Firstly, I would like thank InternChina for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of visiting China. This was something I never thought I’d be able to afford due to the financial barriers. With the funding from the British Council it helped make my dreams a reality.
I decided to apply for the programme for many reasons. I wanted to visit China, I was keen to broaden my cultural intelligence, I wanted to meet people from all over the world and I was keen to work in an environment different to what I was used to in the UK. The Generation UK programme offered all of this in one experience. Initially I thought applying for the programme would be like a holiday. I also thought it would look good on my CV. But after reading reviews and information on the programme I knew I would gain so much more than that.
I have always been independent. I moved out at 18 and had two jobs from as far back as I can remember. With this it is has been difficult to commit to extracurricular activities that help me towards my career goals. I always went were the money was to live a comfortable life. Applying for this programme allowed me to put my busy life on hold for a few months and focus on me.
Arrival in China and the Internship Experience
When I arrived in China I was extremely nervous. I was instantly put at ease by the staff at my programme who ensured all my worries and queries were dealt with. There was definitely an equal balance of work and leisure which made going to work more enjoyable.
My internship was in a tourist complex which was in the process of opening a new model train museum. I was responsible for the marketing. This allowed me to use my core skills learned from my university degree in a practical setting. It also allowed me to see what it is like to work in a Chinese company and how that differs to the UK. The majority of staff in my workplace could not speak English which made work challenging on occasions. But I made some lifelong friends.
Challenges in China
There were some minor challenges I found when living and working in China. Missing my family was definitely one. And being in a country where you cannot speak the language can be lonely. However, having the other interns around me who were going through the same thing helped. Communicating with the locals was sometimes a little difficult. But I was able to use a translation application and learnt some basic Chinese from my colleagues in work.
I was surprised at how “ahead” the Chinese are. The technology blew my mind and made me excited for what the future holds for the rest of the world. I was also pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the Chinese were to westerners. They were keen to learn from me. I was also super keen to learn from them, in terms of their working practices and from their culture.
Reflections on My Time in China
Since returning home from China, it is safe to say I have the China blues. I reflect on the experience daily and since returning to university I feel more mature and in control of my studies and my future.
I’ve learned a lot from my time in China and I am eager to return to explore more of the country. I now know that I am keen to move out of the UK when I graduate, spending my summer in China made me realise I can do that. Again, I cannot thank InternChina and the Generation UK programme enough for helping me follow one of my dreams and meet some fantastic people.
Previous interns had nothing but positive things to say about this programme. Further research into InternChina had drawn me to apply for the programme. I felt that they were passionate about integrating individuals from the West into China. This was exactly what I was yearning for.
After living in the U.K. for all my life, I wanted to experience a culture that was completely different from my own. What better way to do it than an internship in China? Not only would I be able to gain invaluable work experience, but I could also meet my goal and expand the perimeter of my comfort zone.
The experience communicating with InternChina staff made me even more at ease about flying 7000+ miles away from home. In particular, Ali Hashemi and Liam Dempsey were noteworthy. They were professional and caring members of staff who were pivotal in my final decision to apply.
Ali and Liam were prompt in reply to emails in regards to a small complication I had with my visa application. They alleviated fears about the accommodation, the flights and any other worries I may have experienced. With their support, I had a smooth pre-departure process that ensured me a pleasant arrival.
The Internship Experience and InternChina Support
My initial internship company aimed to interactively teach young children coding. (Python, Java, and Script). Being one of the few pioneering companies to take such an approach with programming, we agreed to use the skills from my degree to develop the psychological literature around the effects of coding from a young age. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to continue as planned. My overall goal was to not only experience China, but also gain work experience applicable to my future career. Therefore, I had to find a more suitable place.
Again, this is an instance whereby Liam demonstrated his ability to be understanding. He reassured me and found another placement that met my requirements very quickly. This led me to my new internship. Similar to the first one, the second was an innovative and expanding company with a passionate team that integrated various techniques (from the west as well as China). Such techniques were successfully employed to make functional fitness fun for adults as well as children from as young as 3 years old.
A Fresh Start
With a background dominated by physical activity and future prospects of going into Sports Psychology, this seemed like the perfect company for me. I had various tasks during my internship. These included making warm-up music or the staff to use with the children, international comparison with western fitness and suggesting exercises for staff and children.
Despite few English speakers, it was clear the team worked hard to ensure that I was involved. When there was overlap with InternChina weekend trips (e.g. TaGong, Four Sisters Mountains) and dinner meetups, my company was understanding and allowed me to tailor my working hours to ensure I was able to attend. Overall, my working hours allowed me to see the city and experience China as I had planned.
In My Spare Time
Outside of work I also took the time to visit some of the tourist sights. But I was more interested in having an authentic experience and understanding of the culture. In light of this, I took to the back streets and side alleys. Despite the language barrier, which I was able to overcome with the use of technology, I found myself not only learning the language but also teaching others about myself. Alongside the etiquette around eating, one of the things I refuse to forget is how to use chopsticks! Especially as it was so difficult to learn.
One of the highlights and surprises of my time in China is understanding that despite the obvious differences in culture and society, I could relate to similarly aged individuals. It seemed to me that these individuals were going through the same things as myself; we had more in common than we initially considered. This turned out to be a pleasant surprised which lead to considerable bond and international friendships.
Reflections on the Programme
I am from a low socio-economic background. Without this opportunity, this experience would have taken a much longer time to acquire. I am fortunate and honoured to have been a part of the Generation UK programme as I was able to come to China, meet like-minded people, develop business ideas, understand the business environment, gain experience, experience the culture and expand my comfort zone at a pivotal age.
I can happily say that it was a pleasure to be an intern in Chengdu. Also, InternChina facilitated my great experience and allowed me to meet my aims/goals in China. However, given the vastness of China and being on just a two months placement, I have plans to return to China and explore more. Instead of being an intern, next time I hope to have a business in China that is taking on interns.
My name is Rebekah Kane and I study Computer Science at Queen’s University in Belfast. When I applied for my IT internship in China at the beginning of the year, I didn’t think I would get an interview, never mind accepted.
I’d applied after seeing advertisements across the internet. Having read a few of the stories on the blog, I decided to go for it. I knew that having experience in my industry abroad would look amazing on my CV and set me apart from other applicants, but I didn’t realise just how much I would enjoy my time in China.
Choosing My City
The interview process was smooth. Everyone I was in contact with from InternChina and my company was full of information and quick to respond to every one of my questions – and I had a lot.
Out of the cities on offer, I decided to go to Zhuhai. Zhuhai is nestled between Hong Kong and Macau and considered ‘small’ for a city in China. Even though there are 1.7 million people who live and work there, Zhuhai isn’t as overwhelming as the other cities in China and in spite of the constant construction, it does give off a small city vibe.
My Internship and the Culture Shock
I worked in the IT department of an Asian-based western company who specialise in the design, development and distribution of silicone-based products. My daily tasks ranged from working on company databases to exploring the warehouse. Every day was different, and I was exposed to so much more than just the office walls.
There are a lot of culture shocks when you arrive in China. ButI think for me the most prominent misconception I had is that the Chinese work culture would be so intense it would burn me out. The Chinese people work hard, but not in the way that most westerners are used to. From their lunch time office naps (which I am 100% going to make a thing in the UK – or at least try my best) to the casual office wear and constant snacking (this may have just been my company, but again, I’m bringing it home) the work environment in China is, at least in my experience, very relaxed. People get their work done but don’t let it stress them out. Any stresses they do have, they leave in the office before they go home.
Outside of Work
I’ve had some of the best adventures of my life and met some of the most amazing people. On my first weekend in Zhuhai, a few of us headed to Yangshuo by train. We wanted to explore the countryside and escape Typhoon Mangkhut. We expected the typhoon wreak havoc on the city. Thankfully Zhuhai missed the worst of it!
Yangshuo was incredible. We hiked Moonhill, went bamboo rafting, and cycled through rural China. Here we met two Irish lecturers who had also cycled past the road we were all looking for. We also made friends with the hostel kitten, Cino (as in cappuccino). The following weekend we went camping on Wai Lingding island. We set up tents on the beach here and played traditional Chinese games well into the night.
Golden Week in China
During Golden Week, six of us travelled to Guangzhou for two nights. Golden Week in China is a week of Chinese national holidays. When you go to Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, you start to understand why Zhuhai is considered small.
Guangzhou is filled with massive sky scrapers which dance with multi coloured lights all night long. If you ride the metro a few stops outside of the business district you’ll find traditional Chinese temples, streets strung with red lanterns, lined with stalls selling jade and precious stones. It’s the perfect depiction of China – deep-rooted tradition meets cutting-edge modernity.
The Entire Experience
Stepping off the plane at Hong Kong airport, I didn’t know what to expect from my time in China. I figured I’d meet a few cool people and we would go on an adventure or two. Knowing my internship was going to be a great learning curve but thinking that I’d be exhausted every day after coming back from work.
I wish I could go back and tell myself to stop imagining the worst. To embrace every single moment because it goes by so quickly. I can honestly say that in my eight weeks, my professional skills developed massively. I’ve made amazing friends and eaten so much incredible Chinese food that a curry from the local just won’t make the cut anymore. Participating in this programme has enriched my CV and helped me figure out which direction I want my career to take upon graduating.
Before taking part in this internship I thought I would go back to Belfast having had my fill of China, but the experience has convinced me to come back once I graduate. Whether it be teaching English, working with a Chinese company or just travelling through and taking every day as it comes, I know that I’ll be back and I have InternChina and the Generation UK programme to thank for that.
The Generation UK – China programme was launched by the British Council in 2013, aiming to help 80,000 students from the UK to boost their employability, enhance their long-term job prospects and develop a global mindset through study and work experiences in China.
The programme offers students and graduates the chance to complete a 2-month internship in one of three cities in China; Chengdu, Qingdao and Zhuhai.
By encouraging UK students to engage with China, Generation UK aims to bring young people from both countries closer together, increase mutual understanding, and pave the way to lasting links and partnerships between the UK and China.
Since 2013, InternChina has sent hundreds of students and graduates to China on the Generation UK funded programme, and below are some of our alumni from the 2018 cohort.
Katie Trippett of Lancaster University worked in an International Trading Company in Zhuhai in summer 2018. She learnt a lot about the cultural differences in China, both in day-to-day life, as well as in the work place. Find out more about her experience here.
Sarah Gumush of Birmingham City University completed a Digital Marketing internship in Chengdu in the summer of 2018. Sarah has given us an insight in to her thoughts about the Generation UK programme before, during and after. Check out her experience here.
Niamh McNulty of Aberystwyth University spent two months in Qingdao in summer 2018 as a Logistics intern. She wrote about her experience of living in Qingdao as a foreigner, as well as her experience in her internship and the differing cultural norms in China.
Rebekah Kane of Queen’s University, Belfast, completed a 2-month IT internship in Zhuhai in Autumn 2018. Rebekah told us about her experience in Zhuhai, and her advice to other people thinking about doing the Generation UK programme.
Dashen Allen of Birmingham City University spent 2-months in Chengdu in 2018. He had a unique experience in China after things didn’t work out at his first internship, but he was determined to make a success of his time there. Find out here about how the Chengdu team supported him.
Teri Rooney of the University of Strathclyde spent 2-months in Zhuhai over summer 2018. She completed her internship in a Marketing and Tourism company. She told us about how the internship in China allowed her expand her horizons and follow her dreams.
Ever since I was a child (around the age 3), Mulan was my favourite Disney princess. She was a great inspiration on the love I developed for China. Throughout the following years, I started to love Chinese culture, food, clothes and history.
Coming across the Generation UK programme immediately caught my interest. It pushed me to research more about InternChina, the opportunities they offer and feedback from previous interns. After reading the positive feedback about the Generation UK programme, I knew to take this opportunity. I decided to apply to the programme for an internship in the marketing field.
Staff such as Ali Hashemi and Liam Dempsey were very helpful and quick to respond to my emails. This was very helpful and helped me build trust with InternChina and the services. This lessened my worries, as I would always get fast replies and answers for any questions I had regarding visa application, my apartment and life in China.
I have a background in psychology and want to study an international MBA for my masters. So I thought that doing an internship within the business field would be a bridge between my transition from psychology to business. I was hoping to familiarise myself with key terminology in marketing, broaden my network and surround myself with the business environment.
The Master’s course I will undertake is international. Thus, doing an internship in a foreign country would make me understand more about the different procedures required for businesses in a country outside of the UK and Europe which I am familiar with.
During the Programme
Landing in China and realising that I made it so far made me feel like I’ve accomplished a big part of my goal. It was a sunny day and I could not stop smiling when I was walking from the airport, all the way to the compound I lived in. My departure and arrival in China were very smooth. Liam picked me up from the airport with a warm welcome. He made me feel like I was ready for an adventure.
Throughout my time in Chengdu, all I had to do was throw myself out there and adapt to the environment I was in. I would use sign language and mime. And lastly, I would use a translation application to get a Chinese person to understand what I was trying to say. I always loved relying on myself before using translation applications. The language barrier was never an issue for me. I would see it as a fun challenge where I could learn a Chinese word from.
The weekly Chinese classes that I received were very helpful. I would use a lot of the words that I learnt in class in my everyday life in Chengdu. The Chinese classes were great fun with the other interns. I am still learning more Chinese now, as the languages and characters were very interesting.
The Internship Experience
Doing the internship and working with the best team was great fun. I would look forward to going to work every day and learn more about digital marketing in China and the Chinese way of doing business. My boss was a very cool person, and I made great connections with the team. I was so surprised that I could take a nap (my lazy hobby) at work during the break. The normality of it surprised me.
Having the opportunity to work in my internship familiarised me with business models and key terms that will be useful in my postgraduate degree. Broadening my network and making connections with businesses in China via work will be beneficial for me in the future.
Outside of Work
After work, I would always visit the bubble tea shop under my apartment. I became friendly with the people who worked there. Also, there was a little noodle shop that was me and my friend’s favourite place to visit. Building a little community for myself in the area I lived in was very important. It made me feel more like I was at home.
Tourism in the city never ends! From my experience, walking down the market and going inside a little restaurant to eat fried rice and dumplings with chopsticks was some sort of tourism. The trips organised were great fun, and I enjoyed visiting the Chengdu panda research base. Seeing the Jinlong Great Wall in Luodai was an amazing experience which motivated me further to take another trip to China and visit the Great Wall in Beijing. The Thursday dinners were also exciting because it allowed me to try lots and delicate traditional Chinese dishes and give me the perfect time to catch up with other interns.
After the Programme
I appreciate the opportunity for me to do an internship and reach my main goal. It makes me proud to inspire other minority women, such as those from a Muslim background. I hope to inspire them to push themselves out of their comfort zone and do an internship or travel to different countries. I did have doubts and second thoughts about doing an internship in China sometimes. However, I managed to live 5000+ miles away from home, whilst still being able to be myself. This experience taught me to express your values comfortably. And will never feel like you need to fit in because others will accept you for accepting yourself.
This trip to China is an unforgettable chapter of my life. It is the beginning of my travelling journeys. It was a break that I needed from my average daily life. I am very thankful to InternChina and the Generation UK programme for giving me this chance to accomplish my goals. My advice to anyone thinking about this internship would be, take the opportunity and just be comfortable with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone!
As my last year at university was quickly ticking away, I was still undecided as to what I wanted to do after I graduated. With a family member working for the British Council, I decided to look on their website to gain an insight to the kind of careers they offer. This was where I found the Generation UK – China internship opportunity.
I had mentioned the programme to my career mentor, who had previously completed a one-month internship herself. She highly recommended it to me as I was in a place where I wanted to gain some work experience as well as travel experience – so it was the ideal combination!
Coming from a business background, China was incredibly appealing. It’s booming economy, fast growing consumer market and flourishing business base, to name a few aspects. I thought that this opportunity would be incredibly beneficial. Not only for my work experience, but also for my personal growth as an individual.
Living in China
Living in China has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life so far. From day one, I found myself out of my comfort zone. Instantly having to adapt to all aspects of everyday life. You soon become an expert using chop sticks! Talking of food, this has to be one of my favourite things about Chinese culture. Ordering multiple dishes to share at lunch/dinner time is something foodies like me certainly take a liking to straight away.
Not only this, but Chinese people are unbelievably friendly. They would go the extra mile for you once you form a friendship with them. A couple of us had a small restaurant we ate at regularly. One evening we asked if they did an aubergine dish, they said yes of course. We then saw them run to the shop to buy aubergine and cooked us the most delicious dish from scratch off their own backs! It truly is all about networking in China. Whilst in work, even when my supervisor was out in meetings, the office would always include me in their lunch plans and make me feel so welcome and at home.
Working in China
Working in the office was very different to working in an office back in the UK. To begin with, it is perfectly acceptable to get your head down and nap in the middle of the day! Arriving to work late and shouting over each other across the room was also never questioned.
As I was working in an International Trading Company, owned by a Danish man, sometimes there was a conflict between the ‘Western’ way to do things and the ‘Chinese’ way. Reaching an agreement that was an acceptable compromise between both was often easier said than done.
It was key to understand each other’s needs in order to find a resolution to the problem that would be acceptable by both cultures. Working life in China was very much similar to their everyday life – very laid back and relaxed, yet incredibly successful.
There are some things in China that can be difficult to get used to. As you walk down the streets of Zhuhai, you would often hear the acceptable sound of people spitting. And quite frequently get stared at from the local people. Yet you soon understand that it is pure fascination and you will regularly receive compliments all day long. “So beautiful” is quite a common one.
You also soon get used to locals either trying to get a sneaky photo of you. Or asking you straight up if they can have a photo with you. Again, this is something that made me feel quite uncomfortable at the start, but you soon embrace the attention. The language barrier was a challenge and sometimes a barrier to forming networks.
I was incredibly lucky to have met a friend who spoke fluent Mandarin and therefore not only did it help my time in China, but I also managed to pick up some small phrases to help me get by. Despite being based in a city that is considered ‘small’ in China terms, it was still very busy in my ‘small UK village’ terms! Rush hour on the buses was always great fun as you squeeze onto the tiniest spaces surrounded by quite often sweaty people or rainy umbrellas.
Because of this, bikes were a popular alternative for transport as I soon found out with the bells constantly ringing even if their path was clear – I think some liked making a song as they rode by.
What I Have Learned
Even with the incredible challenges I experienced in China, by the end of my time there I really began to embrace the differences. And those things that would have affected me when I first arrived wouldn’t affect me so much now.
I feel the Generation UK – China programme has allowed me to grow as an individual. It has allowed me to become more adaptable and resilient. Not only this, but my internship work itself developed my knowledge of business relations between China and other countries in terms of importing goods into their country. I also created a website for my company which was something I never knew I could do!
I still remain in close contact with my supervisor as I manage the website from the UK. During my time completing the programme, I was incredibly lucky to have made the most of my weekends. I visited Guangzhou and Yangshuo, followed by Macau and Hong Kong after my internship. Each destination provided a different aspect of the Chinese culture in their own unique way.Having participated in the Generation UK – China programme, I would most definitely recommend it. Especially to anyone wishing to develop both their business and personal experience. It has been such an incredible opportunity for me. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in it.
Funded Internships in China
Generation UK – China was launched by the British Council in 2013. By 2020, it aims to help 80,000 students from the UK boost their employability, enhance their long-term job prospects, and develop a global mind-set through study and work experience opportunities in China.
The programme offers funded internship placements and academic scholarships for UK students to gain international experience in China. By encouraging UK students to engage with China, Generation UK aims to bring young people from both countries closer together, increase mutual understanding, and pave the way to lasting links and partnerships between the UK and China.
The Generation UK – China campaign is supported by all four government administrations in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
Find out more and apply here. Continue reading below about the experience of a 2018 Generation UK participant.
Rebekah’s Internship Experience in Zhuhai
”My name is Rebekah Kane and I’m a Computer Science student at Queen’s University in Belfast, here in Zhuhai for 2 months on a Generation UK programme.
I’m living in an apartment with two other girls who are all on the same program as me but we’re working at different companies.
I work as an IT intern in a Western-based manufacturing company here, in Zhuhai.”
What skills have you developed?
There are so many skills that I have learned over the past 8 weeks, on a personal and a professional level. So, I think for me what I’ve probably grown most in is confidence. You kind of have to be confident, whether you’re used to it or not, to tackle the cultural differences and to be the best person you can be in work and to get all the tasks done on time. Your communication improves, and your interpersonal skills definitely improve and you just become a lot more independent.
Were you worried about coming to China?
Before coming to China, yeah, I think it’s natural. There were definitely things that were playing on my mind. I’d never traveled so far alone before, especially to such a different culture and something that I was so not used to, so that was definitely something that played on my mind. But then as soon as I got off the plane and the InternChina people were waiting for me, it was such a relief. We got a taxi, sorted out my SIM-card and yeah, everyone was so friendly. So, nerves before going, but not so much once I got here.
How are you enjoying the programme so far?
I have definitely enjoyed the programme so far. I didn’t really know what to expect coming over here but everything has been amazing. The people are so good, the food is much nicer than I thought it would be, and I’m a vegetarian, so I didn’t really know what to expect. We have done so much traveling. So, my first weekend we went to Yangshuo and we went to… we did a lot of walking, a lot of hiking. We hiked up Moon Hill which was beautiful, and we saw the most gorgeous mountains. The whole, just atmosphere there, is just really really amazing. And then we did a weekend trip to Wai Ling Ding Island, which is right in between Zhuhai and Hong Kong. We camped on the beach there for a night and that was amazing, so so far it’s just been really really good.
What do you do in your free time?
So far I’ve spent my free time just sort of exploring. There’s so much to do in Zhuhai, especially being beside the sea and beside so many cities. So we’ve done a couple of weekend trips to Guangzhou, and we’re going to Shenzhen this weekend. Also just exploring what Zhuhai has to offer. The food is amazing; it is really really nice. And there’s loads of parks and beaches, and the history of Zhuhai too is really impressive. So yeah, there’s always something to do.
How has the experience improved your employability?
Definitely yes, my internship has without a doubt helped me prepare for my future career. I don’t even know what I want to do whenever I graduate yet, but I do know that the skills that I’ve learned whilst I’m here, both the personal ones and the professional ones they will look amazing, not only on my CV but they will help me in interviews, they will help me to apply it in any job I decide to do. And saying that in your early 20s, you went to somewhere literally right across the world, to work for a couple of months… That’s amazing, that shows that you have drive – so definitely will look great on my CV.
Would you recommend an internship in China?
Without a doubt I would recommend an internship with InternChina to my friends. I think the main reason is because it’s been so much fun. All of us, all the interns that are here at the same time as me, we’ve all learned so much whilst we’re here. And yeah, the support system here is also really really good.
Any advice for future interns?
I think the best advice that I can give is just say yes to everything. There’s so many opportunities over here that there are not back home. Back home you can really get in the way of being like “Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow, or I’ll do it next week” but you don’t always have next week over here So, just say yes, to new opportunities, to meeting new people, and you’ll have a really good time.
Are you interested in applying for a Generation UK funded internship just like Rebekah? Then apply now, before the deadline on 2nd December 2018!