So I am sat in Qingdao airport awaiting my flight back to the UK after what I can only describe as the best summer that I have ever had. Time really does fly when you are having fun, which explains why I just cannot believe that it has all gone so quickly. I have never been much of a blogger, but I have taken it upon myself to write this piece because I want to encourage anyone reading it to grab with both hands the incredible opportunity offered by InternChina. I will divide this review into three sections: InternChina Review; The Internship; Qingdao.
I applied to InternChina’s program through the Generation UK scheme run by the British Council. The scheme funded InternChina’s program fee so I would highly recommend that you check it out to see if you are eligible. Even if you are not, my experience with InternChina has been nothing but positive and their prices are well worth it for what you get out of their programs.
I like to think of InternChina as the middle-man between you and the companies in which you intern: they have already done the networking and thus have the ability to place you in some impressive organisations. Furthermore, your rent, bills and mobile phone SIM are also taken care of and they even throw in an airport transfer when you arrive and when you leave. In short, they take the difficulty out of what would otherwise be a very stressful endeavour, which allows you to focus all of your energy on making the most out of your internship.
The InternChina staff in the Qingdao Office are a fantastic group of people. They are friendly, approachable and strike a good balance between supporting you and encouraging you to do things independently to aid your own personal development. They also build strong, professional relationships with interns while at the same time not hesitating to come out on a Friday/Saturday night for drinks.
In my opinion, the best aspect by far of the InternChina experience is being part of the community of interns that are out here. You will make a great group of new friends because everyone is so enthusiastic to meet up and do stuff together whether it be paintballing, hiking or good old fashioned drinking. InternChina organise a weekend activity for all interns and every Thursday there is also an organised dinner at a different restaurant to let you enjoy a variety of cuisines. I think that it is also important to note that the new friends you will make in Qingdao will form part of your professional network. Everyone is there for work, thus it is a great opportunity to forge close friendships with the successful business men and women of the future in a multitude of industries from countries all over the world.
As Qingdao is a major port city, I decided to do a logistics internship. From day one at my company I was given real responsibilities, which was initially very intimidating but also a fantastic challenge to rise to. I worked within a team that delivered tailored solutions to clients’ transport requirements and I was responsible for external communication with Anglophone and Francophone customers. My colleagues spoke English fairly well which was good because I speak little Chinese. Whichever company you are placed in there will always be English speakers so do not worry; however, I would advocate learning some Chinese as you will be entrusted with more work and it would help you to build bridges with your colleagues more easily.
In today’s competitive job market, internships make you stand out; but internships in China put you leagues ahead of the competition. They show a desire to do something different, to explore another country’s business culture and to be placed outside your comfort zone and rise to the challenge. China is a now a huge player on the international stage and companies and governments are fighting for a piece of the opportunities that China has to offer. They will require people who have the experience and the contacts in China, and by joining one of InternChina’s programs you really are securing your long-term job prospects.
InternChina’s competitors offer programs based in cities such as Beijing or Shanghai, but I could not be happier that I chose to do my internship in Qingdao. This city is off the beaten track and provides you with a more unique and interesting destination: how many people do you know who’ve been to Qingdao compared to the other two aforementioned cities? Not many, I’d bet.
Qingdao is located at the end tip of Shandong province in a huge natural bay; it has miles of beaches that can be enjoyed during the summer months and I know that I will miss them! It is a huge city of around 8 million people, yet at no point feels overwhelming or claustrophobic; perhaps it has something to do with the gentle sea breezes. It is also worth noting that because of the wind, Qingdao enjoys considerably cleaner air than other parts of China; personally I believe that to be an important deciding factor on where to go because some cities can suffer terribly from smog.
As Qingdao is on the coast the city is renowned for seafood. This kinda sucked for me because I don’t like seafood, but it was never a problem as there is so much more on offer. The Chinese food in China is nothing like what you get from a takeaway back at home. For starters (no pun intended), prawn crackers don’t exist here and don’t even think about trying to order sweet and sour chicken balls. Instead, you will be able to marvel at and explore the culinary wonders that this country has to offer. There is also a large contingent of Korean and Japanese restaurants that you will need to check out.
That said, Qingdao isn’t known so much for its food as for its drink, and there is one with which you will very quickly become acquainted: Tsingtao Pigao. This beer is everywhere in China but it appears to be even more omnipresent in Qingdao. As a cider lover I was terrified at the prospect of having to drink beer for two months but at £3 for 6 litres of Tsingtao at my local, I quickly learned to love it. Every time I see someone drinking it in the UK I’ll be ever so slightly smug at the fact that I lived and worked in that city where that beer is made.
I hope that the above has convinced you to come to China on one of InternChina’s programs, be in Qingdao or another one of their cities; if you have two months to spare in the summer then there isn’t really anything better than you can do with your time. On a final note, I would also recommend that you use your weekends, or even take some time before or after your internship, to travel around China because there is so much to see and do.