Internship in China: Mutually Beneficial Experience

Internship in Beijing

Are there any advantages for doing an Internship in China? Laowaiblog’s Anastasia Novobranova examines whether interning in China is worth the extra mile, for both companies and interns

As companies go global, so do many young graduates. Globalization and the rise of new economies push companies to largerly expand their businesses. However, approaching new markets is not easy, especially when these markets have not been fully researched and acknowledged. For this reason, many companies in China have found a valuable resource to fulfill their needs – foreigners who wish to do an internship in China.

Foreign interns in China are recent graduates or university students with degrees in economics, business administration, international trade and communications, logistics and supply, international marketing, information and technology, and similar others. Their extensive background and academic knowledge, eagerness to work and learn in order to build up their CV, ability to speak one or several foreign languages and close familiarity with their countries’ local markets constitute an enormous advantage for many Chinese companies. Furthermore, an internship in China means that companies get to hire cheap and cost-effective labour compared with the pricy, highly-qualified experienced employees. As risky as it may be to hire graduates fresh from university, more often than not these graduates will grow to become talented and skilled employees loyal to their companies.

Sebastian, 26 years old, is originally from Germany. Last year, He graduated from the University of Nottingham, majoring in International Communications. Upon graduation, he moved to Beijing to start his internship program in RenRen – China’s largest social network. The company was looking to hire someone who speaks both English and German fluently and who is capable of understanding basic Chinese. Sebastian was a perfect match, and working for Renren proved to be his first and very successful step towards his future career: RenRen went public in the U.S earlier this year, and Sebastian was offered a full-time position with the company.

Benefits of Internship in China

For recent graduates, being employed by a company in China is a great opportunity to receive first-hand experience on how business is done in this country. China’s economic growth largely favors business development. Nevertheless, China’s unique and specific culture and mentality are usually significant obstacles on the way to success. You can read a lot of academic books and treatises on how to conduct business in China, but concepts will simply remain words unless you apply them in practice.

Finding an internship in China might also help students and graduates to better assess their future career preferences. Working full-time for several months can be sufficient to understand whether the job, the company and the chosen career path are suitable for the intern.

Graduating from Columbia University as a software engineer, David (25 years old) came to China for a six month internship in a large international IT company. Three months of living in China assured David that he was actually more interested in business development rather than software applications. David’s roommate worked for a small start-up company in Beijing, and through him David learned about business strategies and techniques. Three months later, David decided to quit his IT internship and to join a small start-up as a business manager.

One of the biggest advantages of doing an internship in China is that interns are able to greatly expand their network while living and working here. Large cities such as Shanghai and Beijing have turned into big «melting pots», welcoming people from all corners of the globe. Being part of an international community of interns increases the likelihood of meeting people who are working in a large number of industries both in and out of China.

In general, China is an attractive location for many students and graduates. Counter-balancing the economic recession and massive unemployment in Europe and in the U.S, China’s fast-pace development creates favorable conditions for graduates. Though companies and interns here are in need of each other, there are still plenty of problems for both sides. Companies are not willing to waste their time and resources in searching for the right candidate, and most foreign students have fears of coming to China. ‘Most Europeans are afraid of coming to China because of the language barrier. Without speaking Chinese, they think they will not be able to find proper accommodation, pass a job interview and simply mingle into everyday life here’, says the General Manager of one of China’s big intern recruiting companies.

The lack of much needed information about internship in China, position requirements, visa, accommodation and cultural misunderstandings also inhibit young talents from launching their careers in China. Most of the companies who help find internships in China for graduates in fact serve as ‘intermediaries’ between the employers and the interns. Phillip, 23 years old, has just finished a five-month internship in China as a business consultant with CBBC. CBBC was looking for a young candidate from the UK just as Phillip applied for one of the internship programs. Both the company and Philip are greatly satisfied with each other. While in China, Phillip was staying with a Chinese family, and combined with the Chinese language course that was included in his internship program, his language skills greatly improved. 

‘Employers in Britain vastly appreciate when you can speak ‘exotic’ languages such as Chinese’, says Phillip. He is certain that he will not encounter problems to find a good job upon returning to the U.K.

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About the Author

After graduating from the University of Dostoevsky in 2008 in Russia, Anastasia moved to China to pursue an MA degree in Global Governance. She studied at the eastern province of Zhejiang for one year and then moved to Beijing to study Chinese. She is currently working at the international radio station of China as a news editor and tries to learn as much as possible about this country.