Like many others over the last few years, I was not able to find a graduate job upon leaving university. Not wanting to take the first stop-gap soul crushing job I could grab and also not having the money or planning abilities for a gap year, a CV boosting internship seemed the ideal compromise.
While there are a several different places to get internships, both in the UK and abroad, looking ahead (for once!) it was clear that China was where the future lay. Finding CRCC Asia was easy and within days it was all set, I was going to China!
I’ll take just a moment to answer ‘why China’ – well as I said it is the future, everybody wants a piece of the China pie; every industry, nation and prospective intern. Knowledge of the country is a prized asset for any hiring employer. But China is also the past, with a long rich history second to none. Furthermore China is the present – the national attractions, architecture and skilled people are utterly amazing and fascinating and I highly advise anyone going to visit as many places, from the Temple of Heaven to a corner street vendor with fantastic smelling food, and to speak to as many people you meet as you can. I won’t say any more and leave you to discover things for yourself, but if you do fancy going I’d recommend two months as one month is really not enough time to scratch the surface of the local culture, flavours and so on. That also gives you a few weekends to pop over to Shanghai/Beijing and Xi’an for some cities of a different flavour and trust me they are all different.
I opted for the joint language and internship 2 month program, figuring that it would give me twice the potential rewards with both a basic grasp of Mandarin and some time working inside an engineering company; and if my internship turned out to be a dud I thought I could handle a month of it easier than two but would still get the full China experience.
This turned out to be a brilliant decision, not because my internship was poor, far from it, but because the language classes taught by ‘That’s Mandarin’, were just fantastic. These classes are held in small groups and depending on your own level so they are tailored to you. The teachers are of comparable age to most interns and it doesn’t take long for them to become more than just instructors, but friends too. I never found myself drifting off or spacing out, but constantly laughing and learning. They make it so easy that you’ll be chatting to your waiter before you know it!
As for the internship itself, I was working for an international fine chemicals company based in China but with offices in the States and Germany. My first day I turned up and the manager was off sick! However, I was quickly initiated and introduced by the rest of the staff and by the end of the day knew more about shipping than I thought possible!
I was then given a big project to help the company decide which direction to expand their research efforts based on what was in demand now and what looked to be so in the near to mid future. This allowed me to both work individually when I had a lead but also communicate with all the other staff members to ask for help whenever I needed and to benefit from their own individual takes on the industry. All were a friendly hardworking bunch who never seemed put out or hassled when I asked them anything. You will get asked out to lunch and my advice is definitely to go each and every time you can, there’s no better way to get to know the person behind the work colleague.
As for the rest of the interns I was out there with, well it’s six months later and three are still over there working hard! (Though not I must add, necessarily with their interning companies).
And this brings me to another massive aspect of the CRCC Asia experience and a true highlight for me – the group aspect. While you can go abroad to do an internship by yourself, it is very daunting but with CRCC Asia you are with a group of others in exactly the same boat. Friendships are formed fast, and are proving enduring. Everyone that does this is a dynamic internationally minded person, and these kinds of people are always interesting. You’ll come out of it with friends scattered across the globe, and a place to stay anywhere you might need it! I’ve already attended one reunion since getting back!
As for my mates back home, the admiration I got for going (and the jealousy) has made topics of conversation easy. I’ve already had people asking me about CRCC Asia so they can go and do the internship program themselves! I’ve also found myself a great deal more worldly with knowledge gained not only about different living standards and different fields (I’m an Engineer but learned about law, marketing and finance), but also about the similarities that all people share and more about myself.
And if you’re worried about not fitting in or getting to grips with the mysterious Orient, then the CRCC Asia staff are there. They are willing and able to help with any problem, big or small and always with big smiles. CRCC Asia lays on events from renowned guest speakers to eardrum melting KTV (that’s karaoke) sessions with your fellow interns. One activity I’d recommend 110% is the Migrants Children Foundation day where you go to help the charity and rediscover your inner child along the way.
Yes you go for boosting your CV, but honestly when I was there this was the furthest thing from my mind. Since getting back I have found an excellent job and as a testament to how useful a Chinese internship can be, within two weeks I was showing some Chinese clients around our fabrication sites in (partial) Mandarin!
I could go on and on about my experiences, but really you should go and have your own experiences.
I promise you, they’ll be fantastic and you’ll never regret it!