Broadening her horizons, expanding her world
When Lauren Fowler received word that she was a candidate for an internship with automaker BMW in Munich, Germany, she realized the required video chat interview, common among college students seeking jobs, would be unlike any previous professional conversation. Though the digital world was second nature to her, Fowler knew the stakes were too high to approach this virtual interaction lightly.
The coveted position was a paid 40-hour-a-week internship that would strengthen her human resources skills and expand her management experience. A recent intrepid traveler, Fowler said the location in Germany also appealed to her sense of adventure and desire for international engagement. She sought assistance from the Office of Student Enrichment, a career-focused department unique to the College of Business and Behavioral Science (CBBS). With the help of Leah Hughes, career and internship coordinator, Fowler learned Skype interview etiquette — what to wear, where and how to sit, methods for speaking clearly, and cultural nuances. “We discussed the types of questions Lauren might expect based on the specific role she was applying for, and Lauren prepared responses in advance,” said Hughes.
Fowler remained confident and composed, even when matching her polite Southern sensibilities to her German interviewer’s more direct line of questioning. “When you walk into a traditional interview, you have time to gauge the environment and get your bearings, but with Skype you press click and go,” she said. Hughes added, “Lauren’s poise and professionalism surely played a huge factor in getting the internship with BMW. She’s the type of student who takes initiative and works hard to reach her goals.”
The Fort Mill native’s college path has been a true journey, one that has combined equal parts drive and opportunity. As a management major with a minor in psychology, Fowler has gravitated toward an emphasis in human resources and international management. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she even made time to join the Clemson sailing team — a sport she admits knowing nothing about at the start of her freshman year. “I had never been part of a team sport before,” she said. Fowler soon became a confident sailor and learned valuable communication skills while functioning as part of a group. “When you’re traveling to regattas across the state in a 15-passenger van, you need to know how to work together and get along,” she laughed.
Stepping outside of her comfort zone intensified during Fowler’s sophomore year. That’s when she took a closer look at her experiences and realized she needed something more, something different. “I had never even traveled outside my time zone.” Her interest in European culture led her to Florence, Italy, and Lorenzo de’ Medici: The Italian International Institute.
While taking classes in Italy, Fowler made a conscious effort to connect with other international students during her spring 2014 semester. “In South Carolina, I had been living in an American bubble and never really considered the perspectives of people from other countries,” she said. “Now I was talking to students and faculty from all over the world, people completely unlike me. I learned about their cultures, their families, and how they grew up. It was amazing how close we became, despite these differences.” Along with friends from Holland and Mexico, Fowler traveled to seven countries, immersing herself in each country’s culture and organizing itineraries and lodging along the way.
While visiting Spain at the end of the semester, Fowler connected with a former classmate — a Spanish student who had studied abroad at Clemson and was now enrolled at Universitat d’Alacant in Alicante. Fowler fell in love with the historic, waterfront city and vowed to stay longer. As the first Clemson student to enroll in the Alicante summer business program, she needed approval from her university. Fowler did what any enterprising Clemson business student would do: she created a business plan to achieve her objectives. “I assured my family that I had a place to stay, was enrolled in school and had a return flight home; and, I sent Clemson a syllabus with the two classes I wanted to take at Universitat d’Alacant.” Fowler immersed herself in her international marketing courses and learned about the organizational structure of Spanish businesses during field trips.
When her European adventure came to a close, Fowler put her business acumen to work and secured a fall 2014 marketing internship at Lights of Hope, a non-profit organization in Anderson. The Christmas lights display and its associated craft fair, the Upstate Holiday Show, benefit local charities. She found this opportunity as she would the BMW internship: through Clemson Job Link. Again, Fowler discovered she was in uncharted territory. As the marketing director, she was expected to promote these major fundraisers, yet had never written a press release. In typical fashion, Fowler plunged right in.
Ben Phillips, director of Anderson Lights of Hope, praised the tenacity of his new intern and credits her with the success of November’s Upstate Holiday Show. “Usually a new event breaks even the first year, but we actually made money because of Lauren. She did tons of research and redefined our target market, pinpointing where customers would come from and where to put our limited advertising dollars. There’s usually a learning curve when you’re working with students, but Lauren is a self-starter.“
For Fowler, a new set of challenges has just begun. She’s putting Clemson academics on hold for a semester and getting ready for her six-month internship at BMW in Germany. Meanwhile, she’ll be studying the culture and learning the language through Rosetta Stone, software offered free to all CBBS students. At BMW she’ll be charged with developing strategies to improve the internship program. As she observes, ironically, “I’ll be an intern hiring interns!”
Fowler credits the work ethic instilled in her by Clemson professors and staff, and is grateful for their internship and study abroad assistance. “International travel and study have helped me become a stronger person. If you asked me one year ago if I could picture myself living and working in another country, I would have said ‘no way!’ Now I know I have the skills to do it.”