How an Internship in China Can Lead
to a Dream Job
Story and photos by Rebecca
Resources updated 5/4/2018
|Author sitting on the Great Wall
of China while traveling during her internship.
An average day at work: being filmed
for a documentary, straddling a motorbike while frantically
trying to navigate Shanghai’s bustling suburbs. A typical
dinner: stopping by your local street vendor to grab your
favorite $2 noodle dish. Just another evening: sipping free
cocktails under the starry (OK, smoggy) skyscraper-filled
skies. The only difficult part: choosing which glitzy rooftop
bar to go to next. (Oh, and getting up the next morning…)
Does the day in the life of an intern
in China sound appealing to you?
|Night skyline of Shanghai.
Let’s not beat around the bush, the
internship abroad experience isn’t free, or even close to
it. In addition, long-distance flights, travel
insurance, and visa complexities do not come free. So
the question is, is it really worth it?
As someone who spent several months
interning for a media production company in Shanghai last
year, I’m in a position to give some frank advice: the answer
An internship in China will certainly
add bullet points to your resume. It may result in a profile
picture by the Great Wall in your Facebook account. Nevertheless,
there is so much more to gain from the experience.
|Street life in Shanghai.
An Internship Will Develop a Standout
If there’s one thing employers like
more than work experience, it’s international work experience.
In a survey of 10,000 employers in 116 countries, 60% of respondents said
they would give extra credit to graduate applicants who
had worked abroad.
The experience demonstrates to employers
your flexibility in willingness to relocate, your confidence
in meeting new people, and your enthusiasm for working and
adapting to today’s globally connected world.
Experience as an intern abroad will
result in enhancing a skill set in your sector of interest.
But the effects go beyond what is visible on paper. Your
competence, courage, and willingness to take calculated
risks—traits vital in the current dynamic workplace—continue
to develop as well.
Working somewhere as culturally different
and economically significant as China is a talking point
in interviews, at the very least. Personally, it helped
me bag a dream internship at the fashion magazine ELLE Canada.
What is in it for you? The possibilities
An Internship in China Develops
a Global Business Outlook
There’s a reason why China was considered
the third most popular location to study abroad in 2012,
with the trend showing no signs of ending—on the contrary,
there is the 100,000
strong campaign launched by the U.S. administration
and designed to increase study abroad and language learning
economy is booming. The country vast in land, population,
and political influence overtook the U.S. last year to
be the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing
Unsurprisingly, this means young people
are looking to the East for jobs opportunities, with increasing
numbers flocking to China every year. CRCC Asia,
the largest provider of internship programs in China, saw
a 58% increase in the number of North American applicants
to their programs in just one year.
Of CRCC alumni, 30% of interns are either
offered a full-time position within their host company or
through contacts made at the networking events. And it doesn’t
hurt that native English speakers are in high demand in
Ultimately, the world’s economy is only
becoming more interconnected and globalized. The appeal
of China, from both a business and networking perspective,
Let’s face it, who doesn’t want a piece
of the world’s second biggest consumer economy?
|An illuminated temple in China.
Developing Cultural Insight and
Even if you’re not interested in financially
exploiting China’s emerging middle class, gaining experience
in a different culture will do wonders for your interpersonal
skills. The ability to communicate successfully, even in
spite of a language barrier, speaks volumes.
One of my most memorable experiences
in Shanghai was working in a teahouse during China’s weeklong
October national holiday. Located in an ancient water town,
not a person spoke English.
But through gesturing, various translation
apps, and my exceptionally limited grasp of Mandarin, I
succeeded in learning and assisting with the sacred tea
ceremony. Challenging? Yes. A wonderful, new, and unforgettable
cultural experience? Undoubtedly.
After all, successful communication
skills (verbal, or sign language-based, as in my case) are
the one of the most important skills sought by employers, according
to Forbes and so many others.
There’s no arguing with possessing great communication skills
in a work or professional environment of any kind, since even in an age of automation, big data, and analytics, someone has to translate information for management decisions and culturally-sensitive client interaction.
Oh, and embracing culture also means
embracing a country’s food. And there’s no two ways about
it, China’s culinary culture, based upon very long regional
histories, is phenomenal in its diversity and quality.
China and the Travel Bug
Following on from the last point, if
you do work in China, you’ll likely find yourself struck
by more than just a stomach bug (though do bring Imodium!).
The travel bug threatens to mess with any sensible plans
you had of settling for the standard 9 to 5 job back home.
As the world’s most populous country,
and the fourth largest in region, China
is overwhelming in its depth and diversity. From the
mountain ranges of Tibet, to the tropical beaches of Sanya,
there’s truly something for every type of traveler.
Yes, the pollution isn’t doing anyone
(or their lungs) any favors, but try to get past the mass
media’s obsessive focus on it and explore some little-known
gems where it is no factor.
Top tip: Lake Qiandao, situated a few
hours' drive outside Shanghai, is stunning. You can dive
in the lost ruins of what is called "China’s Atlantis" or
just gaze at the lake’s 1,000 plus man-made islands.
The Most Unforgettable Experience
Though traveling through China will
supply you with anecdotes aplenty, it’s the day-to-day absurdities
you witness in China that will remain as images in your
From watching old men chew on chicken’s
feet and play mah-jong in alleyways, to the sardine-packed
commute filled with young couples taking kissing selfies,
there are countless occurrences where the appropriate response
is "only in China."
And let’s face it, where else can you
get streets filled with exquisite fake Chanel handbags,
children in crotch-less pants pooing publicly, and traffic
laws that simply do not seem to exist? There’s no country
as crowded, chaotic, and uniquely captivating.
for an Intern in China
The organization works with over 600 host companies
to offer internships in 14 different sectors.
They have arranged 7,000+ placements for students
and graduates around the world since their founding
in 2006. For more information about their internship programs
in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen go to their website.
(Editor's note: To browse
other internship organizations in China, see
Transitions Abroad's section on Internships
The listing website is by far the most comprehensive
when it comes to dining, nightlife, shopping,
and much more. There’s also a Beijing version,
but, more importantly, it comes in app form.
This is ideal for screenshotting the Chinese
version of addresses, since 99.8% of taxi
drivers won’t understand English.
To say China is addicted to the "Wechat" messaging
app is a huge understatement. It’s not just
messaging, but so much more. Like Whatsapp but
better, in my view, the essential networking
tool successfully combines elements of Facebook,
Twitter, Skype, and even Tinder. Everyone uses
it in China, so join the club or see any attempts
to socialize or schmooze thwarted.
Log on and soon you’ll meet like-minded individual
expats and discover a huge number of local
events. Perfect if you’re in China for a
Despite embracing capitalism, China has far
from embraced democracy. This is where Astrill
saves the day, as it’s one of the best VPNs
for letting you browse the web free from
censorship. It’s worth paying about $10 a
month to ensure that your friends will be
able to gaze jealously at your newly uploaded
Facebook or Instagram snapshots.
||Rebecca Shapiro is a London and Vancouver-based travel blogger and freelance journalist.