Guest blog by LSE alumnus Yousef Desouza:
Going into my second year at the LSE, I began to think more seriously about what I would be doing when I left. As I researched the possibilities, it became increasingly obvious the ultra-competitive state of the graduate job market made it necessary to obtain some kind of work experience before I graduated. Thus began the arduous quest for a summer internship.
Having taken outside options in Mandarin Chinese with the Language Department I was particularly interested in learning about China, and with luck I found an organisation offering funded two-month internships for UK students with a variety of companies and organisations in cities across China.
The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. 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 application process is fairly simple. I had to upload a CV and academic reference, and write a few written statements about my interest in China, my knowledge of the U.K.-China relationship, and what I think I would get out of the programme. It is worth noting that knowledge of the Chinese language is not a prerequisite, and most interns have little to no Chinese, but it is definitely advantageous.
After an interview I was accepted into the programme and put in contact with my the internship providers in China. At the application you will be asked to apply through one of two internship providers (the companies that have contacts with the organisations in China and arrange the placement and your accommodation). One provider offers internships in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, the other in Qingdao, Chengdu and Zhuhai. After a second successful interview, this time with my chosen company (internships are offered in the whole spectrum of sectors) I was ready to start at a time of my choosing.
A week after my exams finished I jetted off to Zhuhai, Guangdong province (adjacent to Macau) to begin two months at my chosen company, International Futures – a business English consultancy. The company has two different operations: one focuses on providing premium English language tuition to children, the other provides bespoke training services to companies, mainly in the hospitality industry, instructing staff on how to deal with Western clients.
The tasks I were given were varied and engaging. I worked on projects such as the creation of databases of potential clients across the Pearl River Delta area, and the drafting of a plan for for an international summer camp. When I wasn’t working solo, honing my research and writing skills by putting together articles for the company website, I was given the opportunity to work collaboratively by getting up and marketing the companies services outside the office.
The learning took place not only in the workplace, but also out in the city. I lived in a shared apartment with people from all over the world, and through my travels in and around the city I was able to learn and understand how people live in a society so vastly different to my own. This international awareness and global-mindedness that you will cultivate during your time in China is what will really set you apart in a fiercely competitive, globalised job market in which employers increasingly expect their employees to have shown some sort of engagement with the wider world.
To find out more search for “Generation UK – China”, or get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.