This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Zile Cao, COL ’24
My name is Zile, and I interned for NexChange Group, a Hong Kong-based finance, technology, and media group this summer through the Virtual Internships Abroad Program with Penn Abroad, funded by Career Services.
I grew up in Oklahoma, so coming to Philadelphia this past spring semester was a huge change for me in a great way. It introduced me to many valuable friendships, mentors, and the laid-back city lifestyle. Of course, if I had the opportunity, I would have loved to travel to Hong Kong to experience the working environment and vibrant culture there as well. Still, given the uncertainty of the pandemic, I was very excited and grateful to have been able to pursue a virtual internship this summer.
The best thing about the remote nature of the internship was that it gave me immense flexibility to fit my work into my summer schedule. While I conducted my internship in the month of June, I was also taking the CIS160 summer course with Penn. In addition, the remote nature of my internship allowed me to stay in Philly for the entire summer. This was a life-saver for me, as my family was in the process of moving to a new home.
For the first few weeks, most of my tasks with the group consisted of conducting market research and analysis for various Fintech ecosystems. Then, NexChange Group began hosting Africa Blockchain Week 2021, so my responsibilities shifted and I was able to gain lots of exposure to the international blockchain scene. I had probably transcribed close to twelve hours’ worth of panel discussions and keynote speeches by the end of the event. Through each transcription, I was able to learn more about different aspects of blockchain, like distributed digital identities and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) from speakers all over the world ranging from Ghana, the UAE, and Australia.
Once the summit ended, I was then given the opportunity to contribute to a white paper report that was to be sent to the official governments of all member states of the African Union. I analyzed the summit’s key takeaways and wrote recommendations based on each panel. The goal of this white paper was to stimulate future African interest in nationwide blockchain development. Interning for NexChange has definitely launched my interest in fintech, blockchain, and cryptocurrency to the moon.
As the fall semester begins, I am continuing to work on projects for NexChange as they prepare to host the Gulf Blockchain Week 2021 Summit in Dubai this October. In preparation for this event, I am currently researching how blockchain technology has the potential to bring change to the financial ecosystem of the Middle East through smart cities, global involvement, and the empowerment of women entering the industry.
On the side, I have begun to personally pursue several other aspects of blockchain technology as well. I am currently exploring NFTs (non-fungible tokens)—on how they have suddenly garnered so much mainstream attention and the difference they could make to online media, art, and gaming. I have also been keeping an eye on various cryptocurrencies and tech news outlets so as to not miss out on the latest fintech developments.
I would certainly say that the largest impact my internship has had on me is that it allowed me to discover a field that I am deeply passionate about. My experience interning abroad this summer has taught me a multitude of valuable skills that I will be sure to utilize in my upcoming professional endeavors. My summer experience as a VIA intern in Philadelphia was very rewarding, and since it was unpaid, it wouldn’t have been possible without the Career Services Summer Funding Award.