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Jillian Lau, Shanghai Internship

Jillian 4Hello! My name is Jillian Lau and I studied abroad in Shanghai, China spring 2015, the second semester of my junior year.

Internship: I did the Shanghai Internship Program while abroad and interned at a local social media marketing agency called Mailman Group. The agency is owned by an Australian man, and the office is made up of half locals and half foreigners. The office is quite small as there were about 50 employees. Because I was working at a small agency, I had a lot of responsibilities. Some tasks included writing original articles for the company’s two blogs, managing its Twitter accounts, and creating weekly internal newsletters for one of the company’s teams.

I learned: Shanghai is what you make of it. I thought that just being in China I would get that authentic China experience. That was not the case. It’s really easy to get by speaking all English or only frequenting Westernized restaurants and malls. The China experience doesn’t just come to you just because you’re living there, but it’s something you work for if you want it. If you want that authentic China experience, I would encourage you to try to speak Chinese as much as you can, interact with locals, and visit cities and villages off the beaten path.

I was surprised by: How close I became with my Chinese teacher. Everyone who studies abroad in Shanghai is required to take a Chinese language course. The class is every day for 1.5 hours four days out of the week. The classes tend to be small as Shanghai is one of the smaller programs and everyone is usually at a different Chinese level. Even though my Chinese teacher was my teacher, we became friends really quickly. We would go to the gym together, go out to eat, and even explore the city together. Meeting my Chinese teacher was one of the highlights of my study abroad experience, and I’m sure many of the other students who have studied abroad in Shanghai would agree.

The hardest part: Commuting to the office. Shanghai is a huge city. When you’re abroad in Shanghai, you study at Fudan University (the third best university in China or the best university in Shanghai). Most students have their internships in the city center; however, Fudan is about a 45 minute to an hour subway ride into the city center. Not only is the commute long, during rush hour the subways are packed full of people. Also, just to get to and from the subway from the dorms, you have to walk 20 minutes, bike it, or take a bus or cab. The commute alone could leave you exhausted for the day.

The best part: The food and the traveling. Food in China is very cheap and very good. At night, there are street vendors that come out and park outside the dorms. Some of my favorite things to eat while I was there were ròu jīa mó (肉夹馍), a bun stuffed with braised pork belly, má là tàng (麻辣烫), your choice of meat, vegetables, and noodles cooked to order in a spicy broth, and xiǎo lóng bāo (小笼包), steamed soup dumplings. You just have to be careful of what you eat because food is not always the cleanest. Also, China is a great place to travel. There are so many interesting cities within China that are easily accessible by bullet train or plane, or you could also visit neighboring Asian countries.

My tips: Be prepared – not only mentally but physically. It’s always good to mentally prepare yourself any time you’re going to a foreign country with a different culture just so you’re not overwhelmed when you get there. However, there are also precautions that you should take before leaving. These include medicine, toiletries, banking, and clothes. In China, it’s hard to find certain Western comforts that we’re used to so it’s better to be prepared and bring your preferred medicine (such as cold and flu, pain relievers, stomach, etc.) and toiletries (I’m talking to the ladies when I say this). Also, there are many banks and ATMs in Shanghai, but before you leave it’s best to check out what kinds of international services or charges your bank has. I was able to find a Chinese bank that partnered with my local bank, so I didn’t have to pay ATM fees while I was abroad. I also signed up for an international credit card which was great for buying train and plane tickets. Lastly, pack wisely. Shanghai can be pretty cold in the winter then get hot and humid really fast.

Hidden Gems: Definitely check out the South Bund Fabric Market if you want to get some clothes made. Bargain hard!

Kitty Chu, Shanghai

KittyatZhouZhuangI learned: I learned how to communicate better with my peers because I am usually very shy and quiet. It definitely improved my speaking skills both in English and in Chinese. I’ve made a lot of friends inside and outside the program. Coming to a Shanghai gave me a chance to speak to the locals and improve my listening and speaking skills.

I was surprised by: I never thought I’d be so attached to this program when I first came here. I didn’t know anybody except for two friends in the beginning, but everyone in the program got very close, especially the people in our class. It was such a friendly environment because the teachers, the tutors, and even the Chinese people were so welcoming and understanding. This trip made me want to come back to Shanghai again during my junior year for an internship and made me realize how much I really wanted to pursue a Chinese minor.

The hardest part: The hardest part of my experience was definitely communicating with the Chinese people. Because I am of Chinese decent, everyone assumed I was able to speak Mandarin. I can speak Cantonese, but I never learned Mandarin until college. People would walk up to me in supermarkets or stores and start talking to me really quickly. I often have to ask them to repeat it twice to fully understand them. When they found out I couldn’t speak fluently, they did not often understand why.

The best part: The best part of the experience was learning to become independent. I’ve learned to manage my time more efficiently. I would plan to wake up earlier to study before class, and cook breakfast for myself. Getting an apartment with only two other roommates also improved my communication and problem solving. If any problem arose, we looked for solutions together. Our teamwork kept the house tidy and clean.

My tips: The best tip for students coming here is to try and adopt to their culture. I think once you step out of your comfort zone and start stepping into the shoes of the locals, you’ll not only learn a lot more about the Chinese culture, but also broaden your knowledge and see the world in a different perspective. Also, don’t be afraid to speak in Chinese. Practice makes perfect. Getting it wrong will only help you improve.

Ashley Payne, Shanghai Internship

ShanghaiInterned at Ogilvy & Mather, an international advertising, marketing, and public relations agency as a Public Relations intern in the OgilvyPR department. 

Internship: As an intern I was given many hands-on opportunities to learn about PR. I primarily helped to write case studies and press releases as well as create content for Chinese social media. I worked closely with the Shanghai VP of Corporate PR who pushed me to learn and gave me a lot of responsibilities, such as writing an application letter for the CEO of Tishman Speyer addressed to the International Business Leaders Advisory Council for the Mayor of Shanghai. I was also given the opportunity to help create social media content for the introduction of Lincoln Motors into the Chinese market, as well as work with other big name brands such as Chanel and Ferrari.

I Learned: Besides learning two semesters of Chinese in four months, I learned a lot about Chinese business culture, which is very different from American practices. The Chinese value strong relationships so it takes a while before you can gain their trust, whereas Americans value their time more than anything. It was enriching to experience this firsthand at my internship and it has prepared me for a possible future career in China.

What Surprised Me: I didn’t realize how international Shanghai is. I was meeting people from all over the world who were in my classes, lived in Tonghe (the international dorms at Fudan University), and interned with me.

Hardest Part: The hardest part for me was the language barrier. Going to China with no previous Chinese language lessons, it was hard to connect with the Chinese natives I worked with, and to communicate in general. I often had to rely on hand gestures and my classmates to help me get around. After a couple of weeks, I was exploring the city on my own and didn’t feel so uncomfortable communicating with people. I was able to practice the Chinese I had learned and they were able to practice their English.

Best Part: The best part was being able to go on trips around China thanks to the BU Shanghai Staff. They planned every trip and made exploring China so easy and so much fun. I loved being able to toboggan down the Great Wall of China, have authentic Peking duck, climb 10 km up Huangshan, and watch Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with the villagers of Chengkan. Also, bargaining at the fake market is super fun.

My Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to walk around and explore on your own
  • Always order eggplant

Stephanie Hill, Shanghai Internship

Stephanie at WorkInterned at Ringier AG as an Events and Marketing Intern, Spring 2014

Internship:  Ringier AG is a multinational integrated media company that distributes three magazines that cater to expats in Shanghai: City Weekend, Shanghai Family, and Home and Office.  At my internship, I primarily helped research, prepare, and execute events for these publications.  I worked for the branding manager, who provided me with insight on the strategy behind upholding a strong brand reputation.  The marketing department was extremely small – which was great because I was given so much responsibility.  I was given several cool creative tasks because of my familiarity with advertising to Westerners, such as designing advertisements for upcoming events or creating slogans for marketing campaigns. Many highlights came from my internship experience, some of which included dressing as the Easter bunny for Shanghai Family’s “Easter FunDay,” or being in charge of the VIP section of City Weekend’s “Readers’ Choice Awards.”

What I Learned: I learned so much about Chinese culture that goes way beyond textbooks.  For example, I got to really experience and understand the long process of building and maintaining relationships.  Whether it’s just a friendship or conducting business, having a genuine relationship is fundamental in Chinese culture.  I also learned that cheese is impossible to find.

What Surprised Me:  I was actually shocked by how convenient everything was.  Cabs were always available and incredibly inexpensive.  Food was dirt cheap and delicious.  Not to mention, McDonalds delivery is 24/7.

Hardest Part: There are numerous difficulties that come with living in China –censorship, ambiguous meats, Wi-Fi that’s slower than 1999 dial-up, everyone constantly staring at you.  It takes a lot of adjustment but at the end of the day that’s what makes the experience so unique.

Best Part: Becoming friends with the locals and learning about the hidden gems in the city.  On the surface, Shanghai is pretty incredible, but locals can show you where to find the city’s best pork buns or the most beautiful spot to see the Pudong skyline.

My Tips:

  • Do NOT eat snake
  • Take the giant slide down the Great Wall
  • Brush up on your Chinese before coming
  • Be willing to play basketball or badminton with Fudan University students – they are incredibly friendly and welcoming
  • Order eggplant at any and every restaurant.

Miriam Kim, Shanghai Internship

Great Wall portraitInterned in Finance at Gaotime, an international financial information service company, Spring 2014

Internship: Stunned by all the bright lights and skyscrapers in downtown Pu-dong, not only was I looking forward to bargaining and shopping at the “fake market” or tasting my first authentic Shanghai-nese soup dumpling, but I was also hoping to pursue an internship related to my field of interest during my time in Shanghai. I was expecting to intern at a small, start-up firm, but much to my surprise, I was given a valuable opportunity to intern at Gaotime, an international financial information service company located in the Shanghai World Financial Center, the tallest skyscraper in Shanghai’s financial district. My main projects ranged from writing industry reports for the company’s database with my team and creating PowerPoint slides for my boss (to be used abroad), to researching successful business models for potential future investment in one of China’s main industrial sectors.

I Learned: Working at Gaotime was the highlight of my Shanghai experience. I was truly able to immerse myself in the workplace culture of China, strengthen my interpersonal skills and come to understand multiple aspects of Chinese culture, including its language, business environment, economy, primary financial sectors, and potential for future growth. I became highly adaptable to any new situation as I gradually learned how to be more patient, open-minded, and emotionally balanced. But most valuably, I now understand China and its people much better than ever before. The cultural insight and knowledge I have gained from my work and travel experiences here definitely widened my horizons and made me realize that this world increasingly needs more people who understand Chinese culture and can thrive in a fast-developing, highly diverse country like China. Not to mention, choosing to study abroad in a challenging but rewarding environment like China and coming out of the experience successfully is a huge boon in the eyes of prospective employers!

What Surprised Me: As a Korean-American who grew up and lived in the States for most of her life, I admit that I was daunted by the fact that I would be living in a developing country for the first time. I expected that my new lifestyle in China could be different from what I was used to in the States and that I would have to develop an appreciation for a new set of living standards. Throughout my travels, what surprised me most was how modern and developed Shanghai actually is compared to some of its immediate neighbors. Although the average standard of living in Shanghai is not as high as that of the U.S., this experience still helped me gain an appreciation for them as well as for the exceptional circumstances that I grew up in. I saw and learned that parts of the developing world are really suffering from remnants of poverty and government corruption and need assistance from the developed world with which I am familiar.

Hardest Part: What I found most tough was dealing with the lack of order in traffic and on the streets as well as the high population density, especially in downtown areas. This was just one of the many unique aspects of China, the country with the largest population in the world, where vehicles take precedence over pedestrians at all times, and no laws prohibit bikes and motorcycles from mixing in with bigger vehicles on the streets, creating a rather chaotic environment for one not used to hectic city life. I found it a bit challenging to commute to work at times, but as long as I was careful and looked both ways twice before crossing, I managed. Also, since I like listening to music while walking, I always checked to make sure my volume was at a low enough level for me to hear whether or not anything was approaching me from behind.

Best Part: On the bright side, I was in for a treat from the moment I arrived in Shanghai. The BU Shanghai staff is very supportive, experienced, and fantastic with organizing program excursions. I rarely missed out on opportunities to learn about China’s long history by admiring well-preserved museum works, tasting different types of Chinese cuisine, and recognizing the special characteristics that define each province. Fudan University’s SSDPP (School of Social Development and Public Policy) was extremely hospitable towards us, providing us with various opportunities to go on weekend trips to nearby water-towns and villages. In terms of academics, I was fascinated and challenged by the courses I took at Fudan, which were taught by some of the best and most famous professors in China. I also loved how small and intimate my Chinese class was compared to the bigger average class sizes back at BU. The smaller classes definitely allowed me to interact more with the instructor (who was awesome!) and encouraged all of us to participate more. In terms of social life, Shanghai’s nightlife and local dishes are very affordable and easily accessible for the most part. But most importantly, I’m glad I had the chance to experience tremendous potential for growth from facing the challenges of a developing country firsthand.

My Tips: Keep an open mind and attitude, be bold with your Chinese inside and outside class (try to stretch your limits in using the language), and travel during weekends even if you’re busy! China has extraordinarily beautiful landscapes and so much to see and experience, so take advantage of the close proximity to major UNESCO World Heritage sites while you can! China boasts the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, rural villages, gardens, lakes, mountains, canal towns, and countless other natural sites. China also offers excellent transportation systems like high-speed rail, subway, and trains that travel to nearby towns such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Nanjing. If you are considering traveling to Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Macau, make sure you apply for the right visa—the earlier the better. Install BU VPN before leaving to ensure smooth communication with friends and family back at home, but don’t indulge in it too much while you’re abroad. Keeping in touch is important, but this is your time to explore new grounds and grow as an individual, so don’t invest too much time in activities that you can normally do in the States. Instead, take photos or start a blog; save the usual Skype or Facebook for when you’re feeling really homesick.

Sylvia Chang, Shanghai Internship Program

Sylvia_Shanghai_2

Interned for US Consulate General Shanghai under the Commercial Service group, Spring 2013

I Learned: One of my biggest takeaways from this program was seeing how big this world is and how many different opportunities there are. In Shanghai, not only did I learn how to live and work in the local environments, but also I met people from all over the world such as Europe and Australia. Although this world is big, any similar experiences or interests will allow you to start a conversation and make friends with people from around the globe.

Also, it is unbelievable how quickly China, particularly Shanghai, is developing. Stepping out of my comfort zone, even just slightly, gave me the most rewarding experience I had in my life. Sometimes, I would live the life of an expat. But one block from the bustling street, you can find local vendors for the local experience. Among the high rises and wide roads, you may also find countless motorbikes and bikes waiting for the red light to turn green. Sometimes I feel like there are more of these than actual cars.

Comparing/Contrasting My Work Experiences: My internship environment was slightly different than my other classmates abroad. Since I worked in the Consulate, it was a relatively American environment. Even all the locals who worked in the office were fluent in English. The Chinese work culture in the Consulate was less evident in comparison to the cultural immersion experienced by those who interned at Chinese firms. I highly recommend this position to those who are hesitant due to the language and cultural barrier. However, again, if you are able to step out of your comfort zone and communicate with the locals in the office in Chinese, they are more than willing to hold deep conversations with you. The work environment in China tends to be more lax, for example, lunch breaks tended to be longer. You can go to lunch and visit a trade show afterward before heading back to the office. I was working more independently than I was in the States, so I was responsible for completing the projects on time. This was opposite from the team experiences in SMG.

Hardest Part: Traveling and settling in a foreign country was not easy, especially coming from the all-so familiar America to a developing country like China. For some, the hardest part was the language barrier. For others, it was the cultural differences or homesickness (most will experience that some time during their stay abroad); however, for me the hardest part was the commute. Their subway system is definitely more developed with 13 lines and newer than Boston’s. However, the commute to and from the city could easily take an hour, not to mention the amount of people during rush hour (especially when commuting to work). A solution to this is cabbing. Fortunately, cabbing is affordable, especially if you are commuting with another person or a group.

Best Part: There were too many parts of my study abroad that made it the time of my life. This includes the people I met, the freedom and independence, the internship experience, the travels, and best of all, the FOOD!! No one will disagree with this.

Ming-Dan Zheng, Shanghai Internship Program

The City of Shanghai from the Ming Pearl Towers

Interned as a Commercial and Marketing Associate with the  SARBEC Laboratories, Spring 2012

Internship: SARBEC is a French cosmetics company that is conducting business development in China. Completing CORE the semester before I went abroad really helped me in this internship because essentially this internship was one large CORE project. I had to look at marketing, operations, information systems, and financial aspects of the company’s development in China. Part of my job included traveling with my manager to different parts of China to search for reliable suppliers and distributors for our packaging and distribution. On business trips, I had the opportunity to translate for my manager from English to Chinese and vice versa; this gave me the chance to use Mandarin in a professional setting. I was also a part of the marketing efforts, which allowed me to research competitor products and to incorporate the 4P’s and branding strategies. As we are now in the digital age, a website is imperative for a successful company; therefore, I created a domain name and set up the company website. Towards the end of my internship, I got to work with some numbers to forecast future revenues and costs as well as optimization scenarios.

I Learned: I learned about the reliance on connections and relationships when conducting business on all levels. Additionally, I learned that Shanghai use to be a fishing village, and now it’s one of the world’s most flourishing and modern cities.

Hardest Part: The hardest part was finding relevant information on the internet. One can find all information he or she doesn’t need but will not find useful information when searching for business material. I needed to use other ways to reach the information I needed.

Best Part: The best part was exploring the awesome city of Shanghai that consists of an abundance of history. I also did a lot of traveling during my time in China. I visited Beijing, Hongzhou, Suzhou, Yunnan, Yiwu, Fuzhou, Huangchun in Anhui.