Every year, the Dow Finance Internship Program goes on a one and a half day trip to Freeport, Texas, the location of the largest chemical manufacturing facility in the Western Hemisphere. The trip is an incredibly intriguing and valuable experience. Not only was it amazing to see all the humongous Dow operations on the Gulf of Mexico but it was also great to get away to the scorching heat and beaches of Texas. As I sit back on the corporate shuttle flight back to Midland, Michigan, I can’t help but share the story of this incredible experience.
The trip began bright and early Tuesday morning. The Dow Shuttle from Midland to Freeport leaves at 6:00 am. This means getting up at 4:15am, getting ready, and traveling to the Dow Hangar at the local airport to be there at 5:20am. One of my favorite things about taking the Dow Shuttle for the trip was the convenience of arriving at the airport 40 minutes before the flight and that the airport is only 10 minutes away from work.
The two and a half hour flight down to Texas went by very quickly. The shuttle, which seats about 45 people, has plenty of leg room to stretch out and plenty of tray space to get work done during the flight. After eating breakfast on the plane, I was able to knock some things off of my to-do list. Given that I am not the most comfortable flyer in the world, I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth the flight was, making it go by even faster.
After arriving in Texas, we immediately boarded the bus that would be touring us all around the Freeport operations area for the day. After a short presentation that explained the enormity of the Freeport operations, we embarked on our first tour. The first tour of the day was a research and development center called Pack Studios where they work with customers to ensure that our product is meeting their packaging needs. I was surprised to learn that nearly every food item in my pantry and fridge could be made out of Dow materials. This tour was especially cool because we were able to walk around the warehouse with enormous, complex machines running all around us.
Our next tour of the day was of the Freeport marine terminal operations. This is where the ships dock from the Gulf of Mexico to either pick-up product produced in Freeport or to deliver inputs that the plants use in their processes. As we drove around and witnessed the humongous ships at port, we learned how important the operation is to moving our product around the globe.
Next, we engaged in a panel lunch in which we were able to ask questions of some members of the Texas Controllers group who do the cost accounting for the Texas operations. Even better yet, the authentic Tex-Mex food that was catered for lunch was delicious.
After learning more about the accounting aspect of the Texas operations, we headed back out on the road for a tour of the largest chemical plant in the area. It is hard to understand how massive these plants are until you get up close to them and see the massive structures that contain thousands of pipes. Seeing the plant itself was a great experience because it allowed me to understand where the product comes from and how complex the processes are.
We then had the special treat of seeing the emergency operations center at that plant and speaking with one of the emergency personnel on site. We were able to learn all about how they prepare for and overcome natural disasters and other major emergencies. This particular speaker really helped me understand how much emphasis the company puts on safety and emergency preparedness.
The next plant that we toured was one that is still under construction. Much like the rest of the operations we saw, I was amazed at the size and complexity of the facility. The coolest thing for me about this tour was seeing the control room of the facility where the processes of the plant are constantly monitored. We were able to learn more about what the product is at that plant and what different technologies are used to produce the product.
After touring the Freeport operations for the whole day, it was finally time to go out to the beach and have dinner on the pier. We drove about an hour along the gulf coast past hundreds of vacation homes on stilts to Galveston island. The island is home to beautiful beaches, piers, and other tourist attractions. We had dinner as a group at Bubba Gump’s shrimp on the Galveston pier and then ventured out onto the beach. The warm water and soft, sandy beaches reminded me of the beaches back home in Tampa. It was the perfect, relaxing ending to a long day of learning.
I am currently sitting on the Dow Shuttle on my way back to Midland, Michigan as I write this post. This trip to Texas has taught me a few things that I wasn’t very in touch with during the rest of my internship. First, I have learned the importance of understanding, even on a basic level, what the organization makes and how they make it. Second, it has taught me that working for a Fortune 50 company such as Dow is a great experience because the opportunities are endless both in geographic location and job type. Lastly, this trip has reminded me that a valuable internship experience is much more than working on projects throughout the summer. Making your internship valuable is also about networking with new people, seeing new things, and stepping out of your comfort zone by trying something completely new.