Cavedoni '14 learned to expect the unexpected while working in China

by University Communications,

During her first semester at Willamette, Olina Cavedoni ’14 mapped out the next four years of her life.

Titled, “Olina’s Four-Year Plan,” the color-coded, six-page paper detailed the classes she wanted to take and when they would be offered. She cross-referenced her list with the majors she liked, and she created a separate, daily planner that outlined her extra-curricular activities — from her roles in the Hawaíi and Farm clubs to her involvement in varsity tennis and the Asian Studies Department.

Three years later, Cavedoni’s organizational skills paid off. Not only did she double major in international studies and economics, she graduated a year ahead of schedule.

“The best part about being at Willamette was that I could do everything,” Cavedoni says.

Pursuing her Interests

A believer in making the most of her time, Cavedoni immersed herself in campus life once enrolled at Willamette.

She tutored economics, played tennis and wrote for The Collegian student newspaper. She worked for the Office of Student Activities and the Asian Studies Department. She also served as secretary and historian for the Hawaii Club and as treasurer for the Chinese and Farm clubs.

“Sometimes people would ask to have lunch or hang out, and I would literally say, ‘let me see if I can pencil you in,’” Cavdoni says about how she managed her time. “I didn’t have to go out of my way to stay busy at Willamette.”

This dedication impressed Dick Hughes, a Statesman Journal newspaper editor who teaches journalism courses at Willamette. Describing Cavedoni as witty and engaged, he says there’s more to her than meets the eye.

“She has a sly sense of humor. It’s there, beneath the surface, and when it shows it’s just delightful,” he says. “I think her biggest challenge in life will be choosing which job offer to take and where to go because she has so many talents.”

Alex Keeno ’15 agrees, adding that Cavedoni is not only his friend, she is one of the most meticulous and likeable people he knows.

“Every goal she sets out to do she accomplishes without fail,” says Keeno, an economics major who met Cavedoni during his freshman year. “Her possibilities are as limitless as her potential.”

International Calling

After graduating, Cavedoni received internship offers in China, South Africa and Singapore. She ultimately chose to work for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

“ICBC is one of China’s four state-owned commercial banks and is currently the largest publicly traded company,” Cavedoni says. “So being an economics and international studies major, it seemed like the perfect place to go next.”

For four months, Cavedoni worked at the ICBC headquarters in Shanghai’s financial district, splitting her time between the international business and commercial banking departments. Her responsibilities varied from helping customers open accounts to balancing checkbooks for big companies. She also helped organize and stamp thousands of documents.

Cavedoni says she enjoyed the diversity of her job and the opportunity to shadow a new employee each week. During this time, she also talked about the value of a liberal arts education with one of the bank’s district presidents.

“He told me he preferred students from liberal arts colleges over traditional colleges,” Cavedoni says. “He liked that liberal arts students had generally learned how to learn better. That made me feel a lot more confident.”

Culture Shock

At work, Cavedoni grew to expect the unexpected. One day, a co-worker told her the bowl of noodles in front of her was really a pig’s stomach. Another day, the chicken Cavedoni ordered came with claws.

But the biggest surprise came during her first day on the job, when Cavedoni was introduced to “nap time,” a privilege granted to state workers.

“I came up from lunch and all the lights were off. Everyone was asleep hugging these cute pillows and covered in blankets,” Cavdoni says. “Needless to say, I quickly got used to it.”

When she wasn’t learning about the banking industry, Cavedoni spent time exploring her new environment.

She noticed how Shanghai was a place where something was happening all the time, from international performances to top-notch sporting events. But in the country, buildings lacked roofs. Public bathrooms were filthy, and meals cost less than a dollar.

To orient herself, Cavedoni learned to rely on the subway system, which she says was both convenient and scary.

“Every time more people came in I’d get pushed to the back, so I was always nervous I wouldn’t be able to get out at my stop,” says Cavedoni, adding that space was so tight she didn’t have room to reach for the phone in her pocket.

“I learned that if you wait for something, you’re never going to get it. You have to just take initiative and go after it.”

New Opportunities

Cavedoni completed her internship this fall. Afterward, she did some voice acting for a movie called “Water Planet,” which is due for release in the United States sometime this year.

Now Cavedoni is at home in Hawaii, spending time with her family. She’s received several job offers from Chevron, Super Band Mall, a hedge fund and other companies, so she she may return to Shanghai soon.

But in the meantime, Cavedoni says she’s taking a well-deserved break.

“I’m not very superstitious, but for fun, I got my fortune told when I visited this temple in China,” she says. “Apparently, I will begin to accomplish great things in 2016. I feel like I have endless possibilities right now.”