Over the past three months, I had the opportunity to intern in finance in Midtown New York City then ship myself across the Atlantic to Barcelona, Spain. Thanks to the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn, my dream of both exploring my interests in private equity investment and spending my freshman summer in a foreign country manifested into a reality.
For context, I am originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, I had never traveled outside of the US until 2022, and I didn’t even know what in the world private equity was until after enrolling at Penn.
This might sound mind-boggling to many who know me as someone who loves foreign cultures and politics, languages, and financial systems. However, both my mother and father work average middle-class 9–5 jobs as a public school teacher and a commercial truck driver, where that length of time isn’t allowed to be taken off for such excursions. Lavish vacations and traveling abroad were never financially feasible options for my family, however, I think it made my summer 2022 even more impactful.
The First Tale: PE in The City
I began as a Private Equity Analyst Intern at TriSpan in New York at the beginning of May 2022. My grandmother had just passed away one week before, so I had an emotionally rough start to my eight weeks. But, I soon found out the TriSpan team was incredibly supportive, accommodating, and genuine. Once I met the team, I realized I was going to have a terrific summer PE experience.
I started off by learning the hands-on side of M&A and debt facility transactions with commercial banks in order to drive store-level growth among the Rising Stars Fund’s lower-middle market restaurant portfolio.
I found that the TriSpan team really does practice what they preach regarding genuine relationships and communication being the top priority within not only their office, but between CEOs and portfolio company management teams. This culminated in one of the operating partners inviting me to Dallas, Texas for due diligence and a discussion of restaurant concept expansion and menu innovation in one of TriSpan’s Texas-based portfolio companies, Shell Shack.
In Dallas, not only did I see the inner-workings of a chain’s management team, but all the aspects of driving growth among a portfolio company such as sales metrics desired for choosing real estate for prospective locations, restaurant-tech innovations, the impact of local store marketing, and management structures for ensuring the C-suite is not overworked while inefficient positions are not sustained among store-level lower management.
At TriSpan, I learned the applications of LBO models into real-life examples of company growth, implemented CRM initiates with a Director to organize an investor event in NYC, source institutional investors for the Top-up Fund, record portfolio company and internal committee minutes, as well as draft the Top-up Fund Due Diligence Questionnaire with other interns and VPs. My intern experience was out-of-this-world, and I really wish I could have stayed for many more weeks.
The Second Tale: Language and Research in Barcelona, Spain
Though I had never been abroad until this year, I have always been interested in Sino-American diplomatic relations, Spanish sociocultural and political traditions, while learning to speak, read, and write Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. While I wished I could have traveled to East Asia this year because Mandarin is my target language in the Huntsman Program, Spain was a more viable option due to COVID quarantine mandates in Mainland China.
So after my internship ended in New York, I flew to Barcelona to spend four weeks in the barrio of Eixample at LinguaSchools studying C1 Spanish for four hours each day. I had always enjoyed speaking Spanish since my freshman year of high school, but this time, I would be able to study and speak with locals in Spain. I had always tried training myself into speaking with the Iberian-lisp that is notorious for anyone learning Castilian Spanish spoken in Spain, so this trip was a win for that!
The highlight of my trip was not only making worldwide friends in class from Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, and even Kansas, but also ordering my daily bocadillo de jamón iberico and cappuccino from Vivari Café in Spanish from my favorite server Esmerelda.
While in Spain, I worked on drafting an independent research paper on the international gig economy. I had reached out to Wharton Professor Lindsey Cameron earlier in the year about similar work she was publishing on the subject. She served as my advisor on this project, which was intriguing to me as a modern economic phenomenon that many governments are failing to regulate properly.
Barcelona is an extremely important city for gig-economy startups and companies. It lies as a hub on the crossroads of two continents and two Spanish-speaking cultures. Many gig-economy companies such as Cabify and Glovo that are headquartered in Barcelona have reach in either South America due to a similar language or North African countries where gig-economy jobs are shaping the socio-economic landscape of many major cities and villages.
I will be publishing the piece later in the year, but the title is The Gig Economy: An International Angle on Production Capacity, Worker Rights & Labor Efficiency. Be sure to look out for it!
Two Tales but One Extraordinary Summer Experience
I would have never envisioned this summer being possible apart from the generosity and guidance of the Huntsman Program, Penn, and its faculty. Because of their assistance and encouragement, I was able to have such a full and impactful summer that it might as well be considered two summers in one!
I made everlasting memories in New York, Dallas, Barcelona, and even Morocco when I visited one of my soon-to-be roommates and terrific friend Imran for five days. I can’t wait to be back at Penn though to share my experience with other Huntsman friends and hear what incredible summer adventures they have embarked as well.