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TOP 5 skills you need to learn when you are in university

china educational tours

Remember when you got to the end of your degree and thought, “if only I had known that at the beginning of my degree”. Yes, that could be true of life in general too but at Uni, there are infinite guidebooks but little guidance.

Here are the top 5 skills you need to consider. So toss out those guidebooks and reflect on these:


  1. Consider the end at the beginning


It can be a pretty daunting place when you first get to university after leaving high school. From rooster to feather duster in 3 months. Where do you go? How does it work? Will you make friends? And so on…


So the real trick to this is to get ahead of the game. Most universities have Orientation Week (O Week) and are completely overrun with newbie students that week. How about instead of starting in O Week, you start the week before. While there are absolutely no students on campus, every other human being is there. Your lecturers, your administrators, your student representatives/union….all on campus. And no students.


This is your chance to plan the entire course – all 3, 4 or 5 years of it – right from the beginning. Go and meet the prof’s, question the admin staff and seek out your rights with your student reps.


In short, it’s all about planning. What if you could get your whole first year planned out before things even began? An understanding of where all of the amenities are, your timetable unveiled early, your classrooms familiar to you and most importantly of all – finding that tricky secret parking spot on a campus of thousands.


china educational tours

  1. Remember it is your principal social environment


This second tip is one I give with a little nervousness. Perhaps the number one reason for students dropping out of school in the 1st year is the balance between work/life. Too much life, not enough work.


Remember you are only on-campus for a little more than 6 months of the year and during those 6 months and depending on which courses you take, you may be in class for no more than 20 hours a week or so. In fact, many students have even less time in class than that.


So try and get the work/life balance correct. Just as it is important to be attending classes and handing in term papers it is also important to immerse yourself in the school social scene. Just remember, most others were just like you on the first day of school – alone.


Join clubs and only clubs whose activity you love. The choice of club doesn’t have to be something that marries up to your final choice of career but that would be useful if possible. Perhaps a better outcome is to go for clubs and societies that really excite you and excite you enough for you to reach a leadership position. Future employers love to read this on a CV.

china educational tours

  1. Have a study regime


Universities are very bad for giving you long periods of little work and then short bursts of too much work. Students tend not to study during the first type and drink too much coffee and ‘pull all-nighters’ during the second type. In short – universities destroy your time management skills.


From Week One, you have to spread the study load across the whole semester. I know that no-one reads much more in a course outline other than what the assessment is and when it is due but honestly – this needs to be read properly from Day 1.


If you can lay out your study efforts across a semester and allocate a little piece each week, you will be surprised at just how little you have to do at the end of semester.


Think about doing the reading for each week in the week in which it is required. This is perhaps the most fundamental mistake a student makes. As part of this reading, do a little due diligence around both the exam and the assignment – all in Week One.


With the assignment, underline all of the key elements and be sure to listen out for these comments in the forthcoming week’s lectures. There is no doubt that most good lecturers link their material to the assignment and no doubt give some pretty good tips along the way.


As for the exam – this one is easy. If it is the same examiner over a number of years, he/she is unlikely to change the exam much more than 20 or 30%. If that’s the case, then you can be preparing for the exam from the first week by reading the previous 3 year’s exam papers, which you can find in the library.



  1. It doesn’t have to be all about study


We already covered the work/life balance but there is another dimension to consider. If a prospective employer sees just university life over your time at uni – no matter how good the grades – he/she won’t rate you. It is as simple as that.


The toughest thing as an employer is not hiring the staff member with 2 or 5 years’ experience. It is hiring the the student who has no experience on their CV. Don’t think for a minute that the 2 weeks’ internship you did in a clothing salon counts for anything either. It is all about relevant experience. It is about experience you choose and not internships that are forced on your through the school curriculum.

This could be the summer job each year or a repetitive theme around your internships (eg. Internships always at ad agencies). Whatever it is, it needs to show the employer what kind of worker and leader you are – not what kind of student you are.


  1. Stay in touch


The workforce – whether it is medicine, engineering, business or another – is all about the network.


Many students reflect on what kind of network they are going to build once they graduate. Most forget that the network starts straight away.


We are inclined to be very social in a university environment and then let these social bonds we formed at uni slowly break apart over time. Don’t be one of these graduates. Be the kind of graduate who remembers how much fun it was to kick around with friends at uni and understands the same people can be a rich source of friendship and social network as you get older.


The best networks are the ones you don’t work at – the ones that come naturally. Nothing comes more naturally than networks formed under pressure. Like the pressure of all those years of struggle and fun at uni.




In- class Education or Internship

So many issues in business education are drawn to an either/or outcome.  Should I finish on time and go into the workforce or should I pursue an honors year?  Should I do a double degree or a single degree? Should I go onto my Masters/MBA immediately after my undergrad or should I go into the workforce first?

educational school trips

Some can be resolved with a simple yes or no but most are complex issues not resolved so simply.

‘Should I stay in the class room or should I do an internship’ is such a question being asked by undergraduates all over the world.  In some countries (eg. France) there is no option as it is built into the curriculum.  In other countries, like Australia, the choices are wide open.




Here are five tips you should consider when making such a decision:

educational school trips


  1. What can you possibly gain from staying in the classroom any longer?

Don’t assume from the nature of the question that I am suggesting that you should leave the classroom as soon as possible.  There are many skills and concepts that are better conveyed or at least equally well conveyed in the classroom as in the real world.


Think carefully about what you want to do when you finally leave university or business school.  What are some of the things you could craft in a classroom that might help you towards that ultimate goal?  If you are a negotiation major, could it be more practice in role playing?  If you are an engineer, more practicums to test your knowledge first?  If you are an industrial designer, could entering that university competition help you on your path to success?



  1. What can you possibly gain from doing an internship?


Internships offer many things that classrooms don’t.  Access to real world thinking.  Access to the latest industry practice.  A chance to put into practice many of the things you have learned in the classroom and elsewhere.


One word of warning – be sure to choose an internship that offers practical outcomes that align with your own career choices.  About half of the internships out there offer a good result for interns while the other half offer cheap labour to employers or repetitive, useless jobs like making the coffee or doing the filing.



  1. What would an internship offer you by way of skills that are attractive to future employers?


Most students think that employers are mostly interested in grades.  Well, perhaps the Big 4 accounting firms are.  Maybe the big consulting firms too.  After that, most are just happy to see that you have a degree from a great institution.


If they look at your CV and see nothing but grades and sporting awards, how are they to judge potential?  OK, so you are a great student but will that make you a great worker?


What you need to do is to fill up your CV with real work experience that matches the the type of job you ultimately go for.  There’s no point in showing the HR director from a large ad agency that you have worked in a supermarket, sold clothes in a clothing store and worked in a management consulting firm if they are looking for someone in account services for their ad agency

  1. Are you in a position to shape either of these paths – classroom or internship?


Your best way to shape your path in the classroom is quite simple – choose your electives wisely.  While you might see a long list of very interesting courses that might be fun, be honest with yourself.  Will they actually help you learn more about the career you are choosing for yourself?  Can they help develop skills you are currently lacking and a future employer would be looking for?


In an internship, the best way to be ‘Master/Mistress’ of your own destiny is to ensure there is structure in the internship program.  If you can see what it is you will be doing before you even start, then you are in a better position to judge if you can shape the internship to suit your overall needs.

educational school trips

  1. Which one allows you to better connect the dots directly to your dream career job?

At the end of the day, one of these is going to be better suited to meeting your outcomes at a given point in time.  If you have a strong sense of what you want from your career, can you judge what the classroom has to offer that aligns with this?  Has the company offering the internship shown you exactly what you will be doing during the internship


The business school balloon slowly deflates

educational school tours

educational school tours

I can’t help but feel that there is a dulling of education as universities and business schools push more and more students in front of fewer and fewer teachers and treat PowerPoint as some kind of baby sitting tool. “If I show them enough ppts and entertain them with stories…my student evals will go through the roof….and my job will be safe”.

But will the system be safe? Is there learning going on and if not, how soon before the customers realise and then choose to spend their money elsewhere?

It’s not so much ‘death by PowerPoint’ as much as it is a slow water torture while awaiting graduation in 3, 4 or 5 years.

Has learning become secondary to accreditation and P&L statements and if so, then what is it really worth?

Is it too late to change it or is Peter Thiel right and it is simply the next asset bubble waiting to burst?


What are study tours and what makes a great one?

Study tours are essentially a form of active based learning.  Rather than the classroom being your world, the world becomes your classroom.
Between Facebook distractions and ‘death by powerpoint’, the allure of classroom interaction with teachers – either ‘chalkin’ and talkin’ or via the whiteboard – just doesn’t hold for most students anymore.  Academic staff no doubt do mix things up a little – case study discussion, youtube clips, student presentations but classroom fatigue has definitely set in. Teachers would claim that attention spans are getting smaller while students counterclaim that teachers are becoming more verbose.  Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Whatever the case, it’s clear to most students that spending your entire degree in the classroom simply doesn’t cut it anymore.  Both undergraduate and postgraduate students alike are demanding a more real experience than what the classroom offers.  This is not to say that they don’t expect such experience to be couched in conceptual frameworks explained by their teachers just that they need to have the opportunity to combine such conceptual discussion with real world context.
china tours for students
So what are the 6 key things make a great and relevant study tour?  Consider these:

1. Linking the study tour to learning objectives

The better academics don’t simply ‘set and forget’ – setting assignments but then letting students meander through the new countryside.  Creating a clear structure for your program that includes specific expert and cultural visits that meet particular learning outcomes is critical.  For instance, if it is a group of engineers you are taking to a far away country and cross cultural HR management is a topic you are trying to convey, you might consider having a presenter present that country’s approach to project management.  You might follow this up with a break out discussion over breakfast the next morning.  Such an element might be included in the assignment the students are doing.  In short – everything links up.

2. Balancing contextual expert visits with cultural visits

Study tours usually err either on too much expert or too much culture/free time.  Striking a balance is important.  There is also the opportunity to combine the two and host an expert presentation in a particularly important part of the country.  Discussing the historic significance of the Great Wall of China in the Subway cafe located at the entrance to this national park might give the opportunity to discuss the cultural sensitivity of running such a retail establishment in such a culturally significant location.

3. Time for reflection/time for break-out

As most of these study tours are quite short (2-3 weeks) you really need to make every post a winner.  Notwithstanding the need to rest occasionally, do consider breakfast time (or immediately before); lunch time (the group are usually traveling together between expert/cultural visits most days); and on the coach/bus between cities or expert/cultural visits.  Don’t do it too much as you will tire the group out and do remember that postgrads are more used to such a relentless pace than undergrads.

4. Student participation

Ban the iPad/tablet.  Students say they are taking notes in meetings but most are checking facebook and emails and of those who are trying to take notes, many simply can’t keep up. Strange as it sounds in this digital age, make them writie it down.  You will be surprised how it focuses them – just encourage them not to lose their notes as there is simply no digitial back up 🙂
Have them prepare their questions before the visits but instruct them to be flexible enough to drop questions if they have already been answered. Instruct them to try and ask questions that occur to them based on the expert’s presentation.

5. Understand the needs of undergrad students are different to those of postgrads

Most postgrads have work/real world experience.  Most undergrads are under 21 years old.  It is a dichotomy.
Undergrads need concepts and models and then to have context explained via the models.  Post Grads have their own context and need to have the models introduced to them to help explain this context.  Undergrads: from abstract to concrete. Post Grads: from concrete to abstract.
Either way, such context is no doubt challenged by what they are seeing and hearing in the new country and the academic needs to act as moderator and facilitator around such discussion.

6. 2-3 weeks is enough

Most study tours don’t require more than two or three weeks.  You are in the classroom 168 hours a week when on tour.  Aside from sleeping, this leaves a lot of hours to learn.  Try to maximise these hours where possible – too many cities, for instance, means too much travel time and not enough learning time.  Also consider the academic’s energy levels.  Even if there is a team of 2 (or more) it is still a pretty tiring experience as availabilty to students is nearly 24/7.

A World Where Experience Is the Classroom

study tour in china As an educator, sometimes I find myself in despair at just how bland and same-same tertiary business education has become. ‘Death by powerpoint’ and ever increasing class sizes of undergraduates with no real world experience appear to be the only growth elements of this current teaching environment. Quality of education certainly isn’t.

But not all is lost. A number of adventurous scholars have decided to shed the classroom and take the students out into the field. Study tours, structured internships and the like are starting to come to the fore thus signalling perhaps that higher education may no longer be held to ransom by governing bodies and standardised practices. In an era where universities continually seek points of difference but increasingly look similar, experiential learning could provide a standout opportunity. That’s not to say that AACSB and Equis accreditations are not an important part of a university’s goal set but the more they chase them to get ahead of the pack, the more such institutions risk becoming the same shade of beige as the rest of the pack.

For many universities in general and business schools in particular, the relentless pressure of rising up through the competition as defined by the Financial Times Rankings is just that, relentless. What can one do to be different but still meet the demands of these accreditation organisations? One business school in the north of France, with a history steeped in experiential programs rooted in internships, feels it might have the answer: The Apprenticage.

“What is an apprenticage”, I hear you ask? Well, it’s simply a good old-fashioned apprenticeship, really. (let’s be honest – doesn’t everything sound better in French?).

This Top 10 Business School in France started out life as a small business training school amongst a myriad such schools, in the far north of France, in 1964. From humble beginnings it has leveraged its relationships with northern commercial powerhouses such as Decathlon and Auchan to become one of the top business schools, entering the top 10 in France several years ago. To cap things off, they now boast the largest educational program in Europe’s biggest industrial park – La Defense, in Paris.

Such progress comes through a balance of not only meeting the increasing needs of students and industry as well as the global requirements of accreditation but ultimately through seeking a certain point of difference from other educational offerings, while maintaining the global integrity of their programs. The apprenticage is one of those key points of difference for this Top 10 Business School in France.

Working with the French government (who in part fund the program) as well as the vast array of businesses they have developed partnerships with over the years, the school provides students with apprenticeships in real world environments. These students would normally come straight through from high school and at best have some experience through a series of internships and at worst, no real world commercial experience at all. Consequently, they potentially lack the necessary skill set to adjust to the day-to-day challenges that business throws up. This Top 10 Business School in France has developed a careful matching program that rewards the requirements of both student and business alike, matching companies to students thus allowing their students to work in a real world business environment some days a week, while attending classes the other days of the week. The students also work during their holidays.

The students are paid a modest apprenticeship fee for their effort – so they have a win – and the companies get a look at the students ‘up close and personal’ – so they have a win too. In a world where studying in the classroom doesn’t necessarily translate into a job – in the ‘ classroom of life’ such programs produce results that prove that this doesn’t have to be the case.

study tour in china

From my own experience, it’s great to see a student from one of these programs in the front row of your class either nodding or shaking their heads in line with what you are discussing and being prepared to challenge you on your view.

Nothing beats context.

Hopefully more institutions like this school take up the challenge and move in this counterintuitive educational direction


What’s the minimum level of fluency for finding work in China?

study tour to china

Mastering the official language of China is no easy feat. Tones, stroke order, pronunciation, and a seemingly endless supply of characters together pose a linguistic nightmare! Learning Chinese is especially difficult for full-time professionals due to the arduous time commitment involved in learning the language. Those with established proficiency are also prone to slipping into language complacency after they commence full-time work (unless working for a Chinese company).

However, there is no doubting the exceptional benefits Chinese language skills provide – especially in the workplace. Those who study Chinese full-time before transitioning into full-time work are also ideally placed to benefit from their investment in learning the language.

This scenario also poses a question for those looking to break into the Chinese job market; given the difficult and time consuming nature of learning Mandarin, what is the minimum level of fluency for finding work in China? This question is based on the premise that while fluency would be ideal for all expat workers, not all job roles in China necessary require full language proficiency. General managers of transnational companies rarely conduct business meetings in Chinese and nor are English teachers expected to translate Chinese documents into English as part of their job description.

Taking into account a number of job descriptions for expat workers and the first-hand experiences of foreigners working in China, I have listed a rough guide for My Chinese Study students to consider on what’s an adequate level of Chinese proficiency for maximising your job options in China.


Zero proficiency

Senior managers at transnational companies, language teachers, as well as skilled professionals sitting on an expat package rarely require any Chinese language skills to meet their job requirements. Despite their lack of language proficiency, this elite cross-section of expatriate workers tend to sit in the upper income bracket as they offer a distinct set of skills the local market simply cannot replicate.


Survival Chinese (optional)

While survival language skills are unlikely to feature on a job description, they would certainly make life working in China easier. Survival Chinese includes the ability to order food, communicate with taxi drivers and understand that 那个 is not as racially offensive as it initially sounds. From an employers point-of-view, making the effort to at least learn basic Chinese would also reflect better on your ability to integrate into Chinese society and to build rapport with Chinese stakeholders and colleagues.

Achieving a basic level of proficiency does not take long; studying two hours a day for 1-2 months or revising and practicing one hour a day over 3-6 months would be ample.


Intermediate Chinese

The next step up for budding linguists is intermediate proficiency and the capacity to hold a basic conversation or to discuss more advanced topics in broken Chinese. This level of proficiency is ideal for those working with international companies and building relationships with local Chinese stakeholders. Although business does not necessarily need to be conducted entirely in Mandarin, intermediate fluency projects a strong first impression and builds rapport. Most jobs with international companies list Chinese language proficiency as a desired skill, and an intermediate command will usually satisfy this criteria point.

To knock off intermediate fluency will take approximately 9-12 months studying full-time in China or 18 months studying part-time in your home country.


Intermediate fluency and advanced reading

Intermediate speakers looking to take shortcuts to expand their job horizons should concentrate on reading comprehension skills. Advanced reading skills is one of the biggest hurdles for foreign job applicants as numerous jobs, including research positions with China Policy, PR companies such as North Head, legal firms, government roles etc, require research analysts to read Chinese media sources or reports and then translate or summarise into English. Advanced reading skills will therefore elevate you into a selected pool of talent and significantly improve your job opportunities. This is especially so for those with limited professional experience.

The path to advanced reading will typically take 12-18 months of full-time study in China but the learning curve is fast for those focusing on a select number of industries. Mastering common vocabulary for a particular industry, ie defence or agriculture, will fast-track your language standing and shave off time consulting the dictionary. Regular reading is also an obvious must!


Advanced Proficiency

Advanced fluency entails the ability to conduct business in Chinese with an emphasis on reading and speaking. Advanced fluency in many ways is the ideal level of proficiency for those working for an international company and especially business development managers. This will allow you to liaise effectively with Chinese suppliers, manufacturers, clients or manage a team of Chinese employees. Advanced proficiency will also set you up for working with a Chinese company in a total Chinese language environment. Young professionals with advanced fluency won’t find it hard to find a job in China and will certainly be popular among Chinese colleagues! Advanced proficiency is also highly suitable for those working in the real estate industry, journalism, start-ups and sales related jobs.

Advanced proficiency requires a lengthy commitment of approximately 2-3 years, including 12-18 months of full-time study and 6-12 months of regular practice.



Fluency equates to completing your job duties to the same degree as you would in an English speaking environment. This entails the ability to negotiate and write reports in Chinese, as well as translating and interpreting skills.

Fluent speakers will often stand out against the competition but Chinese language fluency can also be a two-edge sword. While there is very little in the way of job restrictions, positions advertising for fluent speakers are typically aimed at native speakers and compensated accordingly. For example, jobs at embassies requiring fluent language skills are generally paid less than locally engaged positions with lower Chinese language requirements.

The road to attaining fluency is difficult to estimate and few expats break into this selective club. Attaining interpretation and translation skills also takes a significant amount of practice and focused study to gain accreditation. There is also the opportunity cost of allocating a significant amount of time and effort to up-skilling in other areas including an MBA, CFA accreditation, attending networking events or volunteering as a corporate/NGO board director.

One final key point to note is that Chinese language skills are usually viewed by the job market as an auxiliary or isolated skill. Language skills should be reinforced by other important attributes such as technical expertise in a particular field or strong professional traits including flexibility, organisational skills, work ethic and communication skills. Achieving the right level of Chinese for the job will then be your key to meeting the job criteria and getting ahead of the competition!


Oliver Theobald works in Beijing with a Chamber of Commerce and is a Co-Founder of Asia Options, which helps students with free advice on study, scholarship, work, internship and leadership opportunities in Asia.


How to find a job in China offline

how to find a job in china

How to find a job in China? Finding a job in China as a foreigner can sometimes be hard but as long as you have the right approach and attitude to finding a job, it will just be a matter of time before a good company snaps you up!

The most logical step to get started is to search through online job boards or connect with HR recruiters. But for those looking to bypass the competitive online job market- and especially for those with less experience to offer on their resume – this article looks at four inside tips to hack the China job market with an off-line approach.


1) On-the-ground

The basic pre-requisite for finding a job in China off-line is taking the initial step to base yourself in China. Unless you are physically on-the-ground in China, you naturally limit your job opportunities to the battlefield of competitive online job boards. Finding a good job in China however is not as simple as it was in the past. A major barrier these days is the difficult visa situation for foreigners. Foreigners must have a visa to visit China and traditionally holiday visas were your ticket to spending up to 90 days in China with in-country renewals. The situation has since changed as holiday visas now only cover 30 days with extensions on the Mainland and in Hong Kong difficult without a detailed travel itinerary. However, to find the right job and to develop a network of professional contacts that will convert into an employment outcome normally requires at least 5-10 weeks.

For this reason, I would strongly recommend looking at studying at a private language school; as these programs are flexible in terms of hours and can assist with visa support for 90-180 days depending on the school. I would also avert from enrolling in a university program as the universities tend to be based outside the downtown business centre of Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Instead, finding a small language program in the heart of the city will provide you with easy access to networking events and the business community. You will also find that many of your classmates at the private schools will be full-time professionals, travelling spouses, or interns, and therefore much more connected to the professional and business community than the student hive of Wudaokou.

Another option to ease yourself into China is a university or business school study tour which will help you to map out suitable companies operating in China, kick-start your professional network and gain feedback on the skills in demand or opportunities available in the market.


2) Smart Networking

Working for a Chamber of Commerce I have witnessed different approaches to networking in Beijing. While name-card swapping is often approached with the alacrity of a national sport by Chinese attendees, I always recommend foreign job seekers to opt for a more patient approach. There’s still no substitute for getting to know people.

However, the biggest mistake I see with zealous job seekers is that they take a very direct approach to networking. Take a law grad as an example. They will intuitively work the room until they find the right contact working for a top tier law firm. From there, they will work hard to impress the other person and drop less than subtle hints about their job aspirations. While this is certainly one method, this approach can sometimes put the other person on the back foot and there is no guarantee you will receive a follow-up email from your polite request to catch up for coffee the week after.

Instead, I advise job seekers to take on a more indirect approach to networking. Rather than waste time hunting out the right people in the room and risking rejection with a cold approach or an awkward conversation starter, instead start working the room for introductions. Create a situation where you are introduced personally to your potential employer by a third person.

First get to know the event host/s. At chamber events the most important people to build initial rapport with are the General Manager and Relationships Manager as they will know the room better than anyone else. Chatting with the host is usually straightforward as they are typically keen to assist, approachable and avid to introduce you to others as they too work the room. The host will also be able to point out the right people in the room or introduce you to attendees – or maybe even non-attendees – seeking to fill a position.

Personal introductions are highly effective for several reasons. Firstly, you avoid an uncomfortable cold approach, or awkwardly standing to the side waiting to break into a conversation. Secondly, a personal introduction provides a valuable endorsement from the third person introducing you. A quality introduction should also establish the fact that you are looking for employment opportunities and hopefully even highlight your suitability or personal strengths such as language skills. Finally, an introduction will compel the introduced contact to take an active interest in you; as a mark of respect to the introducer.

While the host will normally be your first choice for introductions, you can still work the room to manage introductions and endorsements from other guests. The key is to build rapport with someone first before asking for an introduction; this leads us on to the next tip.


3) Make Friends

Moving to China by yourself can be a daunting experience and networking events can easily turn into an expensive and demoralising pursuit without immediate outcomes. It’s therefore worthwhile complimenting your networking calendar by participating in social clubs, and joining sporting associations and other organisations. These groups also offer a valuable and more casual networking platform.

Finding genuine friends in China is vital not only as a support network but also professionally. One of the biggest recommendations I can make for those new to town and participating in clubs or attending networking events is to seek out people you genuinely get along well with and enjoy spending time with. Regardless of their occupation and its relevance to your career ambitions, finding a friend from a networking event or football match is not only going to help you integrate and enjoy your time in China, but will also open you up to a whole new network of relevant contacts. For example, if you are looking for a job with an engineering company and you meet a nice German guy playing in your football team and working in finance, chances are that he will be able to put you in touch with his clients or friends at Siemens, Volkswagen or other companies. Again, don’t underestimate the power of a personal endorsement.


4) Internships

Internships in China are the most common avenue for young people finding a good job in China. Many companies in China leverage an internship program as talent identification and are willing to overlook inexperience to hire proven talent.

Internships are generally much easier to secure than full-time employment but the most difficult barrier is again the visa hurdle. A holiday visa is technically not intended for internship purposes and Hong Kong is now cracking down on those making a visa run to extend their internship. In certain cases, interns in the Mainland flying to Hong Kong for a holiday visa multiple times are only receiving 7-14 day visas. Unfortunately, companies rarely sponsor foreign interns due to the leg-work and compliance issues involved. Therefore, your best bet is to again go through a private language school for a visa or if you are studying in China under a student visa at a university, use your summer holiday between semesters.

Finding an internship once you have adequate visa support is not difficult and foreign companies are in desperate need for competent young foreign talent. You can find internships in a variety of ways including networking events, friend referrals, online job sites and even a cold email. The key though is identifying the appropriate intern host. For example, while China Policy in Beijing offers an excellent and rewarding internship program, the overwhelming majority of their interns will not be offered a full-time position due to the modest size of the firm. A larger firm such as Weber Shandwick in Beijing though does have a proven track record in hiring interns and is a better long term choice.

You might also want to resist the temptation to intern for a renowned company downsizing their staff numbers. For example, Siemens in Beijing does run an internship program but the company is also restructuring, making it unlikely for internships to lead to full-time employment. You can normally gauge a company’s hiring demands by asking around, checking how often the company posts new positions on their website or hints from an actual interview with the company.

In addition, you should also look out for internship hosts who can act as multipliers. A chamber of commerce is an ideal multiplier because after a three month internship the chamber may be able to refer you on to a member company or a Board Director’s company. Government trade commissions are another good example. While government internships rarely lead on to full-time employment, your supervisor and colleagues should be well-placed to refer you on to other companies they work closely with in the private sector. The key of course is to work hard and assure your internship host that you are committed and willing to learn so that they can feel confident in referring you on to another employer.

Finally, internship experience in China significantly adds to your China resume and job prospects, and a reference letter from an employer in China will go a long way to helping you find your first break in China.


Finding employment in China is by no means straightforward – especially for recent graduates – but for those with the right attitude, approach and appropriate visa support there are endless opportunities from taking the offline approach. Personally, it was an introduction to my current employer at a networking event in Beijing that led to an initial internship opportunity and ultimately full-time employment. This is a common career trajectory for many young expats in China and certainly a solid option to consider for those keen on kick-starting their career in China.


Oliver Theobald works in Beijing with a Chamber of Commerce and is a Co-Founder of Asia Options, which helps students with free advice on study, scholarship, work, internship and leadership opportunities in Asia.
















Internships in China

It’s important to come to China on the right visa.  The internet is awash with poor advice regarding visas for internships and so for new to China interns, it can be a real minefield.  As was pointed out recently in a recent article by Asia Options on tips for interns seeking a visa in China, there are a number of key issues that need to be considered:

  • don’t come to China on the wrong visa.  Lot’s of these fly-by-night intern companies tell would-be prospects that a holiday visa is fine.  Well…guess what…it is far from fine.  If you are caught with one and are working (even without pay) in a company, you maybe deported and the company will most likely be fined
  • seek out complentary educational possibilities.  If you are a student at a foreign university, ask your university for help with a written request to the Exit-Entry bureau
  • seek long term educational possibilities in China and work on a study visa

One more I heard recently was that the Exit-Entry bureau maybe granting visas to students who are willing to enrol in semester long Chinese language programs at nationally recognised Chinese universities (eg. Jiatong in Shanghai).  Just heresay for now…but well worth a follow up.

Use the bus as a classroom

student tour
A great tip is to set some assessment that can be worked on by the students on the bus, plane or train. Many of them are keen to sleep during these times but what better use of a 2 hour slot during the middle of the day than to have them do some work on exercises or their assignment work and make the most use of this time. Let’s face it, they aren’t normally asleep during the middle of a regular day in this student tour, so why should a day when you are travelling between cities be any different?

Having said that, maybe they do sleep during the middle of the day….. 🙂

Academic + Student + The Study Tour Experts = Great Result

student tour services
Often when we design a program(student tour services), there are some specific student issues we need to incorporate.

On a personal level, we have had to accommodate special religious and dietary needs. On a few programs we have worked with the local mosques and synagogues to accomodate student’s special food and worship needs.

On other programs, students have made a special request for an interview with a particular employer with a view to applying for an internship. For example, one student was adament that they only wanted to work for the ANZ Bank and only wanted to do so in a country outside Australia. That student received an internship with ANZ in Shanghai and now works for them full time.

If it’s not impossible ( and even sometimes, if it is), The Study Tour Experts will work in with academic and student alike and try to make it happen.

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