Feeling a little nervous and apprehensive as I approached Peking International Airport, I was met by a representative from CRCC who then took me to where I was staying for the next 2 months. The apartments were located centrally which I loved because I got to experience living amongst other Chinese citizens as well as being a 10 minute walk from the nearest subway station Beijing perfect!
Before starting work on the Monday, me and the other interns had our first Chinese banquet, whilst not expecting the signature fish dish to arrive with its head, the food was delicious… after I struggled for the first five minutes with the chopsticks. In the morning I would start my first day being an intern at a Chinese Law Firm.
On arrival I was taken to my own desk where I was given my first piece of work before I met the boss (Mr. Chen Wen), which was to brush up on what little Chinese law I knew by reading through various articles on the law of the Republic of China. I met Mr. Chen later that day who told me I would be performing a seminar the following week for a few of the interns and lawyers on the UK legal system which has to be an hour long, I was excited as well as nervous and only had a week to prepare for it!
I braved the 20p subway on my way home, I got quite a few stares being the only western person on the train but you get used to it and I started to find myself staring back after a while unknowingly. It is definitely one of the best ways to get around the city with it being so cheap and a subway stop at nearly every landmark but I also found taxis just as cheap starting at 1 pound rarely being more than 3pounds to wherever you’re travelling to, however their English is very little if none at all so I had to learn some basic mandarin to get around which turned out to be really helpful. I even managed a brief conversation, I was able to reply with “I am English not American and Beijing is really good” Beijing that’s about as far as I got.
I was taken out for lunch 3 times in my first week – twice by two different lawyers and once with Mr. Chen, I felt really important as we sat in our own booth which even had its own television! Quite surreal but at the same time the atmosphere was surprisingly laid back, the main dish, which was chicken this time, also came with its head but I was slowly getting used to it. Had yet more work to do which consisted of proof reading a contract agreement and a services agreement and making amendments, as well as providing feedback for them. I also had to do a lot of research on REITs in the UK as they are a new concept in China, having never studied them before I was under a lot of pressure to get the right information as they were basing my findings about UK REITs to give the law firm a better idea on how they work and maybe adopt the same system.
As well as working in the daytimes I visited almost everything in Beijing such as the night market in Wangfujing, where you can eat anything from fruit and fried ice cream to snakes and live scorpions. Nanluoguxiang is one of the most popular hutongs which is a Chinese neighbourhood and has lots of really cool bars and restaurants, this is one of my favourite places to visit and is definitely a must see! My most amazing experience was camping on the best part of the great wall Beijing Jiankou, it was unrestored and challenging to climb but had so much fun, especially now I can say I have slept on the Great Wall of China! I also visited Houhai Lake, the Olympic Village, 798 art district, the infamous silk market and Tiananmen which were all awesome.
During the next few weeks I got more work to do dealing with international contracts which was really interesting, one of which I was asked to see whether or not a clause in one of the drafted contracts was acceptable or not, I felt quite important being the one who made the decision! It was time to do my presentation and it fell just short of an hour, but my audience seemed impressed and had a lot of questions, they didn’t realise that here in the UK we have both a barrister and a solicitor so that took some time to try and explain but overall it went really well!
Started to get invited into meetings with Mr. Chen, my first being with a French law firm where they were discussing a conference happening in September, I also met the partner from the Saudi Arabia office of Zhonglun W&D law firm who has offered me a great opportunity to go and work in the Middle East. I met with a London business firm who were looking for a law firm in China to represent them and following this I was given my very own business cards, business cards in Beijing are a must as networking is extremely popular which I found out by attending some of the events.
I found the networking events really random but fun at the same time, can’t say I have witnessed anything like it before. They are held in swanky hotels and offer free drinks and canapés, whilst you go around and try to find a potential employer or even just a new friend, lots of Chinese students attend as well as expats who are working in Beijing. Here’s where my business cards came into use, only to find out my boss had given me a unisex Chinese name which seemed to be amusing among the Chinese people I met there, now I know why Mr Chen was laughing and assuring me ‘panda fi’ was a good name…
For the last two weeks of my internship I was moved to the Finance department where I was working on a contract dealing with management funds between two banks, this area of law is new to me so took some time to research around the topic just so I didn’t make any crucial mistakes! It wasn’t all work in Beijing, the nightlife is amazing, the clubs are massive and the Chinese treat westerners like royalty by giving out numerous free drinks, you definitely can’t complain, especially when there’s an elevating and rotating dance floor.
I am definitely considering coming back to Beijing, maybe next time to study the language but it has been an awesome experience, so much different to any other city that I have been to and the people here are so friendly and quite shy Beijing it can be quite surreal in the beginning. I would certainly recommend Beijing as a great place to do work experience or an international internship as it looks great on your CV as well as it being something you will never forget.
Musts whilst in Beijing! :