How my Connect-123 internship turned into a way of life
By Jay Lanners
One of the best decisions I have ever made was to intern at a VC-backed software firm in Buenos Aires through Connect-123 in the summer of 2010. Little did I know how profound an effect this experience would have on the rest of my life. That summer, I stepped far out of my comfort zone. It was a summer of firsts: my first time in Latin America, my first exposure to the world of technology, and the first time I would build an international friend group where the go-to language was not necessarily English. Each day brought new challenges, new experiences, and the chance to learn more about myself. I felt more alive in two months in Buenos Aires than I had felt in my entire life. I did not know it at the time, but I would become addicted to such experiences.
All those firsts became lifelong passions: Since my Connect-123 internship ten years ago, I have traveled throughout much of Latin America and lived in both Buenos Aires and São Paulo, which has been my home for the last three years. I have mostly worked in tech, including time at Mercado Libre (Latin America’s largest tech company), Amadeus Capital Partners (A Global VC investing in startups across the world, including LATAM), and now as a founder of Ânimo Wellness (a tech startup based in São Paulo focused on fitness, nutrition, and mental health). I have spent several weeks living in cities all over the world, always making a great group of international friends where the common language is often Spanish or Portuguese.
My internship had an immediate and positive impact on my career path. It made my college CV stand out, helping me secure an interview, and eventually a job offer, for my first-choice job as an Associate Consultant at Bain & Company. It also helped me land a position at Mercado Libre in Buenos Aires, which took a chance hiring me as a foreigner because I clearly demonstrated an interest in living and working in Buenos Aires. These two work experiences helped me get into an MBA/MA program at Wharton/The Lauder Institute at UPenn.
While I am thrilled about the career success that I can attribute to my Connect-123 Internship, I am most grateful to the program for how it shaped me as an individual. It showed me how stepping outside of my comfort zone can lead to significant personal growth. Ten years later, I continue to grow as a person because I continue to challenge myself. Quite honestly, it does not get much less comfortable than being an entrepreneur in a foreign country, but I would not trade it for anything. I feel more alive than ever.
The best advice I can give to college students these days is to step as far outside of your comfort zone as possible. With greater risk comes greater reward!