It’s always going to be a worthwhile experience when traveling to a different country for work, and taking on an internship in China is one of the most unique experiences that you will ever have.
Not only is it jam-packed with rich culture and a fascinating history, but it is also one of the world’s largest economies and there is a ton of booming industries there. No matter what your field, you can almost certainly get an internship in China if you look for it.
Manufacturing is, of course, a big one but there is also quite a bit of work in technology too. There’s also engineering and agriculture and countless others so you shouldn’t struggle to find one that suits you.
Working abroad, in general, is a great thing to be able to put on your CV but to prove your willingness to take on the tough working environment will go a long way. It might feel like a lot at first, but think of it as an investment, like saving for retirement. Beneficial in the long-run despite not seeming entirely worth it at first.
But of course, it’s a culture that is like no other on the planet and it comes with its own difficulties and potential pitfalls for Westerners that are coming for work. With that in mind, here’s a couple of useful tips that any intern can benefit from.
Being able to speak Mandarin is not exactly essential if you’re going over for a relatively brief internship. You should be able to get by well enough but it would help you a lot in your daily life there if you can speak some of it.
And it is not an easy language to learn by any stretch of the imagination. It’s actually one of the tougher ones, you have to learn an entirely different alphabet and it takes quite a while to even get the basics under control.
I’d suggest that if you want to learn a bit of the language before your stay, then you should start several months in advance. You’re almost certainly not going to achieve fluency before you arrive but you can certainly take a few steps towards it that will help you out.
There are many things in China that operate completely differently to how they do in the rest of the world and you’re going to have to adjust to these changes. One of which is your online availability.
You can use the internet of course, but many of the sites that are used to using at home are not going to be readily available for you in China. There are quite a few restrictions on social media in particular.
So sites like Facebook and Instagram are blocked by something that’s known over there as ‘ The Great Firewall’. Seems a bit excessive and unfair but that’s how it is over there right now. The only way around it is to use a VPN service.
There’s a bunch of good ones online, most of which will require a subscription, but it will allow you access to all the sites that are restricted in China. Don’t use it at work though, it should just be for your personal devices.
For internships, the correct documentation that you need is something which is known as a Z-Visa, which is usually valid for 30 days and which you will eventually replace with a working reason Residence Permit.
To get the Z-Visa, there are a couple of different steps. You’ll first have to apply through your own local Labor Bureau, you should be able to get the right documentation there which you’ll then need to fill out and return to them.
From there it will be sent for consideration to the Chinese authorities and a decision will be made. It’s highly unlikely you will be rejected at this point unless you’ve got an extensive criminal record or something.
You’ll then get a notification letter to signify your approval and you can use this to apply for the Z-Visa at a Chinese embassy. From there, you can head over to China and get yourself set up with your internship.
Now this one is obviously not as connected to the actual work as the other ones that I’ve mentioned already but it’s still something you should know and it’s going to have a huge impact on your daily life over there.
China is extremely polluted. The sky is often invisible in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai on account of the thick, toxic smog that fills the air. It’s caused by a number of things but the most significant factor is the countries reliance on fossil fuels.
It would be wise to get an app on your phone which allows you to check what the air quality in the city you’re staying in is like before you leave your apartment. You might have to wear a face-mask some of the days, but that’s better than inhaling the smog.
Ultimately, China is like an entirely different world and some of the reasons why aren’t necessarily desirable, but a lot of them are. It’s unquestionably unique and a fantastic place to get some extremely valuable skills and experience.
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