With the help of an Experience Grant through ILR’s International Programs Office I was afforded the opportunity to intern at Protea Hotels in Lusaka, Zambia for four weeks during my summer break. This was a great chance to apply what I had learned in the classroom at the ILR School and it would be my first opportunity to venture to a different continent with a rich culture and an incredible history dating back to the birth of mankind. When I arrived at Lusaka International Airport I was immediately greeted by my friend who would be hosting me for the next four weeks. As I walked off the plane I first noticed how warm and intense the sun was (especially for wintertime), how clean the air felt, and how open, free and natural the landscape was. As I was soaking in my new surroundings, I was given a tour of the various districts within the city, getting a taste for urban life in Lusaka. I knew I would love it here and allow myself to make this place feel like my new home.
For my internship at Protea Hotels I was placed in the HR department and assigned two projects. The first was to consolidate all of the individual performance appraisals for entry level employees into general templates for each department. The purpose of this project was to help managers better review their employees as well as encourage internal promotions. In my search for the optimal evaluation criteria, I worked two to three days in each of the departments to get a better feel for what the employees actually did. This allowed me to better understand the inner-workings of the hospitality industry as well as Zambian culture. Having standardized appraisals that better display the key attributes managers look for in evaluating employees makes performance appraisals more effective and efficient. Using the knowledge I had acquired from my Organizational Behavior and HR classes I developed four templates, one for each individual department. These templates would be used for all entry level employees during their next performance evaluation.
My second project involved designing interview scripts for all upper level management positions throughout Protea Zambia. This included all administrative staff as well as General Managers for the seven Protea Hotels throughout Zambia. This project involved a large amount of job description and job specification research. What I enjoyed most about this project was interviewing employees on what they thought were crucial characteristics to look for in potential candidates for their positions. Interacting with upper level employees was a great chance to exercise and enhance my professionalism, and better understand business, hospitality and human resources from a Zambian perspective. After completing my interview scripts I was informed that an interview for a position I had written a script for would be held during my time in Zambia. This resulted in the most rewarding part of this project where I had the opportunity to sit in on an interview where the questions I had written were asked.
Before I even applied for the experience grant I had created a list of goals and expectations that evolved as my trip approached. While searching for an opportunity I knew I wanted to complete my first international trip. I also wanted to make sure I utilized the skills I had learned at the ILR School. Once I knew I was going to Zambia I wanted to make sure to immerse myself in culture whether it is through the languages, food, celebrations, nature or other Zambian customs. I am proud to say I successfully accomplished each of my goals beyond my expectations. When you become part of something very different from what you are used to it is easy to shelter yourself and hide from what you find unfamiliar. But it is incredibly rewarding to become a part of where you are and what you are doing and have an open mind to new experiences.
I would like to thank my family, my host family and the ILR International Programs Committee for assisting me with funding and support and I would like to encourage anyone who is interested in putting together a trip abroad, especially to Zambia, to give this grant a serious consideration.