Searching high and low for an internship over the summer was taking up a lot of time during my third year of university. I wanted something that would stand out on my CV, something that when employers asked the question; “So tell me something interesting about yourself”, I would have something I could refer to, something that I bet 99% of the other candidates applying for the job wouldn’t have.
After a random Google search I came across CRCC Asia – the opportunity to intern with an organisation in China – why not!
Soon after applying, I was chosen to work for an immigration company in Shenzhen.
Leading up to the flight I was really nervous, although college and university massively improved my confidence, going to China knowing no-one was a whole new level. Yet as soon as I started meeting people on the connecting flight in Frankfurt, I instantly began making friends, everyone was new, everyone was excited and nervous, so we were all in the same boat (plane) and all had something to talk about.
After settling into my accommodation (which was fantastic), I was soon going out for meals and sight seeing with new people and friends – during the first weekend a large group of us went to watch the Shenzhen Football Team (who I must say are pretty average). My first week of work began soon after, the commute to work was one of the highlights of my day, experiencing the manic rush to get on the subway and fitting in to daily Chinese life was something I thoroughly embraced. I often met and held conversations with people on the subway on the way home, finding out about each other and gaining further insight into the city – one of the guys I met was a big fan of football and one night later that week he came along and played football with us.
As for the work itself, I worked in a lovely office building with around twenty co-workers. I was interning with two other people – one from England and one from Spain. Just as with the people I had met at my accommodation, the three of us instantly got on and enjoyed each other’s company. The Chinese workforce were friendly and helpful. Even though not all of them knew the English language we communicated through one of the employees competent in both languages, or through the internet – with applications such as QQ providing a constant source of communication with all workmates.
Work involved a wide variety of tasks, including complex business plans, sitting in on meetings and presentations, and presenting to Chinese clients looking to invest in immigration projects in America. I really wanted to get the most out of my time in work so I even created a fifteen page document on cross cultural differences for our Chinese clients in my spare time – I even used an internet translator to put it all into Chinese writing for my boss which went down well! The working day went fast, and when it was over I would always go and meet with friends – who in a very short space of time had gone from complete strangers to my best mates. We would go for a meal, play football at the local AstroTurf pitches, or just simply hang out and tell each other about our days. Every Tuesday night involved a Chinese class where we learned basic Mandarin. These classes where exceptionally well taught and you would come out with new vocabulary after each lesson which enabled you to converse at a basic level with the local people.
The city of Shenzhen itself was amazing. There were food stalls on every corner and the city itself was such a busy city full of completely different people. I loved getting off the subway and spending twenty to thirty minutes walking back to my apartment, each time finding a new route to take, and coming across areas of the city unknown to me the day before.
Looking back on my time in Shenzhen I wouldn’t change a thing. I met people from completely different backgrounds to me, at work my colleagues were so friendly and welcoming, and I still talk to them on Wechat (the Chinese version of whatsapp) from time to time. The interns I met were all really pleasant and I have acquired friends now ranging from Australia to America.
While in Shenzhen I struck up a strong friendship with a group of guys from all over the world, and since leaving China and coming home I have continued regular conversation with them all, and I now know that if I ever travel to certain parts of the world I’ll know someone!
The CRCC Asia experience has given me so much in the way of confidence, it paved the way for new friendships with people I would never come across on a daily basis, and it gave me the experience to see what its like out on the other side of the world. And to cap it off I have one extraordinary experience to tell any employer about when they ask me to tell them something interesting!