Iara Gonzalez-Ascencio (‘24 MA International Studies)

The Voice of Wilkinson had the opportunity to sit down with graduate student Iara Gonzalez-Ascencio (‘24 MA International Studies) to talk about her recent internship with Casa Loy Tequila Distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. In this interview, Gonzalez-Ascencio shares her internship experience and some of her takeaways, demonstrating a key component of the International Studies program–linking global theory and practice–and how her studies equipped her with knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a globalized business environment. Finally, Gonzalez-Ascencio offers encouraging words of advice for graduating and incoming students.

Voice of Wilkinson: Tell us about your internship. How did you first hear about this organization? What drew you to the organization as one you wanted to intern with?

Iara Gonzalez-Ascencio: I first heard about the distillery through research on the Tequila market. Given my origin from the region renowned for tequila production because of its protected designation of origin, I became curious about the tequila industry, which I was unfamiliar with. The company’s innovative approach and potential for learning drew me to pursue an internship there, offering a unique opportunity distinct from my usual academic interests and activities. Joining their team for my internship was an exciting opportunity to learn about the history of tequila, the industry, and the distillery alone.

VoW: Tell us about what your day-to-day was like?

IGA: I was involved in various tasks such as translating, attending and engaging in business events, and client prospecting. Notably, I participated in the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) Food Expo PRO alongside engagements with the Secretariat of Economic Development (SEDECO) and the Mexican consulate in Hong Kong. I was involved in client prospecting and helped identify new business prospects. Building strong relationships and effective communication were key elements for the company’s footprint in the Hong Kong Market.

VoW: What were some key takeaways, either personally or professionally from your internship experience?

IGA: From my internship at Casa Loy Distillery, I gained valuable insights both personally and professionally. The experience enhanced my communication skills significantly through tasks like translating and engaging with clients at business events. Attending events like the HKTDC Food Expo PRO broadened my understanding of the industry and allowed me to identify new professional opportunities. Moreover, the opportunity to work on client prospecting strengthened my ability to build relationships, a skill crucial for professional development. This internship expanded my professional capabilities and enriched my interpersonal skills, emphasizing the importance of effective communication and relationship-building in a business setting.

VoW: What is something you will never forget from the experience?

IGA: One unforgettable aspect was the opportunity to immerse myself in the history and production process of tequila, a drink originating from my home state of Jalisco, Mexico. Working abroad and learning about something so culturally significant was a profound experience that expanded my knowledge and appreciation for my heritage. This newfound understanding of tequila’s origins and production will always hold a special place in my memory, making the internship exceptionally meaningful.

VoW: For our incoming students to the International Studies program, what did you wish you had known starting your MA? What did you appreciate about the program? Is there a takeaway that still serves you in your day-to-day endeavors?

IGA: Reflecting on my Master of Arts program in International Studies for incoming students, I wish I had made the most of the program’s networking opportunities. Despite this, I truly appreciated the unwavering support and care provided by the MAIS Program’s Director, Graduate Programs Coordinator, and faculty. From the beginning to the end, their guidance and understanding were invaluable. A key takeaway that continues to benefit me in my day-to-day endeavors is the importance of fostering meaningful relationships and offering support to others, mirroring the supportive environment I experienced during my time in the program.

The Master of Arts in International Studies program is a two-year interdisciplinary course of study that links global theory and practice. The program prepares graduates for a range of global careers by enhancing the effectiveness and adaptability whether working in multinational corporations, international trade, cross-border entrepreneurship, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the United Nations (UN), U.S. Foreign Service, or other global entities.