Alena Kozina has finished her 3-month internship in Beijing and recently gave us some insight into her experience.
Due to the fact that she was the only foreigner in her company, she didn't have very many responsibilities in the first two months of her Beijing internship. There will always a learning curve from both sides as it takes time to truly understand different cultures and working styles. How much time it will take to work out a good communication style is different for each company and intern.
Alena was surprised that almost no one in the company spoke English. Many Chinese companies hire foreigners with the hope of changing their business language over to English but this is a slow and sometimes painful process.
One big difference Alena noticed about Chinese culture was the fact that her colleagues did not directly communicate with her. They wouldn’t get right to the point about what they wanted from her. She (and many other foreigners) personally found this frustrating as it’s hard to know what the other person is truly thinking or expects from you when they don’t clearly communicate with you.
Due to the lack of an English business environment, Alena felt she had to learn Chinese quickly in order to be productive. However, Chinese can’t be learned overnight. The language barrier greatly limited the work she could do despite her desire to be given more work. The company eventually ended her internship one month early as it wasn’t working out for either party.
Alena’s overall experience in China was good and thought that Beijing was a fun city. However, she felt there were too many people, which made the transport options extremely crowded.
Her invaluable advice to you and other potential China interns is, “Guys, find a large foreign company that has an office in China and is looking for interns to transfer to the China office. Don’t do an internship in a Chinese company unless you have a really high level of Chinese. And don't trust everything people say. Sign contracts wherever you are and even then, there is no guarantee your rights will be protected.”
Alena is now interning with an international company in Beijing and plans to stay in China for at least two more years. We wish her luck in her future career.