Luxembourg Digital Innovation (LDI) student values high fulfillment over high profile.
BY MEGAN SMITH, PROPOSAL WRITER
Jake Sikma can tell you from experience that timing is everything when it comes to following your dreams. Jake’s dream is to live and work in Europe after he graduates from Miami University in 2021, and he’s been waiting for the right opportunity to get his foot in the door. Last year, when a friend told Jake about the Farmer School of Business study abroad program in London, he was interested in participating and wanted to find out more before deciding to apply. But by the time Jake was able to submit his application, the deadline had passed – by one week.
Jake was disappointed but not defeated. If he couldn’t study and live in the heart of London, he needed to find another way to gain the work experience that would lead to potential job offers and ultimately, Europe.
Jake consulted Artie Kuhn, faculty and assistant director of Interactive Media Studies (IMS). He knew Artie would have information or advice on applying for a local internships or work programs for summer 2020.
What Jake didn’t know was that Artie was going to present him with a new study abroad opportunity that would be accepting applications for the spring 2020 semester.
Artie encouraged Jake to apply for the Luxembourg Digital Innovation (LDI) program, an international internship program that was set to launch in the upcoming spring semester. Similar to Miami’s digital innovation programs in Cincinnati and San Francisco, the LDI program would allow Jake to continue his coursework while gaining valuable career skills as an intern through structured networking and collaboration with a company based in Luxembourg.
After meeting with Artie, Jake knew that the door to Europe wasn’t closed yet and he submitted his LDI program application.
“Not only could I go abroad, but I would get to work and gain international business experience at the same time. Instead of a semester of traditional learning, I get to eat croissants and develop professionally and gain real world skills? Tell me you wouldn’t be inspired to apply for that yourself!”– Jake on what inspired him to apply for the LDI program
After Jake was informed that he was accepted into the first LDI program cohort for spring 2020, he had to find his internship company. Jake interviewed with Techcyte, a biotechnology company based in Utah with a division in Europe. Techcyte creates digital diagnostic tests powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to assist labs and clinics with a more efficient diagnostic process, which was an industry mission that greatly appealed to Jake.
Jake accepted a position as a market research intern for Techcyte at their tech startup incubator building located in Belval, Luxembourg. His role was to prepare and scan lab cover slips, test software for update releases, and clean up/curate the data sets used by the AI program. To break up the challenges of the work day, Jake and his co-workers would teach each other new words and phrases in different languages.
“Want to know what’s more challenging than market research in an industry you’re not super familiar with? Doing that market research in French, which is what I had to do. It was a challenge early on, but it was a fantastic learning experience and ended up being very fun.”– Jake on how he supported Techcyte as an intern
Techcyte bestowed Jake with AI and emerging technologies experience, but it was the people around him who helped to hone his interpersonal skills and overall work philosophy.
“I learned better communication skills and how to interact with co-workers differently than at U.S. based companies where I have worked,” Jake said. “They also have an extra emphasis on work-life balance and taught me to work more to achieve my task, then enjoy myself, rather than putting in unnecessary extra hours. This created better time management and incentive to put in high-quality work during the short four-day sprints.”
When the COVID-19 health emergency was designated a global pandemic in March 2020, Miami suspended onsite study abroad programs to protect the safety and health of MUDEC students, staff and faculty residing in Luxembourg. Jake remembers exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news.
“I’ll be honest, when I woke up on that Thursday morning, I was ready to go to work and hadn’t even seen the email yet. I had showered and was brushing my teeth when I finally looked at my phone and I saw all the texts from my friends:– Jake’s account of the recall of MUDEC students in Luxembourg
‘I can’t believe this, it’s all over.’
‘We’re going home, this does not feel real.’
‘Currently crying, this is so sad.’”
The announcement left Jake in a fog that didn’t begin to clear until after flying home to reunite with his parents in the U.S. Although Techcyte would allow Jake to continue his internship remotely from home, he was afraid of losing the connection that he had built with his co-workers and peers. But within days, Jake was surprised to see how quickly technology would bridge the gap between his home and Luxembourg.
“It just takes an extra effort of communication and making sure meetings are concise and meaningful, in terms of setting goals and getting everyone on the same page,” Jake said. “Since I couldn’t do the in-person duties, I was able to put more time and care into creating the best possible datasets for my company.”
Jake’s internship with Techcyte ended in May 2020, but Jake considers MUDEC, as well as his memories of living and working in Luxembourg, as only the first phase of his European experience.
“The worst part about being sent back is not leaving Europe and an exciting foreign adventure (I know I will return to Europe), but when I return, it will not be with the same people, my friends,” Jake said.
Student ProfileName: Jake Sikma
Graduation year: 2021
Major: Interactive Media Studies
Minor: General Business, Digital Innovation
Hometown/state: Waukesha, Wisconsin
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Assistant Vice President of Development, Regional Programs
Senior Director of Development, Regional Programs