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Foreign interns seek experience in Chinese firms

Updated: 2012-08-02 00:55
By Chen Xin ( China Daily)

Foreign interns seek experience in Chinese firms

University students from the United States who are taking part in an internship program in China learn how to pick tea at a farm in Zhenjiang, East China's Jiangsu province. [Photo/Xinhua]

More foreign youths are seeking internships in China as the country's economic growth remains robust and businesses become more open to foreign interns.

Katherine Harris, from Britain, is a university student majoring in risk management. She came to China in May and has just completed an internship as a research specialist at the Beijing-based British Chamber of Commerce in China.

"There are a lot of internship opportunities in China but in the UK and other European countries there aren't many," the 20-year-old said.

Harris' internship lasted for two months and she was paid 2,500 yuan ($394) each month.

"I plan to take another internship in the commerce or finance field in China during the summer vacation next year, and I also want to find a job in the country after my graduation," she said. "I'm quite interested in Chinese language and culture."

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Katsuhiko Kayama, 23, from Japan, studies marketing in the United States. He is now working as an intern at Digital Jungle, a social media marketing company in Beijing.

"I was born in China but left when I was 6. I'm taking an internship here because on one hand, I want to seek my roots, and on the other, the industry is growing fast here. I really like the company I'm working for, and I hope I can stay and work here after my graduation next year," he said.

Peter Hao, executive director with UOutlook Education International, a Shanghai internship service company, said they have organized internships for 60 foreign youths from the United States and European, South Asian and South American countries this year.

"We expect more young people to seek internships in China over the next few months during the summer vacation. I'm sure the number of interns for the whole year will exceed that in last year," he said.

Hao said most people who seek internships in China are university students, and major in fields as diverse as engineering, biology, economics, finance and marketing.

Hao said, depending on what their field of study is, students seek different experiences. Engineering technology students want the chance to take part in project development, students majoring in public relations want to participate in designing and organizing activities, business students want to get involved in foreign trade.

He said his agency has connections with many organizations, including colleges in foreign countries and more than 100 privately run and foreign enterprises, non-governmental organizations and language training institutions in China.

Cao Enyu, business development manager of Getin2China Group, an internship service company in Beijing, said his company has introduced nearly 300 foreign interns to China this year and he believes that number will surpass 500 by the end of the year.

China's visa policy allows foreigners to stay a maximum of six months to complete an internship.

"We pick companies for candidates based on their majors and willingness and then arrange phone or online interviews. If the two sides reach an agreement, employers will send candidates an invitation to facilitate their visa procedure," said Cao.

Cao said candidates normally apply for an internship visa ranging from one to three months but they can prolong their internships with permission from both the employers and police authorities.

"What we can do is supervising visa expirations of foreign interns and helping them prolong their visa terms or change visa types in line with their requirements," said Lin Song, a publicity officer at the exit-entry administration of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.

"They (foreign interns) must come to our office for their visa transaction. We'll collect their information when they come for the visa, and we'll remind them with text messages when their prolonged visa is about to expire," he said.

If foreign interns are offered a job, they have to change their visa type from internship to employment, otherwise they will be suspected of staying illegally in the country or being illegally employed, Lin said.

Cao said about 30 percent of interns are hired by the Chinese companies where they worked.

Meng Ling, a partner with Perfect Alliance CPA Partnership, a Shanghai accounting firm, said they have hired foreign interns ever since they opened for business in 2006.

Meng said the company currently has two foreign interns working as audit assistants, one from Singapore, the other from Britain.

"Foreign interns not only bring different cultures, they're also helpful in improving English communication in the office," he said. "We're impressed by their patience and carefulness, which is quite important for our work. And our staff members can learn those good qualities from them."

Meng said companies like his, whose clients are mainly foreign enterprises, always hire foreign interns.

Gu Lili, a manager with International Students Travel Exchange in Beijing, said they expect the numbers of foreign interns in China to continue to rise. Last year the company helped more than 100 students intern in China.

"As China sustains a quick economic growth and Western markets weaken, and Chinese enterprises become more open to the outside world, more foreigners will seek internships in China," she said.

Gu said one of the recruitment projects her company is promoting is a beer festival at a tourism resort in Beijing scheduled in August, which needs some 20 foreign interns to work as receptionists and waiters.

Cao Yin contributed to this story.

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