Like many students whose college years have taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation has been a hallmark of Bonnie Claire Fultz’s university experience. “COVID pushed me to want to go abroad,” she said, so, when the time came for her to choose an internship, she bypassed opportunities closer to home in favor of a bigger adventure.
Fultz, a senior marketing major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, leads campus tours as a UT Ambassador. “When we give tours, we tell students that one of the biggest regrets people identify after graduation is that they didn’t take the opportunity to go abroad. After saying that multiple times a week for over a year, I thought, ‘You know what? I should do that.’”
To combine university credit with work experience, Fultz applied for an academic internship through UT’s Programs Abroad. Based on her interest in the fashion and beauty industries, program partner Absolute Internships matched her with a summer 2022 internship at Uzza, a skincare brand based in Barcelona.
“If you had told me two years ago that I would be going abroad to work with an international company, I would not have believed it,” she says. “I’ve lived in Knoxville my entire life, and the first time I’ve been away from home for a long period of time, I got to live in Spain.”
Exploring Work and the World
During her eight weeks with Uzza, Fultz performed a variety of roles, from public relations to graphic design. Her biggest project involved research and development for two new products: a colorless sunscreen that can be worn alone or as a makeup primer on a wide range of skin tones, and a UV detection patch that adheres to the skin and turns “bright Uzza blue” when it’s time for the wearer to reapply sunscreen. Both products are scheduled to be released in summer 2023.
Fultz was excited about the opportunity to put her classroom learning into action. “A lot of my classes at Haslam have emphasized customer satisfaction, branding and positioning, so understanding how they work was really helpful for me in this internship,” she says. “I love looking at how people react to brands, seeing how a product is actually perceived versus how the brand intends it to be perceived, and how a rebrand can change a product’s target market.”
The internship brought other opportunities, as well. Fultz was one of nine UT students, representing a wide range of majors, who spent the summer in Barcelona with Absolute Internships. Although the students didn’t know each other prior to the program, they bonded during group activities and excursions to Majorca, Madrid, Paris and other destinations. “It was a really cool friendship opportunity. I ended up meeting some great people that I hang out with now that we’re back in Knoxville,” she says.
Connecting Course Material to Real Life
Although she didn’t choose international business as her collateral until recently, Fultz knew from her first introductory marketing class that she had picked the right major. “I loved every minute of that class. It was such a fun learning environment, and [associate professor] Mark Moon had so many real-world examples that connected the material to everyday life.”
That holistic teaching approach was one of the main factors that drew Fultz to Haslam. “A lot of the professors here have real-world experience in the workforce before they start teaching. That’s a huge part of what makes Haslam different from other business schools.”
After graduating in May 2023, Fultz wants to pursue a career that includes travel, possibly one that combines business and higher education. She is inspired by Haslam staff members Lexie Walker, program coordinator for international programs and study abroad, and Melissa Grant, professional development coordinator, both of whom she credits with providing valuable guidance throughout her time at UT, particularly during her internship.
“Having a strong support system made this awesome experience so easy. During the whole process, I was very thankful to have family, friends, professors and UT staff members looking out for me.”
Stacy Estep, writer/publicist, email@example.com