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Overseas internships gaining popularity
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Nowadays a growing number of Chinese college students are applying for overseas internships in order to gain a competitive edge over their peers in the future job market. More importantly, they are learning how to live in a totally different environment and how to communicate with each other under the auspices of an international team.

Zilan: unforgettable days in Israel

Through everyday international news, one can get the impression that Israel is a country full of chaotic violence. But Zilan experienced a pleasant time.

"The four months I spent in Israel were some of my happiest times ever," she said.

The Chinese girl happened to get an internship in an Israeli company through a friend when she was a college student majoring in sports management at the Beijing Sport University during the first half of 2006.

In addition to the alluring salary, Zilan also hoped to widen her horizons and improve her English through the opportunity.

The company she worked for is an anti-spam software provider. Her duty was to raise the interception rate of Chinese-language e-mails and reduce the error rate, a job utterly unrelated to her college major.

There were no other non-Israeli employees except Zilan in the company. Local university students working there as part-timers all had majored in computers. "Compared with them, my only competitive edge was that I knew Chinese," Zilan smiled.

However, this sole advantage won her many opportunities, including working as an interpreter for the company's telephone conferences.

As a layman in the subject of computers, Zilan was quite nervous during her first interpretation assignment. She still remembers the encouragement and help her Israeli colleagues gave her.

"'Try your best when the opportunity arrives,' they said," Zilan recalled. "They were still giving me practice lessons on the day before the conference and we even did a rehearsal."

She did her job well so this duty consequently became part of Zilan's routine in the following days.

The office atmosphere was quite different from that of a domestic company, Zilan stated.

Her superiors were all Israelis. "When they assigned me a task, they would say 'Can you help me on this?' This was not managed politeness. They really treated me like we were friends."

The company also provided medical insurance for Zilan and gave her shopping vouchers for a traditional Israeli festival, which interns do not usually receive in China, Zilan said.

Sometimes, Zilan would cook some typical Chinese food: dumplings and spring rolls, for the Israeli workers. "They liked it," the Chinese girl said. "But actually it was not so tasty. I come from south China so I'm not very good at cooking wheat based food like dumplings and spring rolls, which are typical of north China."

After her four-month internship in Israeli, Zilan returned to China with her saved salary, about 12,000 yuan (US$1,664) per month, a level well above the average income in China, especially for interns.

For a long time afterwards, Zilan felt reluctant to go job hunting. She decided to work for the Israeli company via the Internet until now, even though it is makeshift employment.

The overseas internship greatly boosted the Chinese girl's confidence. She submitted her first resume to the world-renowned Internet security service provider Symantec for a job completely irrelevant to her college major. "Before the overseas internship, I would have never thought about it. But now I did it. The overseas experience has built up my confidence," Zilan said. "The interviewers were satisfied with me. They finally eliminated my bid because they need someone who is proficient in Cantonese. But during the interview, they showed a strong interest in my internship in Israel."

Zilan has registered for the graduate admission exam at the Beijing Language and Culture University. "As far as I know, many returned overseas interns are not in a hurry to look for a job. Instead they choose to continue their studies as graduate students in order to get more opportunities."

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