“What Are Your Summer Plans?”

As a student at an institution as pre-professional as Penn, perhaps the most asked question is “What are your summer plans?” For me, a freshman who had a very vague idea about what she wants to do in the future, this question was quite daunting. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to travel my freshman summer and truly immerse myself in a country’s culture. Although I would consider myself pretty well-traveled, all of my travels allotted very little time in the country and involved mostly superficial, “touristy” activities.

Thus, when I found about the IIP program, I was ecstatic to find that I could potentially have the opportunity to immerse myself in a foreign culture for the summer while also gaining work experience. I actually found out about the program when the director of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Jonathan Chang, came to visit Penn. When he introduced the Lien Centre and Singapore, I was instantly sold. The Lien Centre is a think tank-esque center that looks into how private, public, and social sectors can interact to benefit society as a whole. Since I have always been interested in social enterprises and entrepreneurship, the center’s mission and location drew me to applying.

Overall, the application process was straightforward. I heard from upperclassmen that it was harder to get an IIP internship as a freshman, so I quite nervously looked into many other options for the summer. Fortunately, I got an email for a first round interview with Kevin, which followed with two other interviews with Jonathan, the same director who visited Penn, and Sujith, the person who would be supervising my communications internship. Both of them were super nice and clearly very passionate about their interests in social innovation. Although their scarily impressive bios on the Lien Centre website might have intimidated me, I felt very welcomed and relaxed getting to know them during my interviews. When I woke up to the acceptance email, I woke up my roommate shouting excitedly!

With the acceptance in tow, I immediately clicked the accept button and started preparing for the internship. Since Singapore is such a clean and safe country, I didn’t have to get any vaccinations during my health check up. However, the regulations for working in Singapore required a lot of paperwork. It took me forever to compile all of the information to receive the Training Employment Pass (TEP). Housing was also a major issue; Singapore was most recently named the most expensive city to live in in the world. Fortunately, there are two other IIP interns working with me at the same company, so we worked together to figure out housing.

For the internship, I researched the Lien Center’s past media and took notes on the content they posted, what worked, what didn’t, etc. I also looked into social enterprises in Southeast Asia more in depth. In addition to research on the internship, I researched the surrounding area to make weekend travel plans. By the time I started my 24 hour flight plan to Singapore, I was ready both for the expected and the unexpected. I cannot wait for the surprises that await me!


-Lina Shi

The Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Singapore


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