Students lured by opportunities, report Xu Junqian in Shanghai and Duan Yan, Wang Yan in Beijing.
Lauren Russell, 21, is one of four interns from the United States who work at China.org.cn. She is a senior at the University of North Carolina. [Wang Jing / China Daily]
Lauren Ratcliffe wasted no time. She graduated in North Carolina on May 8 and landed in Beijing on May 26 to start her internship.
Not knowing a word of Mandarin before she arrived, she's excited that she has now published stories outside her home country after adjusting to the first week of ubiquitous spitting in public and unstoppable car honking.
Ratcliffe, who majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one of four US interns at china.org.cn, a multi-language Web portal founded by the State Council Information Office and China International Publishing Group.
The number of foreign interns increases yearly. There are no official numbers, because many come to China on tourist or student visas, depending on the length of the internship. However, a global organization that helps students find internships reports that the number of applicants for China has risen from no more than 50 in 2002 to 1,000 this year.
AISEC, which is based in the Netherlands, describes itself as the world's largest student-run organization, with a presence in 107 countries and regions and more than 50,000 members. The acronym represents Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (International Association of Students in Economic and Business Science).
Students fly to China from all over the world for two-month to one-year internships with AISEC's business partners, said Luo Min, vice-president of communications at AISEC's China headquarters in Shanghai. About 200 organizations, institutions and corporations including IBM and Microsoft participate in the program, he said.
"The number was always paltry, no more than 50 a year," Luo said. However it began to edge up in late 2007, partly because of the daunting prospect of global financial crisis. Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai Expo, China has claimed the largest share of foreign students, Luo said.
"They (foreign students) are all calling it 'crazy craving China'. Everything here is appealing for them, and some of them have chosen to stay and work here for a long term after the internship."
'Fresh and unique'
Ratcliffe's daily job includes editing other people's stories and reporting on her own. Editing English stories written by Chinese colleagues is relatively easy for her with her college news background at home. Ratcliffe, 22, wanted to do more reporting during her stay, and right now she is working on a second story.
She has been to press conferences and has visited Beijing's northeast suburb of Miyun to write a travel story, with her Chinese colleagues interpreting during interviews.
"It could've been much harder," Ratcliffe said. "Not speaking or reading the language, getting things done could be impossible, but it wasn't that at all."
AISEC's Luo said that in addition to traditional language-related jobs (teaching English, translating and editing), the most popular fields among foreign students are finance, consulting and business management.
Multinational companies see a benefit in having some real foreign employees - versus "white faces" just for show - because their staff members are largely Chinese, Luo said.
"The way foreign graduates think and work is fresh and unique. They help create a truly globalized environment that both the company's Chinese staff and foreign executives are longing for."
Luo's association charges corporations "a small fee" - he declined to say how much - to recommend international interns, but the service is free for students.
Jumped at chance for Party event
I'm a published journalist in TWO countries now!
I've now finished my second full week of work and have definitely settled into the swing of things at China.org.cn. I've already had one story (and photos) published in the travel section, and I attended a press conference and tour of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, but more on that later.
China.org is what I would call an online news aggregate. Publishing reports in nine languages, the biggest bulk of what is done is finding interesting, quality news stories published in Chinese media or elsewhere and translating them into the various other languages.
I spend my time copy editing stories that have been translated into English from Chinese. Some days I'm lucky and I'll get four or five stories to edit during my seven-hour workday. This week I didn't edit as much.
On Tuesday, I finished writing my very first story for China.org.cn. I was able to write about my trip last weekend to Miyun. My story was well received on the site, and was the second-most-viewed story the day after it was published. I was blown away and humbled by the response.
Because I've been trying to do some reporting of some sort - or just to get out of the office to see and do anything - I was forwarded a press release from the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. They were holding an "open house" of sorts for foreign journalists and foreign members of the Chinese media in an attempt to promote openness. I, logically, jumped at the opportunity to go, so two colleagues and I got to spend our Friday morning meeting with members of the Party.
The meeting was largely what I expected, however I was surprised that the Party gave us a relatively high-level minister for the press conference. Ai Ping answered several questions from the press, in what I thought was a much more candid manner than most would expect from the Chinese government. The entire event was translated from Chinese into English, and was an event I'm not soon going to forget.
Excerpted from the American's June 11 blog post at www.laurenratcliffe.com/beijing-blog.html