A Summer Working in Miami…Arizona

By Salome Opoku, Guest Writer

Before The Internship


I know almost every student has heard of this word. During my undergrad years as a business management major, I kept hearing from advisors and professors that I needed to get an internship. It would apparently make or break my future career.

Of course, this put a lot of pressure on me, and I felt as if I was not going to succeed if I did not get an internship. The pressure carried on with me into my graduate program, where my peers and I were faced with even more messages from career advisors and counselors that we needed to get an internship. 

Salome Opoku, courtesy of the author.

Therefore, I spent some time applying for internships that really interested me. One company drew my attention even though it was not in my industry of choice: Freeport-McMoRan. A leading international mining company that is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, Freeport-McMoRan operates a large and diverse portfolio of assets including copper, gold, and molybdenum operations, with site locations all over the U.S. and globally.

After doing more research, it was clear to me that Freeport-McMoRan was a great company to work for. In addition, I noticed that the company invested a lot into its internship program and I wanted to be part of an organization that cared for interns just as much as they cared for employees. 

So I took the leap and applied.

Two weeks after the interview, I was offered a position as a Human Resource intern in Miami, Arizona (no, it was not in Florida) for the summer of 2019.

Suffice it to say that I was ecstatic. This was not only because Freeport-McMoRan is a large, reputable, and global company, but also because this was my first internship and I was excited to see what would happen.

During The Internship 

I was assigned a HR generalist as a mentor to shadow and see what she did on a day-to-day basis. I spent the first few weeks at the internship following her around, taking copious notes, and asking a lot of questions. I was able to take a step back and soak in everything as much as possible, especially getting used to working in a small town. 

Later on, I was assigned five projects to be completed over the course of the summer. These projects consisted of writing “HR Insight” articles, creating step-by-step guides on HR procedures, updating interview guide questions, and determining changes in various job positions. However, there was one project that took up the bulk of my summer, which was a group project with two other HR interns at different site locations. This was a challenging, but rewarding, experience that forced me to think outside the box, coordinate virtual team meetings, and hone my time management skills.

Courtesy of Salome Opoku

The project was called the “Brown Bag Training Review.” Our objective was to evaluate all the leadership training initiatives offered and then determine if they met the needs of supervisors. Therefore, my team and I created an online survey, sent it to the supervisors, and then collected and analyzed the data. We then formulated recommendations on how to improve the trainings, and successfully presented our findings at the 2019 Intern Conference in Tucson, AZ.

It was an incredible experience.

In addition to the projects, I participated in many day-to-day functions at the HR office. I helped do the new hire orientations, conducted interviews, sat in discipline conversations and investigations, and learned the performance evaluation process. These activities helped give me a broad idea of what HR is like at Freeport-McMoRan and I learned a lot.

A cool thing about my internship was that I wasn’t in an office all day. The work was dynamic and always changing. I was able to drive in work trucks to go up to the smelter (where they extract copper from concentrate through extreme heat and chemical agents). I took tours of the whole site facilities and got to see how operations ran. I wore hard hats, steel-toed boots, and protective gear. It was definitely not a “typical” HR job, but I loved it!

After the Internship: Lessons Learned

Honestly, I could not have asked for a better internship experience. Not only did I gain knowledge about human resource functions, but I also learned how to:

  • Interact with different people.
  • Approach difficult and complex situations.
  • Communicate clearly and effectively.
  • Manage time efficiently.
  • Remain flexible and adaptable.

One of the best parts of my internship was the team that I worked with. I met a lot of incredible, smart, and hardworking people who all contributed to my growth. I am grateful for the connections and relationships that I made. I know that I have gained a network of people who I can always go to if I need help or support. 

Some advice I would give to those looking for internships is to try something different. You never know what great experience you might have with a company you never thought you’d like or a role you never thought you’d perform. And even if you don’t have a great experience, at least you can learn what you like and what you don’t like. 

So, internships. Yes they are scary and uncertain, but they are also exciting and new. Ultimately, it’s all about stepping out of that comfort zone and taking the chance. 

Sometimes the best experiences come from the unexpected.

Salome is a second-year student in the MAGAM program.

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