I first found out about the CRCC Asia internship programme through an email forwarded to me and my classmates during my final year of university. Despite being only 20 at the time of my application, which I thought may have been too young for consideration, I jumped at the opportunity knowing that my time in the safety of university education was coming to an end. Coming from a scientific background, I was well aware of China’s status as a world leader in medical research, the direction in which I hoped to guide my future career. In my opinion, the internship not only offered me what I was sure would be an amazing work experience, but also a chance to travel – one which I didn’t have during my time before and while at university.
As an intern in the Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals sector, I worked with Optimum Health Care – a dynamic and emerging multinational private healthcare provider based in Shanghai. Although I have little experience working in a business environment, I found working with the Marketing and Media departments surprisingly fulfilling because it allowed me to use the scientific knowledge I gained during my degree in a completely new way. A lot of the more senior staff were expats, and the company itself very westernised as a result, even the Chinese staff had adopted more western business practices – somewhat at odds with what I had expected after the CRCC cultural and work training sessions, but it definitely helped me fit into the new environment. I worked on several projects over the course of the month, offered myself up for various editing and proofreading tasks for my colleagues (a ‘hobby’ I picked up at university), and even found myself touring both the research and diagnostic labs – my supervisor was more than happy to help me make the most of my short time with the company. The valuable experience I gained from working with Optimum has set me up for my career upon returning to the UK, although I’m already planning my return to China!
The internship was only half of my Shanghai experience, however; the other half being the time I spent exploring the city and the Chinese culture with my fellow interns. Staying in the same accommodation helped us to really get to know each other, and sampling the Shanghai nightlife together certainly didn’t hurt! The CRCC Asia staff based in Shanghai did an amazing job of flavouring our free time with some local activities – including taking us out for a welcome banquet, KTV – or karaoke for the uninitiated (admittedly a bit of a daunting prospect, especially for a Brit, but it’s really fun… honestly!), volunteer days, and dumpling-making. They’re so helpful and down-to-earth; they had great rapport with the interns and really made us feel at ease being in such a foreign environment. Living so far away from home was initially quite a discouraging thought, but the company, both CRCC themselves, and the other interns, made it easy.
So yes, the metro really is as crowded as they say it is, there really are lots of ‘interesting’ food options, the traffic really is crazy – but the scooters are good fun – and everything really is cheap: there are a hundred other anecdotes I could use to describe my time in China, but the truth is that it’s a culture that has to be experienced to be believed.