Jade Chow, HR Analyst, leading UK bank; Intern, 2019, Shanghai

Living and interning in China was an incredible experience. I originally applied for the Generation UK programme as it provided an opportunity to develop both academically and as a person, in one of the world’s leading and thriving economies. Aside from China’s business relevance, having been born in Britain to Chinese Mauritian parents, my exposure to China had been more limited than I cared to accept. The programme granted me the opportunity to explore a culture and language I had long wanted to discover for both cultural and business reasons.

The bustling Chinese Embassy in the heart of London where I picked up my Chinese visa certainly reflected the busy and hurried state Shanghai is often in. Day to day challenges of Shanghai included wrestling my way onto the metro, and food shopping when reading Chinese characters was not a strength of mine. Whilst the greatest challenge I faced was being spoken to in Mandarin yet unable to reply in full or at all, the basic phrases and words I picked up from the Mandarin lessons Generation UK provided ensured I was able to get around in Shanghai. My Mandarin teacher Peggy’s lessons, as well as the Bing translate app on my phone, were life-savers. Within the first two weeks of moving to Pudong (where I was based in Shanghai), a new road had been tarmacked, and within three weeks a new supermarket had opened. 

I studied Accounting at university and took business-related modules in my final year, so I already had a solid understanding of business and the role of accounting within this. However, having had the opportunity to build on this during my internship in China was invaluable. I acquired knowledge relating to market research and analysis, such as how to run a confidence level test at 90% confidence. I also learnt and improved upon general employment skills such as timekeeping, Excel and presenting.

Although at times challenging, the experience taught me to be respectful towards the differences in workplace etiquette that exist between China and the UK and has prepared me well to work in different environments in the future. Currently I am on a graduate scheme at a leading UK bank and the programme includes four rotations within two years. Learning to be adaptable and comfortable with change from my China experience has been an advantage when rotating into new teams.

This internship also helped to broaden my understanding of people and contexts. Living in China allowed me to meet incredible people from around the world both within my internship company and outside. I gained a diverse and global group of friends and a wealth of knowledge on cultures and ways of thinking I had not been exposed to before.  A global mindset and an ability to build relationships with different stakeholders is advantageous in any business role, particularly given the current focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Highlights were: visiting the humble administrator’s garden in Suzhou, which provided a peaceful weekend escape from the never-ending buzz of Shanghai, going to Disneyland in Shanghai and dancing on the 92nd floor of the world financial centre of Shanghai. 

Surprises included: my supervisor’s enthusiasm for me to learn about and appreciate the work he did and still does (which I am grateful for); trying foods I never thought I’d have the stomach to try such as grilled starfish, boiled cow’s intestines, pig’s blood and cow’s tongue; realising that China is far ahead in terms of using technology in everyday life compared to the UK (for example: WeChat pay); and joining a friendship circle which continuously changed and evolved as people entered and left Shanghai. 

On reflection, The Generation UK programme was all I expected it to be and more. I finished the programme confident to enter the workplace almost anywhere in the world. My time in China has been a point of interest with my colleagues, consequently helping me grow and develop my professional network. I left China recognising with no doubt in my mind that it is a powerhouse in many respects and that any connection I could make to it would only be beneficial. Thanks again to Generation UK for the opportunity and I would highly recommend anyone to spend time in China if they can!

Jade participated in the Generation UK internship programme in 2019, working at a market research company called The Insight Focus Company. Shortly after returning from China she joined a leading bank as a Graduate HR Analyst.