Beijing is a vibrant mix of being a historic and modern city. Having been a capital for more than 800 years, Beijing not only houses the finest and richest historic treasures but is also the cultural hub of China and a rising capital in the world. If you're looking for a fast-paced and exciting environment, look no further than internships in Beijing. Famous for its bustling lifestyle, you will always be on the move and learning something new while interning in Beijing. This commanding city will provide life and work experience which most interns might not have the opportunity to have in most countries.
Internships in Beijing
China, being one of the biggest economies in the world, provides an advantage when it comes to internship opportunities. Although competition is intense with local and foreign students and having the relationship (Guanxi) with companies is important to secure your internship in Beijing, your best chance to get the placement you want is through consulting companies, which ensure you are placed in an internship and doing tasks related to your field, not just there to teach English to the local staff members.
Here are some of the areas to look into:
- Major Industries: Mining, textiles, chemicals, consumer products, telecommunications equipment, metals, machine building, food processing, and transportation,
- Growing Industries: Pharmaceuticals or health.
- Existing Industries: Manufacturing, engineering, environmental, IT, production, medical, and tourism
Internships abroad in Beijing last from a month to six months. The longer you intern in Beijing, the more options you’ll have for internships. There are individuals who opt for a year-long internship as long as it is paid. Companies will usually require you to be a full time intern (40 hours a week). However, if you are a student, it is understandable that you will only be able to intern for less hours (on average, 20 hours a week).
Knowing how to communicate in Mandarin is an advantage especially if you are looking into internship opportunities in technology, engineering, production, law, finance, and accounting. Apart from making sure you know how to communicate in basic Chinese, to give yourself an edge against other possible intern candidates, knowing other languages apart from English will also be an advantage.
If you don’t have experience in the field you want to intern in, make sure you have some of the basics in order to find a good internship placement in Beijing:
- Willingness to learn about the Chinese business environment and Chinese culture
- Positive attitude
- Flexibility in doing different tasks
- Reliable and responsible
- Have a University degree or graduating soon
- At least 18 years old
Accommodations & Visas
Living situations for individuals who intern in Beijing can vary. The most important thing to be sure of when choosing your accommodation for your internship in Beijing is that the rent (including utilities) and the cost of commute are within your budget.
International interns can usually decide from any of the following housing options:
- Full Serviced Apartments (Private or Sharing)
- Private Apartment
- Private Room in a Shared Apartment
- Chinese Homestay
You can decide to rent your own flat, share the flat with housemates, or live with a Chinese host family. Some may think that living with a Chinese host family is the most economical situation, which also allows you to practice your Mandarin and completely immerse in the Chinese culture. However, some host families will require a lot of time and some will require payment for the time they have to spend with the foreign guest, and the amount is sometimes higher than what you would pay for sharing a flat with other foreign housemates.
For companies that are located in remote areas, companies usually provide dorm accommodations for interns. It is going to be a tight 15 to 20 square meters accommodation with four to six people living in the room. Make sure you ask what the living situation is before you jump for the opportunity of free housing.
International students need visas to participate in internships abroad in Beijing. Given the current restrictions on visas, some companies require that interns attain their own visas or ask consulting companies for assistance in acquiring a visa. Other companies require international interns to intern in Beijing on a student visa. It is currently rare for a company to provide business or cultural exchange visas for their interns, which means your competition will be local bilingual or multilingual students who are looking to find experience with any company. Visa fees will always vary depending on your nationality so be sure to check the website of the Chinese Embassy or Consulate nearest to you.
Usual requirements for a Chinese visa are:
- Passport that is not expiring for six months to a year, depending on the length of your stay
- Empty visa pages in your passport
- Invitation Letters depending on the type of visa you are applying for (NOTE: For interns, it is usually a tourist, student, business, or cultural exchange visa)
- Confirmed flight
- Confirmed accommodations
- Some consulates will require additional supporting documents (Proof of ability to financially support yourself while interning in China, existing assets, international credit card, etc.)
Salaries & Affordability
Most internships in Beijing are unpaid. However, companies usually provide payment for internships in Beijing that are at least three months and if you are working full time (40 hours a week). Stipends can vary depending on the experience an intern has. If the intern is able to prove that he or she has previous experience in the same field and a higher education related to the industry or field, the stipend can be higher. The range of stipends are from 500RMB to 4000RMB per month. Stipends will not be able to cover your full living costs and airfare so be sure you have some money saved before you begin your internship abroad in Beijing.
Some companies will offer food allowances or food stubs in their local office canteen. If no food allowance is given, local food and utilities are relatively cheap in China. If you opt to purchase international or imported goods, you will be living above your stipend budget. For example, a Chinese rice bowl meal costs $3 while a hamburger meal in McDonald’s costs $10.
Benefits & Challenges
An internship in Beijing will not only help you acquire skills and knowledge for any workplace but it will help you become more familiar with the country's culture and habits, how the Chinese behave in and out of their professional work life.
Currently, Mandarin Chinese is deemed one of the most influential business languages of the world. Therefore, Chinese speaking schools for foreigners are opening up all over the world, such as, America, England, and Germany. Mandarin Chinese has many dialects but Putonghua (Standard Chinese) is commonly taught in Beijing. However, it is commonly said that if you do not spend time in Beijing it is a difficult language to keep up if you do not practice with local Beijing people.
Giving face, also known as "giving respect," is an important concept in China. As the name suggests, it is about giving appropriate respect according to the rank and seniority of your bosses. There are many habits quite similar to this, so do not be afraid to ask for good advice before your first meeting. When in China, do as the Chinese do.
Interning in Beijing is the perfect opportunity to see a different perspective of China and gain an understanding of the country and its people, all while having the opportunity to learn the language.