By Monika Bednarek




On March 11, 2004 I had the pleasure to represent the University of Waterloo at a successful roundtable breakfast. It was held by OWIT under the banner ofBest Practices with International Student Interns” at the headquarters of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. This was my first time at an OWIT event, and I must say it was definitely worthwhile. Individuals from different professional spheres gathered together to interactively discuss ways to fully maximize student internships; both from the employer’s as well as from the student’s perspective. The facilitator, Donna Messer, who is an author, speaker and founder of ConnectUs, effectively steered the discussions promoting active participation, while simultaneously keeping a coherent flow.

Speakers such as Candice Rice, Raj Deer, Sonia Perovic, Nancy Ward and Emily Turton all had something valuable to add to the roundtable discussion. Candice Rice, a Trade Commissioner who is currently working in the International Trade Centre in Toronto, underlined the importance of having a structured orientation for interns when they first set foot in the company. Raj Dheer, a Deputy Principal Commercial Officer at the U.S. Department of Commerce also came to the roundtable with valuable experience. His approach to building high morale among his staff is confirmed by his current intern Tarek, who claims that Dheer makes the interns feel like they belong to the “bigger picture”. Dheer also has an interesting philosophy that he religiously adheres to. He does not assign something to students that he himself would not want to do. On the contrary, his students’ projects are merely extensions of what he himself does on a daily basis. From my own student perspective, this is definitely a value-added component of what I consider a successful learning experience to be. Employers sometimes perceive interns to be incapable of doing “real” work, either due to the time constrain, or a negative past experience. However, employers need to understand that students are there to learn and most of us are not afraid to “roll up our sleeves” and get “our hands dirty” in real work. Most importantly, we need to be given a chance to prove that we are capable of doing more than just photocopying or faxing. Lorna Wright, the director of the IMBA program at the Schulich School of Business at York, had an answer to help dilute this negative connotation that comes with the word “intern”. She suggested that rather than calling it an “internship”, it should be addressed as a “work term”.

It was nice to see that there was a significant turnout from the colleges and universities that attended the breakfast roundtable. Students from the Sheridan College International Business program, University of Toronto, George Brown and of course, the University of Waterloo infiltrated the room. Professor Patricia Draves who currently teaches Entrepreneurship and Impact of Culture on Business at Seneca College shared a great idea with us that she successfully applies to her teaching. It is basically a “one minute paper” where her students write down what they want to keep, change and add.

This might be an effective method to promote better communication between interns and employers, without any aggravated confrontation. This was definitely a great educational experience, where I not only had a chance to meet other students like myself but also meet potential employers within the international trade arena. The most important lesson I learned from the breakfast roundtable is the following:

“Networking is the key to success!”


Chapter 11

Culture of Integrity


Flowing Point




OWIT's Roundtable Breakfast

Physician Assistants

Rebuilding Confidence



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