• The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa
    The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa

Working for a tech startup over the summer is a tremendous experience for a college student. Studying abroad is another amazing opportunity. But what if you could combine both for a life-changing, high impact learning experience?  

That’s exactly what Aiden Steinle SU ’20 did this year. Aiden spent the summer interning for a tech startup in Dubai called Wandafi. During the two months he was there, Aiden not only gained valuable skills working for a small startup, but his experience was enriched by interacting with and learning about another culture.  

Wandafi is a marketing software that allows restaurants, hotels, and cafes to use their public wifi to increase customer engagement. It collects customers’ email or social media information when they sign on to access free wifi. The retailer then uses that data to send automated follow-up emails, coupons or other offers based on the customer’s preferences.

The analytics that Wandafi provides to its clients prove highly valuable and help them develop effective and efficient marketing campaigns that bring results.  The company is based in Dubai, but has clients in several countries and is looking to expand to the U.S. in the next year.

One of the tasks Aiden worked on was writing documentation for the software, including instruction manuals. As a double major in math and economics, he is good with numbers and data, and has a strong understanding of how things work behind the scenes. As with any startup, it was busy and stressful at times, but the experience proved invaluable.

Aiden had been to Dubai with family before, but this was the first time visiting during the summer months and he quickly learned that the season makes a huge difference. In summer, the average temperature in Dubai is about 115 degrees. Because of this, people rarely go outside, and everything is indoors – shopping, dining, parking, swimming pools, ice rinks - even indoor ski slopes!

This complete indoor lifestyle was a challenge for Aiden, who realized that working under fluorescent lights all day every day – without the opportunity to even take a short break outside – isn’t his ideal setup.

Dubai is a major hub of international business in the Middle East, and home of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Aiden was there during Ramadan, the annual month of fasting observed by Muslims. During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from dawn until dusk. This exposure to different cultures and traditions gave him a new perspective and helped him to see the world in a different way. The overall experience was positive, although he admits that was glad to come home. “Being away makes you more appreciative for the freedoms we have, both big and small,” he says. “That, and I really missed iced tea.”  

His learnings will carry with him now that he’s back at SU this fall. Not only did the experience help him narrow down his academic interests, but the ability to view ideas and concepts from multiple points of view will help him in his classes and fall internship.

Aiden is currently doing an internship as a TA for President Burger’s class, Effective Thinking Through Creative Puzzle-Solving. The class had a huge impact on him last year, so the opportunity to assist and help current students is a rewarding experience. When asked what advice he would give the first-year students in that class – or any class – he answered “explore and take risks. The more you experience, the more you’ll learn what you like and what you don’t like.”

Aiden has a busy year ahead, but he knows it’s never too early to start planning for next summer. He’s already evaluating potential opportunities and internships and is open to new experiences - he just hopes to get a little break from ever-present fluorescent lights.

For more information about Study Abroad opportunities at Southwestern, contact the Office of Intercultural Learning at studyabroad@southwestern.edu.

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