing with customers who flocked to me because of my suit and my name tag. At first I was terrified of them and I would walk in circles to avoid being spotted by a customer with a question!
Although my German was good enough to understand their questions and give a basic response, there were still many words that would escape me or some that I simply had never heard of. There were little old ladies who spoke slowly and articulately to whom I could respond with a smile and an authoritative answer, and then there were the flustered hurried men who had to repeat their question three times because they were speaking so fast I could not keep up and even when I did understand a request I had only a limited knowledge of the products and services of C & A. The first week was stressful and challenging, but I learned how to effectively deal with customers even when I did not understand them. My second week was spent on the fourth floor where women's lingerie, men's underwear, children's shoes and maternity and baby clothes were sold. Coming up the escalator you entered a vast scene of bras and panties, two elegant mannequins greeting you at the entrance of the floor, a pink and white forest of lace and frills. It was here that I learned how to operate the cash register and do the final count at the end of the night. I stood at the register for a whole week which was a relaxing alternative to walking around on the floor all day. .. When I started at the beginning of June I could only make out about 25% of what my coworkers were saying to each other, but by the end of the summer I could usually understand everything they were saying as they whispered, mumbled, groaned, and even shrieked to each other about their frustrations, worries, joys and expectations."

Switzerland: Recreational Center: Jeffrey Yost - Summer 2003

" ... I find it hard to describe my summer and its worth. What makes me most happy is that it was really two very different jobs, both of which gave me different insights into life in Switzerland. During the children's camp is when I made most of my good friends. The other counselors were about my age. I don't know what it is, but is just feels good to be with people of one's own age, regardless of whether they are Americans or Swiss. Also, in a way we were all in this camp together, we all had the same basic experiences with children, and we could understand each other perfectly on this very basic level..."

Belgium: Supermarket: Parisa Amirmahani - Summer 2003

"This past summer Dr. Seefeldt and his Belgian coordinator, Dr. Geyskens, found an internship in South Belgium for me. I had a full time job at a supermarket in a small town called Neufchateau. There, I was staying with two different host families for seven weeks. My main purpose of going to South Belgium, was to improve my French. I have to admit that my French conversational skills have become 30 times better than before. The credit for this huge improvement goes to the fact that I worked very closely with the customers in the supermarket, and that I was placed into two very lovely and caring host families who worked on my French every day and every minute. This summer has been the greatest summer of my life. I got to make money in a different country with an entirely different culture. On top of that, I have made great Belgian friends for life. This internship will give me the edge that I need to be a strong medical school applicant. ICE has helped me to gain cultural awareness and that is the biggest gift that someone can give you during your college years."

Australia: Aboriginal Community: Toua Thao - Summer 2003

With all my adventures though, what surprised me the most was how the people accepted me as part of their family so fast.

They watched over me and took care of me wherever I was at and made sure my well-being came ahead of everyone. I will always be grateful for this and I stress that anyone coming from America will be accepted by the people as well if they act accordingly and with dignity.

Germany: Federal Employment Agency: Annie Wellenstein - Summer 2003

Overall I had a wonderful summer in Germany. The experiences I had will stay with me for a lifetime. I think it was very important for me to be exposed to the workplace as it is in a different country. I would very much like to work for a German company in the United States, and I really think that this experience will help me reach that goal. I have gained invaluable international perspectives that will surely be of great advantage to me in the future.

Japan: Co-op Tokyo: René Stein - Summer 2003

Working at Co-op Tokyo has given me an invaluable understanding of Japan's businesses and culture that could never be attained through studies in America. It also gave me the chance to live in one of the more unique places in the world, Tokyo. Once I overcame the initial challenge of adapting to the new environment, I was able to greatly broaden my knowledge of Japan and its people. The traditions of Japan have a strong influence on its businesses, creating much more demanding work environments.

Germany: BMW Assembly in Regensburg: Liem Hoang - Summer 2003

My experience at BMW Regensburg was more than I could have ever imagined. My language skills improved drastically and I have gained a great deal of confidence in speaking German. During my work at BMW and my travels throughout Germany, I was able to see the German culture from the perspective of the Germans. This truly allowed me to appreciate this exciting culture to the fullest extent as I grew into a better person. Most importantly, I felt highly privileged to be allowed to work on such a refined automobile.

Switzerland: Swissport (Swissair): P. Kohl - Summer of 1997

I want to say that this internship has been an incredibly positive experience that was far more valuable to me than I had expected. From what I have learned and experienced, I now have many more opportunities than I did before this apprenticeship and I will definitely look into the options.

Switzerland: Migrosbank: S. Stallings - Summer of 1995

In contemplating my internship experience, I am overwhelmed with what I learned and was allowed to do. I came to love the family that I lived with. Their generosity and friendship will never be forgotten. For thirteen weeks I was able to work and put practice a lifetime of learning. I was able to increase my language ability immensely and to better my understanding of the international business environment. I gained skills and experience that will be invaluable to my future career throughout my entire life. My friends from the Migrosbank, the experience I had traveling on weekends through Europe, and my host family have all become a part of me. Their influence has matured my ideas of the world, of people, and of myself.

Germany: Porsche AG: D. Bowermaster - Summer of 1997

I loved my internship. I enjoyed the friendships and experiences both at work and outside the EZW. This summer I gained invaluable experience and insight into a small segment of German life. An internship abroad cannot be replicated elsewhere. If a million voices plead in the favor of staying in America and one voice courageously says go ... then go. No one would regret it. These words and anecdotes only begin to describe what I have experienced this summer. I simply did not want my internship to end.

Belgium: Bank: M. Allen - Summer 1997

Overall I had a positive experience in Belgium. In addition to gaining a kilo from indulging in rich Belgian chocolates, I returned to the U.S. with and enriched French vocabulary and a few Flemish words. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of living independently. Furthermore, I learned about the banking industry, the Belgian business environment and met nice people. I had a great time.

England: Rover Group Ltd.: B. Erbstoeszer - Summer 1997

My Time in England was great! I gained engineering experience on the job, cultural experience on the job and through all my travel, as well as learned a little bit more about myself during some of the times that I felt lost. I know that the experience will be a valuable commodity to have when applying for a jobs in the future but more than that, it has helped me to become a more worldly wise person and I have a more international outlook on life in general.

Japan: Coop Japan: J. Lin - Summer 1997

This internship was a great experience for me and I made so many friends and learned so much about Japan. After this internship, my vocabulary increased a lot, and my speaking skills improved tremendously. I have also grown as an individual, and I have learned to be patient and hardworking. Going to Japan and learning that immersion first-hand is truly a rewarding experience. My summer in Japan was the best summer of my life.

Germany: BMW AG: J. Boyer - Summer of 1995

This internship has been on of the most beneficial experiences in my life. It has provided me with experience that I could not have received anywhere else. I have been able to immerse myself into another culture, people, and way of life. I have been able to improve my German skills in ways that can only be provided by living in the native land. I have been able to compare and contrast similarities and differences between Germans and Americans, gaining a greater appreciation for both counties. My education has been enhanced as I prepare myself to work in a professional environment following graduation.

Germany: BMW AG: T. Westerberg - Summer 1995

The personal growth and development that I underwent as a result of my internship was staggering. I now see life in a different perspective. I have gained an even greater appreciation for German culture, people, language, and automobiles. I better understand and connect with the Germans and their mentality. I think that the only way to understand people is to live with them and try to be part of them. It was also a character development experience to work on the line for nine hours a day. I have now developed work ethics.

Co-op in Japan.  Kylie from Arizona State University - summer 2017

(written by Kylie's professor of Japanese)  Kylie talked to me about her adventurous experience in Japan.  It seems she spent a wonderful time with her host families and colleagues at work and gained a valuable experience during her stay in Tokyo.  I’m sure that this internship gave her not only opportunities to meet new people and learn Japanese language and culture in authentic environment, but also brought her new perspectives in intercultural communication. Thank you very much for providing such a wonderful opportunity to my student!

Caroline Cole, Switzerland

Caroline Cole - Brown, U.C. Santa Barbara - International Business Student - 18 month permit for SWITZERLAND - 1983-84

Making the absolute best of ourselves is not an easy task, but I believe that’s what life is all about. When I chose to participate in the ICE program, I had no idea it would become the single most influential choice of my me the opportunity to discover my potential, my personal and professional “best”. I was 20 at the time, an international business student with a minor in psychology (U.C. Santa Barbara). I had already taken a few years of German and Italian, but wasn’t sure how my studies would apply to “real” world opportunities.

Thanks to the intense dedication and personal efforts of Dr. Gunter Seefeldt, and his International Cooperative Education program, I received an unprecedented 18 month Swiss work permit. It was Spring 1983 and at the time, permits for Switzerland were almost impossible to secure.My Swiss employer, Schmidt Agence, owned most, if not all of thousands of newspaper/magazine shops and outlets throughout Switzerland. The company had organized a comprehensive work program that allowed me to experience several Swiss regions, including the famous alpine region of Davos. Time off for vacations and excursions were also built into the program. The salary was enough to live reasonably well and still save for incidentals. Schmidt-Agence took great care in making sure my first few weeks were as comfortable as possible.

 stayed with a wonderful Swiss family that helped me adjust to my new “situation”. And when it came time to find my own apartment (room), I was offered assistance whenever I needed it, i.e. a mattress, a tram ticket, or finding my way around town. The Director’s secretary even gave me my first woolen winter coat. I rented a room in a town home I shared with other Swiss students in the medieval town of Basle. Almost 30 years later, I still have vivid memories of my time there on the Nonnenweg 32. Together my new Swiss roomies and I enjoyed magical forest fests and picnics in the countryside. And in the winter, I loved walking to work through the nearby park thickly laden with snow. I especially enjoyed the winter evening air that smelled of melting raclette cheese.

I worked my 42 hours a week, and since most of my co-workers spoke very little English, I found myself learning the Swiss dialect quite quickly. By the end of the day, my brain was tired, my legs would ache, but my heart was full of the immense satisfaction of the constant challenges I faced and overcame. Living the Swiss life and experiencing the working style changed my life forever.

My mindset evolved to a new level of understanding, tolerance and appreciation for, what I believe, is a model for other countries around the world. Living “green” isn’t just a trend, it’s a part of the Swiss moral fabric, it’s just how you do things - when you have respect for the environment, and for each other. They believe in taking “care” of everything, and in turn, the country takes care of them. It’s really quite simple. In fact, the Swiss society gives meaning to the term “Simple Abundance”. Thanks to ICE’s opportunity, my experience and eventual bilingualism led, step by step, to a “dream” career.

Ten years later, having worked for 4 multinational corporations, based in Basel and Zurich, I received a job offer from ABB Asea Brown Boveri, the largest electrical engineering group in the world, 210‘000 employees operating in 140 countries. I worked directly for the Executive Board, leading a Global Corporate Design program. I traveled to many countries, spoke with many nationalities, addressed their concerns and created ABB’s Global Design Directives. I also met my British/German/American husband in Switzerland, gave birth to our two beautiful children Sarah and Justin, and enjoyed a total of 24 years leading a very different life. And yes - I can truthfully say that my professional and personal success would have never been possible without the ICE experience.

Dr. Seefeldt’s personal attention to nurturing his business contacts says so much about his own Swiss heritage. My whole-hearted gratitude goes out to this man....and the program that has surely changed many more lives than mine. Choosing to introduce the American perspective, we decided to move the family to California in 2003. Needless to say, I miss Switzerland.