Studying abroad has always been popular. However, in recent years interning abroad has become increasingly attractive to students and young professionals and there is one destination that is thriving with exciting internship opportunities: China.
Internships are gaining popularity in China as the country continues to position itself as a global powerhouse. China is now the world’s second-largest economy by nominal GDP as well as one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies. If you’re looking for work experience that will help you boost your skills and stand out during your next interview, here’s why interning in China might be the best option.
Not only does interning abroad grant you the opportunity to experience life in another country but it is also a great way to obtain international work experience, which can be a powerful advantage when you begin your job hunt back home.
Employers around the world are eager to be a part of the vast economic opportunities China presents. Having employees that understand the history, culture, and possess the language skills can be an irreplaceable asset.
What you learn during your time in China will give you many insights and meaningful experiences to talk about with potential employers. Having work experience in China can also open doors for you in any company that has offices or connection in China. Employers will feel far more comfortable working with someone that has experienced life and doing business in China than with someone with less firsthand experience.
Interning abroad offers countless other benefits that go beyond work experience. Not only does it boost your cross-culture knowledge but it allows you to communicate on a higher level and gain a deeper understanding of other cultures, making you stand out to future employers as a global citizen.
An internship in China is also an excellent opportunity to network and make global connections that will last a lifetime. Networking skills are incredibly underrated and increasingly necessary to survive in today’s job market.
It’s also never too early to start building your professional network. Shanghai and Hong Kong are two of the largest business hubs in the world, and these cities are filled with expats. According to available census data from 2010, some 600,000 expats were working or living in cities across the country, one-third of them in Shanghai. Shanghai has ambitious plans to quadruple its expatriate population to 800,000 in less than two decades as it strives to become a top “international metropolis.” If you have the opportunity to work in China, then you’re bound to build relationships with professionals from all over the world.
Although numbers vary widely, Mandarin Chinese is by far the largest of the seven or ten Chinese dialect groups, spoken by 70% of all Chinese speakers and making it one of the most spoken languages in the world.
Even just a conversational level of Mandarin Chinese can make you a highly desirable candidate and put you ahead of the competition. There’s no better way to learn a new language than to be truly immersed in it and participating in an internship in China is a great way to learn the basics. Especially in a city like Hong Kong, where bilateral and trilingual communication is not only common but government policy, you can quickly and efficiently pick up on the language through a combination of work, language classes, and everyday life.
Learning a second language can also translate into making more money in the long run. Research from Wharton and LECG Europe found that studying a second language is correlated with about 2% more in annual income. While 2% may not seem like a lot, Robert Lane Greene at The Economist shows that “once you factor in compounding, a foreign language could mean nearly $70,000 more in savings by retirement”.
A recent report by the Institute of International Education (IIE) revealed the number of U.S. college students participating in internship programs abroad during the 2015-2016 academic year increased 21% from the previous school year. However, the IIE figures don’t represent the large number of students who arrange international internships on their own, and therefore this number is likely much higher. Of the total number of students participating in non-credit work, internships, and volunteering abroad, 4.1% chose to do so in China during the 2015-2016 academic year, up from 3.7% in 2014-2015.
The growing interest in interning in one of the world’s key business networks is well-documented. A simple Google search of “interning in China” generates over a quarter-million results. If you’re up to the challenge, an internship in China is undoubtedly one of the best ways to become a leader of tomorrow.
David Lloyd is the CEO and co-founder of The Intern Group, an award-winning social enterprise that offers international internship programs year-round to students and graduates of all ages and in all career fields throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America.