GoAbroad Interview

Edward Holroyd-Pearce - Co-Founder and Managing Director

CRCC Asia is an international education organization specializing in providing internships for international interns in China. At the recent 2013 Global Internships Conference in Singapore, CRCC Asia's very own Edward Holroyd-Pearce and Daniel Nivern gave an insightful talk about The Current and Future Environment for Internships in China, and they shared their experiences with a roomful of eager conference participants. As one of those eager listeners and on behalf of the users of GoAbroad.com, the resource for meaningful travel, I’d like to know more about CRCC Asia, its commitment to professionalism in the global internships industry, and the future plans of the organization.

Internships in China
Intern for leading business companies in China

The CRCC Asia tagline says it is 'The Leading China Internship Provider.' Why did you choose to focus on China? What makes China the ideal location for internships? What makes CRCC the leader?

Both our co-Directors have China backgrounds - Edward majored in Chinese at Cambridge University and has spent time living in China, Thailand, and Singapore.  Daniel majored in modern Languages at Oxford and spent several years in China post graduation. We feel that it is still rare for those growing up outside China to have a good understanding of Chinese culture, and in particular Chinese business culture. Given China's important place in the global economy, we feel the desire to make this right. 

Chinese companies are open to accepting short term interns, and typically provide a range of job experiences that will really enable interns to get genuine experiences and also will allow them access to Chinese business culture. CRCC Asia has so far arranged almost 3500 internships in China, which is more than any other organisation. Alongside the volume, we are the only China Internship specialist to have offices abroad in the USA, UK, Australia, Italy, and Spain. We also work with an unparalleled number of partner companies in Beijing, Shanghai, and newly Shenzhen, so typically access to industry specific placements is easier and more common.

CRCC Asia recently received a nomination for “Innovative New Program” in the Internship Abroad category of the 2013 GoAbroad Innovation Awards. What in your opinion makes your Joint Travel & Internship Program innovative?

Typical study abroad programs focus on one thing - either an internship or study. Our Joint Travel & Internship program allows students to gain professional work experiences, but also gives them a full three weeks to join a group of similar people to travel around China to see some of the highlights. The atmosphere on both parts of the program is great - work hard, play hard.

CRCC Asia has been sending interns to China for years. What has been the most challenging aspect of placing interns in China?

We have to work really hard with the host companies in China. Occasionally they make sudden changes in their hosting ability at the last minute, which obviously stresses us out a lot. Through hard work, we've never had anyone arrive without a placement, but this is one of the hardest elements of our role. Also, some companies think they should take it easy on interns when they first arrive, so might not give them work for a day or two. This actually makes the interns worry, and we try to encourage companies to push interns in at the deep end.

What is one thing that sets CRCC Asia internships apart from other similar programs?

Our offices outside China allow us to really connect with participants, parents, and universities. These offices also allow us to actually include visa processing (many programs just provide “Assistance” - leaving students to play their own Visa Roulette with the local Chinese embassy). Overall, of course it's our teams and individual staff members that set us apart - everyone shares our passion for China, and our passion for interning abroad.

How long do you think an internship needs to be for participants to reap the full benefits of the experience?

It depends on both the individual and the company. Some of our internships last just four weeks, but with careful consideration of the internship job role and good preparation (and attitude) of the intern, both sides can still gain a lot.

China is a complete departure in language, culture, and business style from anything western students may be accustomed to and it is often difficult to avoid issues with interns and their placements. How does CRCC Asia prepare and support first-time interns in China to avoid common problems that come up during placement?

First, our full day induction covers many problem situations the interns may come across - both cultural and practical or logistical. We offer support in terms of improving communication with supervisors and colleagues.  A number of elements of our program are designed to make life easier - we provide interns with a SIM Card, a transport card, maps and guides, and fully serviced apartments within a 45 minute commute. This means interns don't spend valuable time finding a place to live, setting up their own internet or power supply, or getting a local phone number. We have regular events throughout their time in China - some are cultural, others charitable, and some business networking events and seminars too. These are good opportunities for interns to ask us about anything. We also make weekly phone calls to the interns to check how their internship is going.

Interns gravitate towards Shanghai and Beijing for placements, what unique benefits do other locations offer for interns in China?

We are actually just in the process of opening a Shenzhen office to add to our Beijing and Shanghai programs. We feel that the majority of interns are keen to experience the energy and buzz of China's mega-cities. These tend to be the places they can get genuine work experience that will help their career journey. Despite being big “international” cities, they still offer great insight into Chinese culture and business development opportunities. We do have a specialist hospitality program running in Hainan (China's Hawaii), which is great for those in the hotel industry to find out about China's tourism markets. As part of our joint Travel program, interns can also see other parts of China which are more famous for beautiful scenery which will let them enjoy the quieter side of life.

CRCC offers business, law, engineering, and medical internships, what type of an internship placement might a fine arts, social science, or liberal arts student find with CRCC?

We work with a huge range of host organisations. Fine arts students might want to work in one of our placements with an art gallery, clothing designer or they might be interested in working on museum management for example.  Social science students or liberal arts candidates might specify some certain transferrable skills they wish to build, allowing us to think of a great organisation for them. Typically, an opportunity in a training or HR firm might be interesting, or one of our International Relations suited placements, such as one of the Chambers of Commerce.

What is the most interesting internship tasks CRCC offers participants?

Again, that totally depends on the individual intern, their attitude and performance, and the host company - everything is subjective. However, my particular favourite was when one intern, working for a leading finance magazine in Beijing, was asked to propose 10 questions the magazine should ask then president of Brazil, Lula, during an interview that week.  

What's the next big thing for CRCC Asia? What will be your next achievement in the internship world?

We are very excited to have been asked to provide programs for Generation UK - an initiative led by the British Council, which means that some students who would otherwise be unable to afford our programs, will be able to participate. Likewise, we are excited by the potential of the 100,000 strong initiative and the Gilman scholarships which will enable us to improve access to our programs for those wouldn't be able to afford them. We are also keen to add value to our Alumni - we recently launched an entrepreneurship fund for any alumni to apply for so that we can help them (with both funding and logistics) with any businesses they are planning to start. Of course, you probably guessed, we're also excited for the opening of our new Shenzhen program!