[Part 1] Why intern in China?
By now you know that you need an internship to complete your degree, to gain valuable professional experience, to get your foot in the door at the company of your dreams, or to jumpstart your business. If you aren’t already considering China as your next international internship destination, here are five reasons why you should:
- The “China Experience”
Over the past thirty years, China’s economy has boomed and maintained its growth despite the struggling global economy. Not only have Chinese companies been purchasing everything from bonds to land to companies, especially in the US and Europe, but the Yuan (RMB) has grown to an international currency, rivaling the dollar. Today, China is changing gears and shifting its direction, which is why its growth has slowed down (from 8% to about 6.8% in 2015), but this just signals a new beginning for China as it joins the world players in the future global economy. China is no longer a mere manufacturer for first world countries, but a powerhouse of various industries offering services to both its booming domestic market and surrounding markets.
Therefore, the “China experience” on your resume will surely catch the eye of any HR recruiter, and give you the edge you need in today’s competitive job market.
- Chance to learn Mandarin Chinese
If you do not currently speak Mandarin, you are already behind the kindergarteners and primary school students who are offered Chinese as part of their public school curriculum. The world has 850 million Mandarin speakers, which would be tough to compete with were you a Chinese native speaker, but to speak Mandarin in addition to English and other languages would only increase your value as an employee, regardless of location!
What better way to learn a language than in its de facto environment? Language immersion is one of the key strategies for quick language acquisition, where you can easily learn the cultural context (which is just as important as knowing grammar rules). By living in China and studying Chinese during your internship, your Chinese could surpass that of the kindergarteners and private school students!
- Gaining Global Citizenship
What is global citizenship, you ask? It is the notion that we are citizens of the world, and as such we should extend our social responsibility to the entire world rather than limit citizenship responsibilities to our respective countries. If you search the term, you might find that “global citizenship” has become so commonplace with the progress of globalization that even corporations have begun including it in their mission statements and core values (e.g. United Airlines). Such companies would value the cultural sensitivity, ethical responsibility, and cross-cultural communication skills that you gain while living, working, and learning in a vast and diverse country like China.
And no, China’s diversity is not limited to the international communities in first-tier cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, but has pre-existing diversity because of its people. Provinces are the sizes of countries, and may include several of the 56 ethnic groups and cultures that differentiate themselves from the overall Han Chinese population (~95%). Even the Mandarin dialect is only spoken by 70% of the population, and of that percentage you will find that there are many accents and colloquial variations that will take getting used to even as an expert on the language.
Overall, China offers an abundance of opportunities to practice compassion, cultural sensitivity, and tolerance.
- Networking for Friends
When we think of networking, we almost always associate it with our professional lives—networking for sales, a new position, a promotion, or your next internship! In China, though, networking is for the purpose of building an intricate network of friends (guanxi), of such a wide range that whenever you need something or someone, you will already know person who can assist you. A good example is the saying that you need to have a lawyer and a general practitioner (doctor) in your friend circle (note, not “network”) because their services are too pricey. In Chinese culture, you would be “friends” with everyone in your network (no differentiation), and you would not limit yourself to doctors and lawyers, but would also have a tailor, a wine wholesaler, an import guy, an export guy, a clothing factory owner, a bar and restaurant owner, a hair stylist, and the list goes on!
If that didn’t hit home or make practical sense to you, all I can say is that you need to experience it first hand to understand how different the Chinese communal way of life is compared to our western individualistic ways of networking. It’s also important to keep in mind that in China, this guanxi network is always utilized as a first choice for employers to fill vacant positions, and for job seekers to land their next career opportunities.
While interning in China, you will meet equally ambitious young people from diverse backgrounds. This presents an opportunity to exchange ideas and create lifelong friendships.
- Travel Opportunities both inland and around
Whether you’re itching to visit ancient historical sites, climb the Great Wall, or walk in an ancient palace in China—there is a low cost travel option near any one of the cities you decide to intern at!
If you’re interning in Beijing, not only can you experience the historical hutongs, Great Wall, and all the palaces the emperors used to inhabit, but you can also effortlessly travel to visit the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, or go camping in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.
If you’re interning in Shanghai, you’re not far from the beautiful water towns of Suzhou and Wuxi, and since you would be by the coast, you can take your chances with a ferry to Taiwan’s islands, or fly over to Japan for a quick look.
If you’re interning in Qingdao, which is a coastal beach city to begin with, but it’s also very close to South Korea and northern cities with ethnic Koreans, such as Dalian.
If you’re interning in Guangzhou, the warmest of the cities thus far, you’ll be closer to the ethnic minority villages of Yunnan province, the beautiful beaches of Hainan island (the Hawaii of China), and the bustling cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Guangzhou is also the perfect location for further exploration of Southeast Asia as it shares a border with Vietnam and is close to the Philippines as well.
Wherever in China you decide to intern, you will be sure to leave with unforgettable memories, internationally minded friends, and a whole new perspective on the global economy. For more information visit our China internship page. Click on the picture below to apply for an internship in China and receive a free consultation
"Jessica Suotmaa, our in-house writer, writes from Beijing, China about the education, network, and career opportunities in China. She is a profound Career Coach of our time. Prior to her China experience, she functioned as a sales trainer and assistant manager in sales and customer service in Los Angeles, CA.
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