An internship to remember 

 Kelli Chinen
Shidler College student and Freeman Scholar Kelli Chinen in downtown Singapore.

Shidler student studies in Singapore with help of alumnus during pandemic 

By Dani Douglass 

For Kelli Chinen, a finance and international business student studying at Shidler College, her college internship was not only thousands of miles from home but it was also during a pandemic that could have derailed her plans to learn about finance abroad. Chinen left for her study abroad experience at National University of Singapore in January 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill. 

In May, her internship was scheduled to begin but those plans were derailed when the country went into lockdown. When restrictions started to ease in June, Chinen was able to start her internship with the help of alumnus Wee Loke Tang, BBA ’73, Hall of Honor ’18, who is the independent non-executive director of UOB Kay Hian, a global investment bank headquartered in Singapore. 

“This is a small way of giving back to UH for providing me a great education,” Tang said. “For the internship, we try to make sure that at completion the students have a good general knowledge of how a stock brokerage company works, so we place them in different departments.”

Tang went on to explain that normally the interns get to work in various departments in the company but due to COVID-19 it wasn’t possible this past summer. He said that he hopes that what the interns did get was a well-rounded experience of living in a multi-cultural, religious and racial environment surrounded by the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of modern Singapore as well as old Singapore. 

Freeman Scholars in Singapore

Left to right: Shidler College students and Freeman Scholars Isaiah Lopez, Kelli Chinen and Anna Chen at the National University of Singapore.

Chinen reflects that although the experience was not what she had expected, it has left a lasting impression on her and that she is grateful for the opportunity. While participating in her internship at UOB Kay Hian's Asia Air Transport Department, Chinen got what Tang envisioned for her and more. Her projects included looking up annual reports for companies in order to adjust cash flow statements and locating aircraft deliveries and traffic flow at airports. 

“This internship was certainly a learning experience for me as not only was I working in a foreign country but it was also my first corporate finance experience,” Chinen said. “I learned about the significant details analysts go through in order to accurately forecast the months and years ahead. Even if the numbers were only one off, the data could be impacted and make the forecast inaccurate.”

While in Singapore, Chinen noticed both similarities and differences between her home in Hawai‘i. Some of the similarities were that both places are cultural melting pots and are home to many expats who bring their cultures to the country. A difference that surprised her was how trusting people were. Chinen said people would leave their bags with their laptops on the school campus to reserve a seat while getting something to eat. 

Chinen’s favorite part of the entire experience was learning from the job itself, as well as how the pandemic has impacted air transportation. She said that at first, she had some uncertainly while adjusting to being away from family and friends. As time went on, she began to feel safer, especially with the response of the Singapore government to COVID-19. 

She explained that the SafeEntry system is a contact tracing system where people enter their ID and phone number when they enter and exit stores. This helped her to feel at ease about the possibility of being somewhere where someone was infected because she would be able to see it on the website and track her health if necessary. 

“I want to thank Wee Loke and Shidler for giving me this opportunity to study abroad as well as intern in Singapore,” Chinen said. “This experience would not have been possible without the support and as I prepare to enter the workforce in a couple of years, I know that everything I have and will learn is something I will take with me to my career.”

Both Chinen and Tang have advice for current students and recent alumni as they navigate the uncertainty of today’s business climate.  

“One piece of advice I would like to share with everyone is to build your connections and maintain them because you never know where in the world they can take you,” Chinen said. 

Tang reminds alumni that despite the challenges we are faced with in today’s world, there is also room for out of the box thinkers to thrive. 

“For the younger alumni, there may be opportunities in this pandemic,” Tang said. “There are major disruptions and changes in the way we conduct our lives and businesses. Some businesses are devastated, while others boomed. In such circumstances, there will always be opportunities for the entrepreneurial thinkers.”