Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad  FacebookTwitterGoogle+  
As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine March/April 2001
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Work in the Middle Kingdom

Internship Opportunities for Students in China

Adding work on top of study experience abroad demonstrates to employers that one can function professionally in a foreign environment and an overseas job can be the stepping stone to a life of foreign work and adventure.

At the least, it will be an exciting time of learning and challenge. (For a comprehensive compilation of information and advice on paid jobs and internships abroad for students and recent graduates, see Work Abroad: The Complete Guide to Finding a Job Overseas.)

My job destination was China. As it has gained full membership in the World Trade Organization, China offers the student or recent graduate a wealth of possibilities to gain international work experience.

Many positions in multinational organizations in China do not require a knowledge of the language. In addition, many opportunities for English teachers, writers, and editors are advertised in publications targeted at the foreign community in China.

I recently saw the following statement on a Chinese website: “There are more English speakers in China than in America.” True or not, there are many Chinese who speak English and many more who want to learn.

The best place to start a job search in China is at the American Chamber of Commerce. Here you can network and find out about job availability throughout the country (the Chamber also offers its own internships). You can order the Chamber’s directory of companies in China that employ foreigners and possibly nail down an internship before you leave the U.S. (see below).

How I Did It

I went to my adviser and announced my plan to intern in Beijing. What kind of academic credit, if any, could I get?

Surprisingly, my adviser accepted this vague proposal without questioning how I would implement it. Now the pressure was on me: I had to go to Beijing and find an internship. When I arrived in Beijing I looked for jobs advertised in the local expat publications to get a feel for the job market and contacted whomever I could think of for possible leads. I looked at Internet sites for promising openings; I went to the Chamber of Commerce and looked through their directory of U.S. companies operating in China; I made a list of potential employers in which I was interested and contacted the most attractive ones—whether they had advertised openings or not. Then I sent cover letters and resumes to the eight organizations I especially liked. From these first contacts I obtained five interviews and in the end I had four offers to choose from. At first I worked in the market research division of Unisono, a Dutch company whose focus is the Chinese marketplace. I am now interning with UNESCO in Beijing.

Living and working in China and taking part in its daily life is exhilarating. I enjoy the Chinese and love the expatriate environment, which permits one to get to know and make friends with people from around the world.

How You Can Do It

All you need is a resume, a positive attitude, and an appropriate work uniform. Be prepared with these necessities and you’ll lose no time. I have talked with many student interns in Beijing and can safely say that an internship can begin—if one searches diligently—within two to four weeks after arrival in China.

Finding a position in China is similar to a job search anywhere. My experience has been concentrated in Beijing. But one could easily find similar possibilities in all business-oriented areas of China.

Internship Contacts

The Department of State has several student employment programs, some in Washington, DC and others in embassies overseas. For info write: Attn: Student Programs, U.S. Department of State, Recruitment Division, SA-1, 2401 E St., NW, 5th Fl., Washington, DC 20522; www.usaid.gov/careers.

The American Chamber of Commerce, a great launching point for networking and researching companies, publishes a directory of all U.S. companies operating in China and hosts a monthly social. It offers a resume service in which you can advertise to companies in China that you are looking for an internship. Visit www.amchamchina.org for more info.

Canada-China Business Council offers services similar to the American Chamber of Commerce and also hosts a social every month that is good for networking and finding out about job availability. Contact: Suite 1802 CITIC Bldg., 19 Jianguomen-wai Dajie, Beijing 100004, China; 011-86-10-6512-6120; www.ccbc.com.

The U.S.-China Business Council, a useful source for company information, has a human resource link to many Asian job sites. This is the principal organization of U.S. companies engaged in trade and investment in the Peoples Republic of China. It offers its own internships. Contact: 1818 N. St., NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20036; 202-429-0340; www.uschina.org.

The United Nations has various internship and fellowship programs. Each department has a separate internship administration, so you must contact the department you are interested in. For information on the UN Development Fund in China visit www.undp.org.cn.

Websites

Teach in China, www.cbw.com, describes conditions for teachers and contains articles from people who have taught in China. It will match you with a position for up to six months at no cost. The site also provides information on internship opportunities in Beijing.

Expat Publications

City Weekend, Full Link Plaza Tower B, Suite 1212, Chao-yangmenwai Dajie 18, Beijing 100020, China; 011-86-10-6588-1341, www.cityweekend.com.cn..