One of the taglines of IES Internships is helping students “put their résumé on the map.” There’s studying abroad, interning abroad, and volunteering, all of which look good for future employers. But to me, interning abroad meant more than adding a fancy title to my list of accomplishments.
With the Oriental Danology Institute (ODI), I found that I got as much out of the work as I put into it. At first I was very nervous around my bosses because I was worried that given our cultural difference I might get something wrong. Even though they were always nice and welcome to questions, I was worried about appearing incompetent so I kept to myself. Now wish I had asked more questions and talked to them earlier on because I realize that asking questions is how real cultural learning happens, and it would have made me a better intern at ODI.
I’m proud of the work that I did with ODI, and the time I spent with my co-workers. I wrote about the ODI-organized World Water Summit, drafted a lesson plan for young children, and helped come up with environmentally friendly ideas for remodeling a local community center. My bosses, Jingjing Li and Lei Zhou, were both nice and very smart, and during lunch we often had interesting discussions about Chinese life and current affairs. My time interning with ODI meant more than clocking in nine-to-five so I could later brag about my internship abroad; it was working with a unique Chinese non-profit that works to create a better China for the future.
Interning abroad meant that I didn’t always have the time I wanted to do the other “more fun” touristy options. Fun nights had to be cut short because I had to go to work in the morning, and most of my sightseeing happened on weekends when it was more crowded. I commuted everyday in the heat and crowded bus, and didn’t get a chance to travel around China as much as I would have liked. I understood that work came first, especially since it’s what I came to Shanghai to do. I also owed it to my company to be a good and reliable intern so that they knew I was taking my time with them seriously. I didn’t want to only just add “media intern for Oriental Danology Institute in Shanghai, China” to my résumé if it wasn’t going to mean anything.
The time of vying for internships isn’t always fun or easy, especially in the States. That’s what makes interning abroad so cool. In America, there’s the places you would love to work because you believe in the mission, and the places you end up working because it’s a big name or they pay. Often times the money is a deal breaker for interns, because unpaid internships offer great experience but don’t work with a student’s reality. If a student looks abroad and uses a program like IES Internships, a whole other set of options begins to open up. I’m incredibly privileged in that I got to work an unpaid internship and travel abroad, all with a company whose mission I admire. Most other college students aren’t that lucky, so those who do get opportunities like these should find a way to pay it forward.
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<p>Lily is a journalism student at Emerson College and is excited to be spending her summer in Shanghai. She loves traveling, learning about new cultures, and eating all the best local food. Exploring one of the most exciting places in the world, follow Lily as she explores her roots and Shanghai!</p>