Meera has just started the second year of her economics degree at University College London. As a participant on the 2009 UBS Horizons program she spent five weeks over the summer in Borneo, helping to build a gravity water feed system to supply water to the remote village of Ratau.
"I just thought it was a brilliant opportunity. I'm interested in banking and having travelled in my gap year I wanted to see more of the world. No one else offered anything like this to first year students."
*This year UBS will select up to eight students graduating in 2012 to participate in the scheme, which is run by the highly regarded expedition charity Raleigh. You could help continue Meera's good work in Borneo, build a much-needed school in Costa Rica or participate in an environment or community project in India or Nicaragua. And you don't even need to worry about the lack of summer office time harming your prospects of getting an internship the following year. UBS offer all those who take part in the programme a second year summer internship, in a choice of teams in their London offices. *
*So what's the catch? The application process is rigorous and UBS are looking for high-fliers. But the chance to do some good for the world whilst starting on the banking career path is surely one not to be missed. *
Meera and two other participants from last year, Alex and Sebastian, tell us more:
What attracted you to UBS Horizons?
*Alex: "It's really important to get an internship if you want to go into banking, but there aren't that many opportunities for first years. UBS Horizons offered an interesting combination of travel and internship. Also, UBS seemed like a really good bank. I'm interested in working in an Investment Banking Division (IBD) and UBS has a great reputation in that."*
What skills did you pick up?
*Sebastian: "I learned how to use a machete without chopping my hand off! But the most tangible skill is that I'm now able to speak Spanish. I spent a lot of time talking with the Costa Ricans. The most challenging thing was working on my teamwork skills. We all had to take turns being the leader for one day. I found it hard when I had to work under someone who wasn't assertive. At first I would suggest to them what to do, but eventually I realised that they'd miss out on the leadership experience. I learned how to accept others' decisions. I learned about my own leadership, too. On the day I was leader we were given conflicting instructions and we ended up not doing any work at all. I now know that when you've got two equal alternatives to choose from you should just pick one and convince the team to do it one way rather than the other."*
Will you be able to apply what you've learned to working at UBS?
*Meera: "Definitely. There was one day that went really smoothly because we'd planned the whole day in advance. And one thing we all realised is that when you start complaining you bring everyone down with you, so we made a pact not to do it. These things are applicable elsewhere."*
What's your best memory of the trip?
*Alex: "Finishing building the school. Families came along, all of them with children who would go to that school. It was wonderful sharing moments with people who had never seen people like us before - and who probably never will again. None of them spoke English or even Spanish - they talked to us in native languages - but we could see they were moved to tears. It was genuinely moving to see what an impact we had had on the community." *
How has the experience changed you?
*Sebastian: "I've become a lot more conscious of the environment. I was a real city person before I went but now I'm a lot more into nature and hiking."*
*Meera: "What struck me most was the hospitality of the villagers - they were always smiling, even though they were living in such poor conditions. I realised how much I take for granted and that we can sustain ourselves on a lot less." *