Before our intern, Melanie Rinehart, left for China, I had the pleasure of meeting with her. Our Managing Director has a keen eye when it comes to recruiting passionate individuals. Melanie is no exception.
For the past several weeks, Melanie has been training in our Shenzhen office. I wanted to reach out to her again for insight into her experience.
You recently moved from Tampa, Florida to Shenzhen, China for an internship with Pro QC. Having been to China before and studied the language in college, do you find there are significant cultural differences?
I definitely feel that the cultures in China and the West can be almost overwhelmingly different at times. The cultural differences between China and the West are nowhere more pronounced to me than in a business/school setting. The hierarchical structure of Chinese society can leave a foreigner feeling uncomfortable and out of place without the proper cultural training. Expectations from the company and staff of an organization may vary widely from those in the West.
For instance, a Chinese co-worker could expect a lot less from a foreigner in China, not only because of their Mandarin proficiency or lack-thereof, but also because being an intern in general carries a different weight in Chinese culture than in Western culture.
To avoid complications and frustration, I try to read as many cultural studies and foreign professionals’ journals of times spent in China as possible; Eric Shepherd has published many great articles and books about cultural differences to be aware of in China.
What is it like working with Pro QC in the Shenzhen office?
Working for ProQC in the Shenzhen office is much different from the last internship I had in China. I mentioned above that expectations in Chinese businesses are different than in Western businesses, but to be honest working for ProQC has been a more “Western” experience than I have had previously. It is important to take each case individually and not develop any stereotypes from reading about the cultural differences. The best thing about working in the Shenzhen office so far is that the staff has been really welcoming, and I have been given the opportunity to jump right into the actual work.
What do you miss the most about living in the United States?
This is my third time in China, and I have been here for one month at this point. What I always miss most about the United States is my friends and family. Moving far does not seem so daunting at first, but when you arrive in a country whose time zone is twelve hours different it can be very difficult to stay in contact with friends and family as much as you would like. Developing a network of friends in your new city can be very helpful and setting designated times to talk with friends and family is important.
What is your favorite place to eat and favorite thing to do in Shenzhen?
There are so many great places to eat in Shenzhen! Having been to Beijing and Qingdao before, I can really appreciate the “openness”. Because Shenzhen was opened up economically in the 70s during Deng Xiaoping’s economy reform, the city is fairly new but also a huge center for foreign direct investment (FDI). FDI has brought many ex-pats from all over the world, so the food is just as eclectic in Shenzhen as it is in the United States.
My favorite restaurant so far is definitely a small Muslim restaurant in Shekou where you can eat the best 鸡蛋炒拉面 egg fried noodles that I have found in China. The Xinjiang province of China is the origin of the hand pulled noodle, and they are famous worldwide.
One of my favorite things to do in China is to shop. The market itself is a cultural experience. The technology market, iPhone case market, handbag market, and clothes market are all more than five stories of shops. Bargaining with sales associates is a great experience in China, especially if you learn the best techniques from Chinese themselves.
Do you have any words of advice for others looking at internships abroad?
Looking for a job or internship abroad is an interesting challenge. It is important to stay competitive, culturally adaptable, and at least somewhat fluent in the local language.
I have found that my best asset I have for studying and working abroad is flexibility. It is important to know that to be competitive, you have to be willing to take risks as an individual. Each time a business hires a new employee they are taking a risk, and in order to make that risk worth their while, I feel it is important to show that you too are willing to go out on a limb. Plus there is the added benefit of travel, and your company will know that they can count on you to be a reliable asset.