After being accepted into the program, the application process was quite conventional. After being provided with options for several positions in various companies, it was up to me to apply for a position which interested me with a resume and cover letter followed by a phone interview. I successfully gained a position with iSmart. As a civil engineer, I was given the role of designing houses, which ironically were to be built back home in Australia.
During my time at iSmart, I was mainly taught to use a new software to create house designs at an architectural level. The staff were very friendly and eager to show me and the other interns some of the customs and practices of a business in China. My workplace also came with the perks of trips to different cities and free daily lunches of authentic Chinese cuisine with my team. In the office, I was mostly given the space to work on various projects at my own time and pace with the freedom to ask for help whenever needed. Just as most other internships in any part of the world, the amount and quality of work was largely left to my own personal initiative. With genuine interest in the projects I was given, it wasn’t difficult to stay motivated over the internship period. From my time at iSmart I gained the skill of a new software program, the ability to produce work to a professional standard and a letter of recommendation from my manager.
Another new experience to this program was the immersion of an entirely different culture from any I had experienced before. Before arriving in China, I was naïve enough to believe that if you spoke English you would feel at home in any city around the world. Very soon after entering Mainland China I realised my arrogance, as not only was English an alien language, but foreigners were scarce and somewhat of a spectacle to the locals. As a part of the program, we were given a week of cultural activities and language classes to feel more comfortable and integrate ourselves into Zhuhai. We were provided with accommodation for the duration of the program. I was placed in an apartment with two other interns in an apartment overlooking the lively city of Macau.
Besides the first week of activities and classes to make the interns feel more comfortable, the program staff also had several optional group activities arranged every week, including trips in distant cities and frequent group dinners. Not only had this provided us with a good opportunity to get to know the interns from other universities and countries, but it also gave the opportunity to go to places and have experiences we’d otherwise never have had such as hiking steep hills, exploring caves and camping on beaches, to name a few. Despite these arranged activities it was to my appreciation that the staff had given us the liberty to wander and do as we please while providing some basic rules and channels for contact and support.
In summary, reflecting on the short six weeks I got to spend in Zhuhai, here is my advice to future participants in this great program: This experience will be what you make of it. Put the intention and energy forward to make the most of your internship and you will succeed, but also make it an equal priority to participate in the programs offered and getting to know the people around you. This could very easily be the most valuable as well as the best experience of your degree.