When I booked my flight to officially go to Beijing, China for a corporate consulting internship, I was a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, I had heard many different stories, good and bad, from friends and family about their experiences in China and its people, I didn’t speak the language except for a few words, and I had never travelled alone before. On the other hand, I was excited to embark on a completely new adventure, culturally and personally.

Despite my many trips to visit family in Asia, I had never ventured farther north than Hong Kong, and never for work. I interviewed with Will, the Senior Marketing Manager of a potential host company. After being accepted into their internship program, I still had a lot of questions. How will I communicate? What will I be doing? I still didn’t know what I had just signed up for I knew the company was a marketing consultant company but other than that I went in blind. And I couldn’t use their website to learn more about the company because it was all in Mandarin. Nevertheless, I boarded my flight and took off towards my new home for a month.

The consulting industry in China has been steadily growing since the 1990’s. As China shifted to a more globalized scale, the businesses followed suit. Soon enough, consulting firms for all branches of business – accounting, management, marketing – were becoming more common. I felt lucky to be able to intern during this pivotal stage of China’s economic development, especially in one of the most fundamental divisions of business and communication.

Maria's Office View

Maria’s Office View

In addition to traveling to China, this was also my first time in an internship position. On my first day, Will brought two other interns and me into a conference room to give an overview of the company and what their mission is. My host company is a cross-cultural marketing and advertising company working to integrate Chinese business and agencies into other countries, such as the United States. The company has over 500 employees in divisions such as graphic design, accounting and, of course, marketing.

Coming here there are a lot of things I didn’t know. Since this is my first internship, I wasn’t sure what the dress code was so I decided to pack more business professional. Turns out, the office is smart casual and I must mix and match my blouses with jeans and such. Not a big deal, and I’m very comfortable but it was just something I had to take note of.

If I were to give advice to future consultant interns I would tell them to go in with an open mindset. Things probably will not be like you expect and you must embrace that. Expect to have a decent amount of work and to stay busy. Keep a record of your day-to-day work to remind yourself in the future what you did and how you learned from that. Above all, have a go-getter attitude. Be proactive and ask for more tasks from your supervisor. Not only will this earn his/her respect, you will learn more by doing more.

Alley next to Maria's Office in Gaobeidian

An Alley Next to Maria’s Office in Gaobeidian

I do a lot of independent work throughout the day with Excel and research on different travel trends or influencers. On my first day, Will, showed me to a desk with the two other interns and put me straight to work. Though he speaks English well, Will didn’t give much more than vague direction on our tasks so we were a bit lost but we worked to clarify despite the language barrier. Eventually, we learned that this particular project was focused on advertising Chinese tourism to encourage foreigners to vacation in China. We wanted to find people on social media who could to broadcast to their thousands of followers about the travel possibilities in China. So, essentially, everyday I get a free pass to scroll through social media on my phone and call it working by putting the popular people on an Excel document. How did I get so lucky?

Maria at Her Office!

Maria at Her Office!

Although a desk job doesn’t sound as exciting as say, helping with photo shoots for a PR firm or serving patients at a hospital, I am already excited for the practical applications this experience will add to my future. Though my host company does not have an Operations/Supply Chain focus, I have the international business application that will give me an edge in interviews and even more than that, I have learned to respect different cultures, in and out of the office. There are plenty of ways to make the days more fun. Listen to music, bring snacks, take a break every now and then and talk to people. Despite what people may tell you, Beijingers are some of the friendliest people I’ve met while traveling. Okay, maybe not the ones that cut the line and shove you in the subway during the commute to and from work but others are!

If you are considering interning abroad, in any field or country, I say go for it. The experience is invaluable and is an incredible way to get out of you comfort zone. I am already excited for what this internship will do for my future and I’m only done with Week 1. You will face hardships, like being strapped for cash or feeling homesick at times. But you also become a victim to this amazing journey of self-discovery and I think that the positivity that comes from the adventure far outweighs any negativity. All you need is a bag, some clothes, and an open mind.

Maria Shoemaker, a business development intern from China Internship Program, is placed in Beijing for 4 weeks, from University of Georgia, United States.

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