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Overseas internships gaining popularity
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Cheng Hui: face-to-face with another culture

22-year-old Cheng Hui is already a veteran intern. He has been to Germany and India in the past two years.

In 2006, Cheng got a chance to work at AIESEC's German branch when he was serving in the organization's Peking University branch.

In Germany, part of his job was teaching German students Chinese.

"In my class, I liked teaching students practical things," Cheng said. "For example, I would show them how to make sweetened sesame paste after I gave a lecture on Chinese food."

He also looked for internship opportunities in local enterprises for Chinese students.

Some German enterprises are willing to recruit Chinese interns, Cheng said. "A hotel in Berlin hopes to employ two Chinese interns to do marketing. It plans to renovate some of their facilities to better suit the habits of the rising number of Chinese tourists."

During his stay in Germany, Cheng Hui was deeply impressed by stereotypical German preciseness. Once when he was taking a train, Cheng mistakenly got off one minute ahead of the time specified on his ticket. As a result, he had to take a taxi to catch another train. "One minute makes a great difference. Germans are very precise with time," Cheng said.

Soon after he returned from Germany, Cheng got an internship in a domestic consulting company. "People do not usually observe rules in China. I think Germany suits me better."

In 2007, Chenghui got another overseas internship with an Indian company, hoping to get first-hand experience in a country similar to China; both are developing nations and have a big population.

Cheng arrived in Bangalore, India on July 1. His direct supervisor was a department chief.

"They think highly of interns secured from AIESEC. Many of my fellow students work directly under company presidents or department managers."

Regarding the difference domestic and foreign enterprises view interns, Cheng said: "A lot of domestic companies don't recruit student interns because they think students have little social experience. But overseas companies think the opposite; they trust students."

Cheng's major responsibility in the Indian company was writing China industry reports, based on the reports and information the company bought. He was also entrusted to write a Chinese consumer report, regarding their buying habits. These reports will be sold to India companies.

Normally, a company would have a timetable for the reports. However, Cheng's boss was not in a hurry and postponed it until several days before Cheng left India.

Before his departure on September 15, Cheng finished a 400-page industry report and also a 200-page consumer report. "They were satisfied with my reports," said Cheng. "They recognized my major in sociology (Cheng changed his major to sociology after studying German for two years in university). I explained to them about China's consumer and business culture. I added a part in the report concerning how to deal with Chinese people in China's market. They regarded it highly," Cheng said.

During his work, Cheng also found a fake report bought by the company, containing detailed information China usually does not provide.

"The globalization of human resources has an important bearing on the globalization of a company," said N.E. Company's Wang. "For a small foreign enterprise, it is highly risky to rush into the Chinese market. They need first to know what Chinese people think. They can get some information from Chinese interns."

Before he left, the Indian company hoped to retain Cheng as an employee with a month salary of 35, 000 rupees (US$890).

"In terms of required skills it is almost the same – working in China and working in another country. But for overseas internships, you will come face to face with another culture and work with an international team," said Cheng. "I tended to make comparisons between China and the host country during my internship. An American colleague told me his countrymen trust the salesperson when they buy something. However, in China, consumers will first ask for advice from their relatives or friends because Chinese people trust social connections more than businessmen. I would never think about these differences if I had stayed in China."

Cheng plans to start another internship with a domestic enterprise. He is sure his two overseas internships will certainly be a spotlight in his resume.

(China.org.cn by Yuan Fang, April 2, 2008)

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