Sydney Internship and Study Abroad Program: Caroline Holliday ’18
Overall, if I have to give any advice to someone considering this program, it’s this: don’t be afraid to do something different.
I picked up my life in picturesque Lexington, VA with its one-way streets and free parking and moved to the hip suburbs of Arlington, VA – a popular area for W&L students to move to after college, just a short metro ride into downtown DC. I traded three apartment-mates for six kids, a mammoth St. Bernard, and a chilly basement apartment. I switched out my intermediate accounting textbook and cozy carrel in Leyburn for a new city and an audit internship, all of this right in the middle of junior year. Sounds crazy? It’s worth it. Let me explain why.
While everyone else is screaming at their computers trying to weave through the web advisor woes and figure out how many times they are going to have to walk back to third-year housing that day, I have had the opportunity to do something that not many W&L students get to do right in the middle of junior year: explore a new, unfamiliar city and have an invaluable internship experience.
First of all: D.C. Yes, move here. This city is filled with free museums, foodie-heaven nooks of town, crazy metro rides, and endless things to do. In just a few weeks, I’ve watched Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March, and March for Life; been to countless museums, eaten at too many delectable restaurants, explored up-and-coming parts of town, and even found running trails nestled in the middle of it all. Sorry I got distracted; you want to hear about the actual reason I am here – the internship.
Well, my internship is with Ernst & Young – one of the “big four” accounting firms, and it is in the assurance practice (fancy heading for EY’s audit practice). The total internship is seven weeks long, including two weeks of orientation and audit training, followed by five weeks working on two different audit clients. This year, there are two other W&L students interning in EY’s audit practice. Robyn Cleary works in the McLean office with me, and Amanda Whalen works in the Columbus office in Ohio.
The first part of the internship included a local office orientation day, two days of “Welcome to EY” and, finally, five days of audit training. The local office orientation was simply a day to introduce us to the McLean office and get all of the technical things out of the way – parking, entry badges, etc. Next, Welcome to EY was where we learned more at EY as a whole, set up our work computers, and learned how to use all of the time-entry and expense systems. The last part of training included a five-day session on EY’s audit methodology and audit practice in general, guided by two current auditors. Finally, on Friday we were sent out to our first clients.
My two clients are a large aerospace and defense contractor and a consulting company. My first client, the aerospace and defense contractor, has been especially unique because of the security clearance I have to go through; I feel like a big-shot every time I flash my badge to get into the compound. To get to this client, I drive out to Maryland, which actually is not as horrific as it sounds (about a 30-minute commute, which you will find is pretty reasonable for the DC area). I work with an incredible team that has about six W&L grads on it currently. The audit team is fun, spunky, social and very hard-working.
My main responsibilities include editing and creating workpapers for the current year, doing competitor analyses, documenting what information has been received from the client, and other random intern tasks. Also, because during busy season everyone stays in the office until about ten at night, I am in charge of the daily dinner orders and pick up. As a side note, interns are not allowed to work more than 40-hours every week, so I haven’t had to worry about working those crazy hours. Another thing I have found is that the teams are usually pretty flexible; in fact, one week my team let me work longer hours during the week and take Friday completely off. Although I am enjoying my time on this client, I only have one more week before I move onto my second client – the consulting company.
From my experience so far, this internship has been the perfect taste of what it looks like to be an auditor, especially during busy season. If you are nervous because you haven’t taken audit yet: don’t be. Especially since I had not taken audit in a classroom setting, the work was initially intimidating. However, I quickly learned that EY trains you in everything you need to know and the teams are incredibly open to helping you, instructing you, and answering questions. Plus, you learn in a much more tangible and applicable way in a real-world setting than in the classroom.
Also, to give a little more insight, we have had a few intern events so far. We have done ice skating and dinner, a volunteer event for special Olympics, and, up next on the agenda, is a Capitals game. As you can imagine, there are fewer winter interns than the typical summer amount, so it has been a smaller, more close-knit group. While I got to know the other interns well during training, everyone is at different client sites now. Therefore, the intern events have been a great way to reconnect after work.
Overall, if I have to give any advice to someone considering this program, it’s this: don’t be afraid to do something different. You get to live in a new city (a test run for the real world), meet so many new people, have an invaluable internship experience, and have a study abroad semester in Australia to look forward to the entire time. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the stressful process of securing a summer internship. I’d say it’s a win-win. Scared to leave W&L for a semester? Don’t be. I’ve found that branching out and doing something original and uncharted has stretched me and grown me to be a better student, friend, and an individual.
-Caroline Holliday ’18