A Factory-Made Summer: A Talk with Tom Youngblood’13

By Trevor Howe ’14

“So, what did you do this summer?” Honestly, this question is just a seasonal form of the daily conversation-starter “How are you?” We care occasionally, but for the most part a sentence-or-two response will suffice. In some situations, though, someone recounts a summer so epic that has absolutely no references to lifeguarding or working at a camp. This is exactly what happened when Tom Youngblood ’13 made mention of his globe trotting summer of marketing, business administration, and general excellence.

Youngblood was admitted as a January-Admit in 2009, and spent the first semester of his freshman year in London along with around thirty other incoming first-years. On campus, Youngblood is on the swim team, a captain of the water polo team, the media relations photographer, and a self-proclaimed “prolific library vending machine user.” Youngblood is a History major but is also interested in photography and film production.

When I first asked him about his summer the response I got was about a minute long; he just mentioned that he had an internship that allowed him to work in both Germany and China. Later that night I realized that I still had no idea what it was that he had actually done. For all I knew he could have been working with a gypsy circus, or involved in some kind of illegal production. Luckily, as I later found out, it was neither of those scenarios.

After deciding that he didn’t want to spend another semester away from our lovely home atop the Hill, Youngblood began looking for professional international summer internships in lieu of a semester abroad. Having taken Chinese all throughout high school and for a year at Hamilton, Youngblood knew that he wanted China to be the target location for his internship.

Youngblood stumbled upon a family connection to a global solutions firm called Freudenberg which is based out of Weinheim, Germany. His cousin was heading the ‘non-woven interlinings’ business at Freudenberg, which also has operations in China, and as fate would have it Youngblood promptly began emailing a distant family friend. In the textile-producing world, non-woven interlinings are used in the seams of all types of clothes from shirts to shoes and basically give them their form. Within 24 hours of his first email, Youngblood got the job. He relocated to Weinheim, “a tiny, tiny town,” as he describes it, where he would walk 15 minutes through the town to work, and then another 15 minutes through the Freudenberg Complex (a small example of how prevalent this company is there).

Although Freudenberg has a few different internship options, Youngblood held a unique position by doing a bit of marketing, taking pictures of the textiles, and, as a native English speaker, editing many of the presentations. From Weinheim, which he describes as the “corporate” part of the internship, Youngblood moved to the “regional” part of the internship in Hong Kong. He spent a week there where he did more business administration, and finally moved one final time to Suzhou, China. One stark difference from the common notion of a factory that Youngblood noticed was that the workers there truly wanted to work, mentioning that “they all tried to get in their overtime as often as they could.” Youngblood added how “cool” it was to be like a cog in the huge machine that is China’s booming textile industry.

Of course, one cannot have only work and no play. Being that Weinheim was so small, Youngblood told me that he became friendly with the chef of the Bed and Breakfast that he was staying at. While in Germany, Youngblood spent a weekend in Heidelberg, the nearest city, with a coworker’s son where he met some more locals and even had an encounter with a D-list celebrity. After this fairly quiet experience in Germany, he spent time mingling with other “ex-pats,” getting free bottles of champagne for being Western, and just generally soaking up a unique combination of partying and culture while in China.
Finally, once I felt that certain that my summer was rendered completely pointless and I’d given him enough time to squeeze in as many German impersonations as he could, I decided to wrap up the interview by asking if he had any plans for next summer. Youngblood mentioned his hopes to go out to LA and get involved in film production.

Or in his words: “I’m not saying that global interlining solutions, non-wovens, and highly elastic woven and weft materials are my true calling, but I will say that it was definitely an amazing, world-wide experience. For a 20 year old guy who’s just halfway through a college education, I’d say that it was pretty awesome."