Sarah - Shanghai - Journalism
Sarah, journalism intern in Shanghai, summer 2011
Congratulate Sarah: she just started a new job which she was offered thanks to her internship in China. As she herself discovered, “Working and living internationally can be a huge advantage in the workplace.” Even though Sarah’s new job has nothing to do with China – she’s working for a Latin American community center – what appealed to her new employers was her experience abroad. “They hired me because of my time in China,” she explains. “Because I know what it's like to work with people from a completely different culture.”
Sarah’s always been interested in the world. As a communications major at Temple University she spent several months with the Semester at Sea program. But even as she returned home, Sarah knew her travels weren’t over. “With Semester at Sea, I saw a lot of places, but didn’t spend any real time in any of them. I wanted the experience of living a ‘real life’ in another country.”
A journalism internship in Shanghai offered Sarah the adventure she craved, and the real-world experience she wanted for her resume. Even though she’s a city girl at heart, Shanghai still “overwhelmed” her at times. “It’s like New York City on crack,” she laughs. Other interns and helpful co-workers helped ease the transition to the city and its culture. “Group eating is very popular in China. At lunch my coworkers would often invite me to different kinds of restaurants. And a few of us would meet up on weekends, grab a drink and explore the city.” English-speaking young people she’d meet in town also helped Sarah navigate the “everyday stuff,” like shopping, finding a dry cleaner, or buying train tickets. “College aged kids I’d meet were great, very friendly and open. They liked practicing their English on me, but were also quick to help. They’re very different that way from the older generation, which wanted nothing to do with me. In fact, sometimes, the older people seemed borderline rude, but I think that’s how they relate to strangers in general.”
Working in China had its challenges – and rewards. “I interned for a magazine distributed at airport VIP lounges throughout China. It was published in English and in Chinese, and geared toward executive business and luxury travelers. Most of the articles were about things totally new to me: luxury safaris, customizing your wine cellar, multi-million dollar cell phone covers… stuff I didn’t know existed!” Sara laughs.
She began with simple assignments: researching specific products or places, and editing the English-language articles written by her Chinese colleagues. It took her a few days to adjust to a different management style. “I’m used to being specifically told what to do, and how to do it. In Shanghai, the directions were more like suggestions. ‘Maybe you should think about…’ It was very… non-confrontational and indirect.” Once Sarah decoded the office culture, she found plenty of opportunity. In addition to her research and extensive editing duties, Sarah was able to publish two articles in two different magazines. “It’s great to have something very tangible to show for my internship,” Sarah says. “When I was job-hunting, all the people I interviewed with were super interested in seeing and reading my articles.”
Today, Sarah attends graduate school at Drexel University, focusing on global and international education. Plus, she’s working full time at the Latin American community center where she’s helping to write grants, create and oversee ESL programs, build ESL curricula and assists in marketing and PR. Her ultimate goal is to go into the study abroad field, helping other students to discover the world – and their passion – while living and working overseas. “Study abroad is one of the most important things you can do in college,” she says firmly. “I’d encourage everyone to do it.”
Judging by her passion, education and her current job experience, Sarah is well on her way to her dream job.