The CEMS Global Alliance is a purpose led organization, powered by our beliefs that great leadership starts with self-leadership and societal progress requires continual exploration. In this series of interviews, we take a look at CEMS students and alumni that are contributing to make this world a more open, sustainable and inclusive world.


Humans of CEMS: Total immersion in a new culture

Today, in our Humans of CEMS interview, we are happy to introduce you to Sarah Said Daoud, a recent graduate from KUBS (Korea University Business School). She spent her exchange semester at NUS (National University of Singapore). After graduation, she joined LG Chem as an intern, where she dived into the nuances of the petrochemicals industry.In this interview, she is sharing her experience of immersing herself in a completely new culture while transitioning from school to work.

1. How do you find yourself adapting to a major environmental transition from school to work? What challenges you the most and what is most enjoyable?

I started working for LG Chemical right after the completion of my masters at Korea University which was a major environmental change. The most challenging part for me was becoming familiar with the petrochemicals industry specifically, and educating myself about new chemical terms as well as the business itself. On the other hand, the most enjoyable part of this major change is the people. I find working with Koreans incredibly heartwarming in many ways. This has just sped up my learning as well as adapting to the work environment.

2. How is it for you to work at LG Chemical as an intern? From my knowledge, it is a very rare and desirable opportunity to work in LG chemical for local students. Please tell us about the organizational culture, task structure and so on in your perspective.

In brief, LGChem is affiliated to the South Korean conglomerate LG Group. It is ranked as the 9th largest petrochemical company in the world and dominates the battery market globally in terms of sales. I have worked for two months as an intern in the "new business product development" team focusing on sustainability.

I was mainly in charge of conducting market research and identifying trends with regards to sustainability. My internship at LG Chemical has been one of the best experiences I have had. Initially, I was mostly worried about the cultural differences between my colleagues and myself, but instead, my unique background has sparked curiosity and initiated conversations. It ultimately helped me make friends.

3. Why do you think it is important to work in a foreign country/city where you went to CEMS school? 

Gaining working experience in a foreign country is extremely important when you start out your career. Even though it requires you to step out of your comfort zone, it shapes you in several ways and opens up your mind to immerse yourself in a completely different culture. In my case, within a few weeks of my internship, I have started making lots of friends at work while picking up a few Korean words along the way. I quickly became part of the in-group and I think this is what has helped me in getting a job offer soon afterwards.

What I am learning or need to learn compared to my Korean colleagues is certainly the language and the culture itself. I find it extremely advantageous because not only will I be acquiring a new language, but I will also be left with extensive knowledge and cultural intelligence.

4. Do you believe your experience at CEMS helped you and will assist you to reach your career goals? To be more specific, what CEMS characteristics would allow you to step up in the future?

The CEMS program has played a critical role in where I am in my career at the moment. Had it not been the curriculum that requires us to have an international internship in a global company; I probably would not have been able to find an internship at LGchem. Additionally, CEMS's vast network with leading business schools across the globe has introduced me to different teaching styles which have helped me gain new perspectives and hence further consolidated my CV and eventually helped me to find a position in a leading Korean company. In my future career prospects, CEMS will remain one of the noticeable accomplishments in my higher education and will continue to open up several opportunities wherever I decide to go.

5. To current CEMS students, especially living in APAC region where CEMS awareness is yet not as prevalent as in the EU, is there any advice you would like to share, so that students can get the most out of their time in CEMS?

I recommend anyone considering the CEMS program to pursue it in APAC countries. They are not only full of learning, but it will also introduce you to many opportunities. Additionally, if you want to have a career in that country or APAC countries in general, it is recommended for you to come and study in one of their educational institutions. It will serve as a statement for your future employees in this region that you have immersed yourself in the country and ultimately become a fit in their organizational culture.

 Sarah Said Daoud