This summer I was lucky enough to be working abroad in Shanghai via an internship programme funded by the British Council’s Generation UK. The internship itself, as well as many other aspects concerning visa, accommodation and business/cultural events, were organised by CRCC Asia, a company providing international internships to those looking to broaden their professional experience.
I spent an incredible two months in Shanghai, which gave me the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture concerning business, meet and network with similarly driven individuals and of course, to explore a city famous for its dynamism and energy.
Application to gain funding from the British Council opens around October time and closes early December, if I’m remembering correctly! However, if you’re planning on going the self-funded route, applying 6 weeks in advance is advised.
The application was pretty straightforward with two-focused questions (answers 250-word max) asking about your motivations for participating and your views on the UK-China relationship. For these I would really try to personalise both answers, relating them back to you, your experiences and goals. Showcasing an enthusiasm to learn, openness to experiencing different cultures and strong drive for personal/professional development is what I think helped myself and others I met stand out from other applicants.
Once the deadline closes, telephone interviews were conducted mid-January. This is around 15-20 minutes long, depending on how much you talk! To be honest, interviewing is not my strongest suit and is something I’m still working on, but preparing some answers and points you want to talk about beforehand, even writing out key points on a post-it and referring to them helped for me!
I received the outcome of my application in March, where unfortunately I learned I was unsuccessful. Later, (through some stroke of luck!) was told a place was available if I was still able to take the opportunity! Fast forward through purchasing flight tickets, sorting out my visa and I’m on my way to Shanghai!
Despite applying for a marketing placement, my pre-departure information sheet was overwhelmingly (in fact, frighteningly) financial. Raising my concerns with CRCC, I was assured my placement would be a marketing role – it is possible to change companies once there if you do find it unsuitable to yourself and your career interests.
While work at Wicrecend leaned more towards consultancy and market-research, after weighing the positives (location, corporate business experience, networking opportunities) and negatives (alternative industry to career goals, type of work) I decided to stay and instead address the issues of my placement. Since I wanted to develop my experiences in marketing, I asked to help in the department’s management of social media and in-house internship promotion strategies, which they were happy to let me assist in.
Day to day jobs consisted of compiling daily newsletters, writing industry reports for Chinese companies and at the time, researching subjects important to the company’s European expansion. Positivity and general approach to work can hand you more responsibility than other interns – I had a fair amount of management responsibilities regarding the department, which was a great learning experience!
The first month was particularly busy; I arrived just in time to compete in the company’s annual sports day. While we complained amongst ourselves at having to attend training sessions after work and at weekends, I definitely appreciated the opportunity to experience company culture at Wicrecend, learn more about its subsidiaries and most importantly develop camaraderie with Chinese colleagues – choreographed cheerleading routines tends to do that. Working in the international department, it’s easy to feel isolated from other employees, but the sports day and training sessions provided the perfect ice-breaker!
Events & Opportunities:
Alongside the internship placement, CRCC plan monthly events to further your personal connection to and knowledge of China. We spent one morning with the Sunshine Community Centre, which helps individuals with disabilities and found it a wonderful experience to meet and interact with others outside the sphere of business. Business seminars were also organised once a month, providing insight into Chinese business culture from people with years of experience working in China.
Mandarin classes are also provided, taking place once a week after work and lasting 1 ½ hours. Since I was the only one in my group who had previously studied Mandarin, CRCC was really helpful in catering to this and after trying out classes in the first week, arranged classes more suitable to my level, which was basically one-on-one tutorage!
In between such hectic work schedules and events, it is possible to explore outside of Shanghai, taking day trips to nearby cities (Hangzhou is great for tea lovers and getting a little dose of nature) or even weekend trips to Beijing for those wanting to tick the Great Wall off their bucket list. CRCC advertises comprehensive tours with Dragon Trip to interns, but as long as you book tickets in advance you can generally plan out your own trip for much cheaper!
While I can’t say that everything about this experience was perfect, in terms of convenience the programme with CRCC was an easy way to experience working life in Shanghai without the stress and hassle of worrying about anything else. I returned to the UK with invaluable insight into working in China, experience for future jobs, friendships spanning international borders and of course, the drive to return and work abroad in the future! If you have any experience with CRCC or interning in China, I’d love to hear more!
For more information on the programme I applied for, see this page!
P.S. Click here for visual summary of my internship abroad 🙈
P.P.S. Follow my new Instagram hehe > @rookieexperiences