How an Internship Can Lead to a Dream Job
Can an internship help you to land your dream job? Chris Henry is a career breaker from the UK who joined a internship placement in Beijing, China. He shares his experience below...
Why I Chose Chose to Do an Internship in Beijing
Why are Chinese secrets always ancient? Why aren't there any new and improved Chinese secrets? That’s what the character Roy Lee asks in the movie Kung Phooey and it’s definitely an ancient secret that China is a great place to do a internship and one which more people should know about.
As the political, educational, and cultural centre of the People's Republic of China it is a place I could quite easily have stayed and lived in. The city has been an integral part of China’s history for centuries so there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that doesn't have at least some national historical significance. Throw into the mix the shopping, nightclubs, bars and restaurants which a modern day building boom has brought and you have one of the world’s greatest cities to explore and intern abroad.
Arrival in China & First Impressions
When I landed at the airport full of anticipation I was picked up at the airport by the Sunrise representative and then taken to my accommodation. I’m glad they did because Beijing has the equivalent of six M25 motorways orbiting it and it was to take some time to get my head around the geography of the place. In fact, on my very first afternoon in the city I decided to walk to a restaurant my guide book recommended. On the map it was ‘only’ four blocks…but those four blocks took me THREE hours to walk – they were so much bigger than a block in England. And this was the theme which was to continue for my whole stay - in China EVERYTHING is bigger. The food portions, the buildings, the roads, the traffic jams, the shops…
Starting My Internship
On my first day of work the representative from my Asia intern company met me at my hostel to show me to the office. And that’s when I had my first – and last - experience of a Chinese bus journey. The ticket cost one Yuan which is a miniscule 10 pence, but the actual ride would have cost so much more if it had been a ride at an English theme park - a white knuckle ride for sure! As more and more people crowded on the vehicle, the bus conductor, who had a face like an angry dog eating a wasp, was shouting at EVERYONE and trying to fit them into every available nook and cranny.
Several times I was convinced that she was going to hit someone. When the traffic was moving the driver grabbed this opportunity and accelerated as he’d just been told his wife had gone into labour. Then there were moments (for what seemed like an eternity) when we ground to a halt in the early morning rush hour traffic. Needless to say for the rest of my time in Beijing I walked to work. Walking to work was a pleasant 30 minute stroll along the streets of central Beijing as they were waking up and has remained one of my favourite memories from my stay.
You pass people reading newspapers at the bus stands, groups of elderly people doing exercises in the community open air gyms and others scurrying about their business. Every time it came to crossing the road (usually the road had AT LEAST six lanes to negotiate) I would take a deep breath, step out and hope for the best as I wove through traffic to get to the other side without having any real understanding of where the next car was going to appear from. It sounds dangerous – and probably was – but I found that getting to grips with crossing the road was one of the first things that started to make me feel at home in the city.
The experience of walking to work sums up so well what it is like as you learn to live and intern in Beijing. All at the same time it is full of noise, smells, excitement, kindness and grumpiness. In fact, wandering the streets either by foot or bike (bike was my favourite mode of transport – Beijing is as flat as a chess board and makes for excellent cycling) is a great way to experience the city and appreciate the amazing atmosphere around the place. On minute you can by cycling past a temple, the next you’re in Tiananmen and and then suddenly you’ll see a huge shopping centre.
I worked on a magazine called The World of Chinese, which is designed for people who wished to learn more about Chinese culture, business and travelling in the country. This was perfect for someone who knew little about these things because it meant that I learnt about the country I was living in as I worked in it! As well as working on features such as the growing Chinese film industry and the development of the Chinese electric car I was able to get to grips with Beijing and what it is like to be Chinese thanks to the other staff in the office. They were amazing.
Every lunch time they took me to a restaurant so I could try different types of Chinese cuisine and we spent many enjoyable moments sampling some of the more unusual, some of the more famous, and some of the more down-right weird types of Beijing’s dishes. We taught each other new words and at the end of every day they ensured I had could navigate around the city and get to where I wanted to go that evening by writing down on pieces of paper the words I would need. Whilst I was doing my career break I saw architecture that is beyond belief, visited the most historic sights, tasted the most unusual food, went to the most sophisticated bars and clubs and met the most interesting of people.
I was a tired, worn-out hack when I left the UK to join a journalism internship on a magazine in Beijing as a features writer. By the time I returned to the UK I was a re-energised, positive journalist who loved their job once more. Think of it as travelling out as Gordon Brown and returning as Barak Obama. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just fork out for a stay at The Priory and live in luxury for a while then you’re failing to understand the excitement and the thrill of living and working in China.
When I finished my time and said that I wanted to go back it wasn’t just momentary nostaglia – I began to apply for full time jobs abroad and harbor an ambition to once more be a part of this incredible society. Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher, once said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” and this simple sentence sums up better than I ever could how I feel about my time in Beijing – it wasn’t so much work, rather I loved what I was doing, loved where I was and never felt like a did a day’s work the entire time I was working in Beijing. Whether you would like to take a career break, gap year or just help your prospects, I would highly recommend the experience.
Chris joined an internship with Sunrise Volunteer Programmes who are specialist for the China programmes, as all the ordinal Chinese staffs working in both China operation team and UK marketing team, they can look after the clients and communicate with their families’ directly between UK and China.