Working in Berlin

Phoebe Chubb is a current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter.

Phoebe Chubb, current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter, in Berlin.

(This blog post was written before the COVID-19 pandemic.) 

In my second year at University, I went to the autumn term Year Abroad meeting for students studying Social Science. I had always considered doing a study abroad year but wasn’t sure I wanted to be saddled with more debt by signing up to another year of studying. An opportunity arose when I was told about a more financially viable alternative the University offered: working abroad.

One year later, I am working for a start-up in the vibrant capital city of Germany, Berlin. I have been here for three months; I have sampled the food, moved flats three times, joined a netball club and met a number of interesting people from all around the world. To alleviate some of the qualms you may have about undertaking a year abroad, I thought I would share my initial reflections of this unique and wonderful experience the University supports.

“On reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.”

I managed to procure a digital marketing internship for nine months with Labforward, a company that sells software solutions for scientists: an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) and a Lab Execution System. Now, if you had asked me prior to this internship what both of these were I would not have had a clue. I didn’t study science at A Level, and I do a Politics and International Relations (BSc) degree at University, so I wouldn’t say that I am well-versed in laboratory software. Yet, as a digital marketer, I have found that a large amount of my time is devoted to writing about new technological advancements which revolutionise the way we work, disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Internet of Things, a job which I thoroughly enjoy. This in itself demonstrates the breadth of internship opportunities that are available with this scheme, don’t limit yourself to one sector, try new things, and make the most of the opportunities working abroad facilitates.

“In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.”

Unfortunately, my move to Berlin has not been without complications. When I first arrived I had a housing issue as the room I had booked was not as pictured. As a result, I had to move rooms three times and deal with frustrating admin tasks to try and solve the problems which I had no control over. Whilst this initially made me miss the simplicity of University life, on reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.

I realise that I have been incredibly lucky with my internship. In the workplace, I am surrounded by a driven, talented team of individuals who have alleviated all my prior concerns about working abroad. Working for Labforward has made me realise what type of company I want to work at in the future, after all, working for a company where you are content is incredibly important. In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.

As for those who worry about being away from friends in the year abroad, it is a consideration, yet should not dissuade you from going abroad. Whilst I miss my friends from university a lot, I’ve found that many people in my year have chosen to do a year abroad, choosing either to study or work. I have a friend who is currently somewhere in Japan, one who is in Brussels and another is in Spain. Plus if you make the effort you get to know people where you’re working, since being in Berlin I have joined a friendly netball club which has allowed me to meet people from all over the world.

“This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.”

My work abroad year has invigorated me with a drive to look into new areas of politics that I had not considered before. Writing about technological advancements has made me question what political and social impacts digitalisation will incur, a subject area I am keen to write my dissertation on. Already I have gained valuable experience that I can use to bolster my CV to acquire post-graduation employment. This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.

Interning at the United Nations, New York

Eleanor Nicolaides is a current BA History and Ancient History with EEA (Employment Experience Abroad) student at the University of Exeter, Streatham campus. For her EEA placement she was an intern at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cyprus to the United Nations in New York City.

Eleanor Nicolaides in the Security Council Chamber of the United Nations New York City

This was the best experience of my entire life, and it is really hard to summarise in one post, so I will do my best!

I found out about this internship years ago, through Nepomak, an organisation which aims to preserve Cypriot cultural roots and identity by bringing together young Cypriots in different branches all over the world. They do this through organising events, and running language and cultural tours in Cyprus in the summer. Other opportunities they provide are internships with the Government of Cyprus, the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation, and the Cyprus Mission to the United Nations.

In 2014, whilst on holiday in New York, I went on a tour of the UN, and was fascinated by what I learnt, and the work that the UN has accomplished. Shortly after I found out that Nepomak offered an internship there, and ever since I had been desperate to sign up. Everything fell into place in October 2017 when Exeter offered the chance to do “Employment Experience Abroad” for the first time, and I realised that this was my chance. My application was accepted and in August 2018 I flew to New York.

“At times, I felt like I was watching history happen right in front of me.”

I was beyond nervous for my first day at the UN, however I quickly settled in. Everyone was so lovely and welcoming, and I greatly appreciate all the support they gave me over the year. During the first couple of weeks, I helped my colleagues prepare for the 73rd General Assembly – for example, by helping the Ambassador plan the President of Cyprus’ schedule for the High-Level week. During this week, my main role (much to my surprise) was to sit in on the General Debate and write this up in a report. I estimate that I saw between 70 – 80 Heads of State in this week, including: Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, and Jacinda Arden (other famous figures I saw throughout the year at the UN include Antonio Guterres, Mike Pence, Amal Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). It was an extremely surreal week. I couldn’t believe that I was already trusted enough to solely represent the country of Cyprus at the most prominent political event in the entire world. My internship had completely exceeded all expectations in just a couple of weeks.

My main role at the UN was write up reports on the meetings I attended which would then get sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These included General Assembly and Security Council meetings, conferences, humanitarian briefings, and resolution negotiations. At times, I felt like I was watching history happen right in front of me. For example, I attended an emergency Security Council meeting in November after Russia attacked Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait and took 24 Ukrainian sailors prisoner. Tensions were extraordinarily high, with Russia trying to justify their actions, and Ukraine threatening to declare martial law. Although the situation between these countries is far from resolved, these sailors were finally released back to the Ukraine this month.

I also attended European Union Coordination’s around three times a week. These meetings were fascinating, as it was a private, behind-the-scenes look at how the 28 Member States work together to achieve their common goals (the way they discussed this never ending Brexit crisis was even more interesting!). One of the most memorable meetings I had here was during the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis. Both Maduro and Guaido were sending delegations to a United Nations conference in Buenos Aires, and the EU needed to decide on a common approach on how to diplomatically act in this situation. The issue was time sensitive, yet they also had to keep in mind how to deal with this in the long term. The cooperation and I saw during these meetings was so impressive!

“Living in New York was also a dream. The city is so full of life and opportunities, with something new to discover every day.”

Living in New York was also a dream. The city is so full of life and opportunities, with something new to discover every day. I made some incredible friends there, and some of the things we did were go to: all of the classic sight-seeing (Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Central Park etc.), Broadway shows, museums (the best is the Met by far), NBC studios to watch live recordings of SNL, concerts and festivals and Instagram popups, food markets, and travel. During my year I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco, Yosemite, Miami, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Washington DC, Virginia, and Philadelphia. I am trying hard to not be too critical of Exeter this year, but it feels so much smaller and unexciting after these experiences.

I am so grateful to the University for giving me the opportunity to live and work in New York for a year. Words can never justify how much I loved it and how much I want to return. To other students, I highly recommend working abroad, as it offers so much more than studying, and will be something you won’t regret!

If you’re interested in adding an EEA year into your course, contact the College Employability and Placement Advisor for your College or email careers@exeter.ac.uk  

Teaching English in China

Natasha Lock is a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. She graduated in BA History, International Relations and Mandarin Chinese from the University of Exeter. 

Natasha Lock Yenqing Scholar at Peking University and Exeter graduate

I have been studying Mandarin Chinese for eight years and during this period I have been interested in the etymology of Mandarin, the history of China and contemporary political status of the country.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have spent the past five years back and forth from China – traveling, working and studying. I started with a family trip to China in 2013 and was fascinated by the country I had set foot in.

There seemed to be an energy here that was totally different from any other country I had been to, and a real connection between the past and the present. I followed this with a government study scholarship for short programmes (one/two months) spent in Shanghai and Nanjing during my university holidays. Then in 2016, I moved to Beijing for a year to study at Peking University. Since graduating in the summer of 2018, I have stayed in Asia, first to travel, then working for a manufacturing company based down in Southern China.

“Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning.”

Transferable skills

Teaching has been an incredible experience. It has allowed me first-hand access to see how the next generation of Chinese doctors, lawyers, academics and workers have spent their teenage education. Study pressures are both real and worrying. As a result, during my role as a teacher I’ve really tried to focus on addressing some of these issues. I try to pursue discussion-based learning, study topics that require the students to ‘think outside the box’ and do not set my students homework. I am also using my teaching experience in China to develop my Mandarin and fulfill my travel desires. There are breaks between lessons and I never work later than 5pm. This leaves a lot of time to study Mandarin, go out with friends and on the weekends and numerous national holidays, travel within China.

Teaching students in China feels like a real privilege. Whilst I am employed to teach the students, I also learn a great deal from them. Leaving school every day knowing that I’ve made a direct difference to someone’s day is extremely fulfilling and rewarding. Teaching certainly builds confidence and character. Standing in front of 50 teenagers for 4 hours each day demands lots of energy, organisation and drive.

The world famous Shanghai skyline

After the programme 

Since 2019 I have been a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. The Yenqing Academy is an elite fellowship China Studies master’s programme that is fully funded. It takes 125 scholars from all over the world and teaches them in both core modules and their selected academic discipline. The Academy also organizes field studies to culturally, economically, and socio-politically significant regions within China.

The Yenqing Academy programme will be an intense two years of study concerning the International Relations of China and will facilitate my wish to become a more knowledgeable scholar and a better Mandarin speaker. In the past, I have found studying International Relations within China and from a Sino perspective to be absolutely fascinating. Furthermore studying this subject in a country so essential to International Relations is a unique privilege. Studying about China within the nation state has previously been extremely interesting, as aspects of politics were analysed from a Sino perspective and outside of class I could see the very case studies that were being utilized within my course.

Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning. Following the masters programme at Peking University, I wish to pursue PhD level studies. It is imperative that leading Sino specialists understand China’s past, present and future – looking at these behaviours through both Chinese and international perspectives. Subsequently I hope to use what I have learned throughout my career in academia or diplomatic consultancy. This balance between Chinese and international perspectives will be essential to bridge the gap between academic research and international policy-making.

Find out more about the programmes offered by Teach English In China or email info@teach-english-in-china.co.uk

Getting into Radio

Annie Tricks graduated from the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, with a 1st in BA Drama in 2018. She’s currently working as Campaign Executive at Global, and hosts The Grad Pod  

Annie Tricks, Exeter alum, Campaign Executive at Global, and podcaster

Whilst at University I threw myself into the societies. I always loved learning new skills and meeting new people, and many of the societies at Exeter provided this. In my First Year I remember throwing myself in perhaps a bit too much, but that’s always a good thing as you can work out what you’re truly interested in. One of my big loves were the three Xmedia societies, particularly Xpression, the student radio station. While growing up, radio was always in the background, but in my life Drama had always been in the foreground which is why I chose to study it at university. Nevertheless, the thought of getting involved in radio intrigued me, so I signed up to Xpression at the Freshers Fair.

Joining Xpression was one of the best steps I took during my time at Exeter. Not only was it great to learn how to control a radio desk and make my own radio show, but I also met so many interesting and exciting people from different degrees, who have now become my best friends. In my First Year I mainly worked on Xpression because I found it really enjoyable. I loved music, so got involved in the music team conducting interviews and helping out at various events. However, at the end of First Year I realised that I loved it more than a hobby, and began to consider it becoming my career.

“…there are parallels in terms of creativity and organisation which I learnt from my course. However the biggest contribution towards where I am now from my university life has to be Xpression.”

I knew radio was really hard to get into, and thought I had better start early, so I emailed a lot of local stations asking if I could get some work experience. This was really key in terms of getting to where I am now, as I threw myself into lots of different roles: promoting on the streets for Radio Exe, volunteering at events for the BBC, shadowing shows, writing bulletins, and editing interviews for Phonic FM. I tried to do as much as I could, as well as doing a lot for Xpression itself whilst being on the committee. I was then very fortunate to be given the contact details of a producer at Heart, and after getting in touch with him I landed a four month internship beginning at the start of Third Year.

The internship was extremely useful in terms of gaining experience. Not only did I learn how Global (who own Heart) worked in terms of programming, but I was involved in coming up with show ideas, editing promotional trails that went on air, and event managing when I helped out at their big Christmas Fair. I made many great contacts also, which enabled me to get where I am now; working for Global in Birmingham.

Although I’m not on the programming side yet, I’m very fortunate to be working for such a big radio company, especially straight out of University. I found out I got my job two days before Graduating which was incredible. I currently work as Campaign Executive, which involves helping coordinate various campaigns on air and online e.g. competitions, sponsorships etc.

Despite my job perhaps being far from my degree, there are parallels in terms of creativity and organisation which I learnt from my course. However the biggest contribution towards where I am now from my university life has to be Xpression. The support was amazing, and I would highly recommend anyone to join and throw themselves into such an incredibly encouraging environment.

Starting a Career in International Politics

Jack Berringer graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with BA Politics in 2014. He’s currently a Parliamentary Assistant at the European Parliament, Brussels. 

Jack Berringer – Exeter graduate and current Parliamentary Assistant at the European Parliament, Brussels.

Since graduation I have been working in the European Parliament, first as an intern before being promoted to an assistant. I initially worked for an MEP from the East Midlands region focusing on regional development policy, which interested me after studying on the Penryn campus and seeing how the funding had such a positive impact on the local area. My MEP was then elected to the House of Commons in the 2017 General Election and I moved to another MEP, this time representing the South West, working on environmental policy. It’s a fascinating policy area as it’s so broad and you’re constantly learning new things and seeing the ways in which technology is being used to combat the effects of climate change. Also in the past year I’ve started studying part-time at KU Leuven for a Master’s degree in Economics and will complete my studies there in June 2019.

“For anybody wishing to pursue a career in politics abroad I would simply recommend that you throw your name into the hat and go for it… You have absolutely nothing to lose from sending in an application and, if you are lucky enough to be offered an interview or job, just take it one step at a time.”

For me working in EU affairs was a natural progression having studied politics and written my dissertation on the EU accession process. I had also always harboured the ambition of working abroad, so as soon as I saw the opportunity to move to Brussels I jumped at the chance. The thing I find most enjoyable about my job is being in a truly cosmopolitan work environment. On an average day I will speak to people from perhaps 10 different countries and it’s always interesting to talk about what’s happening in our respective countries and the effects that these events are having. For me it’s also very cool to be able to say that you work on creating EU legislation.

My favourite thing about studying at Exeter was the people I found myself surrounded by, both students and lecturers alike. Being on the Penryn campus and having a smaller group of students added to the experience. I think we bonded massively as a group and the fact that lecturers were able to perhaps give us a bit more face time individually, if required, was also a major benefit.

Looking at the league tables I knew that Exeter was one of the 10 best universities at which to study Politics when I was applying, and that was naturally something I considered. When visited the campus I was really impressed by how modern the teaching facilities and accommodation was and this just reinforced my feeling that I wanted to study there if I got the necessary grades.

“It may sound obvious but write your thesis on an area you would like to work in. It means you may get the opportunity to meet people in the industry and make contacts prior to graduation…”

For anybody wishing to pursue a career in politics abroad I would simply recommend that you throw your name into the hat and go for it, no matter how nervous you might be about the idea of leaving family/friends behind. You have absolutely nothing to lose from sending in an application and, if you are lucky enough to be offered an interview or job, just take it one step at a time. Living in a country forces you out of your comfort zone, no matter how extroverted you are, and when you add to that the fact that you can learn other languages which improves your employability and experience other cultures I really cannot see a downside.

In the future I hope to continue working in the environmental side of business, hopefully using the Master’s degree I am studying for, and move to another country before coming back to the UK.

It may sound obvious but write your thesis on an area you would like to work in. It means you may get the opportunity to meet people in the industry and make contacts prior to graduation and, even if your dissertation does not require meeting with people from industry, it will show your interest to potential employers when looking for a job further down the line.

Passion, Ability and Confidence – a Career in Law

Andréa Hounto graduated from the University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, with BA (Hons) History and Politics in 2016. She’s currently a Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg. 

Andrea Hounto, Exeter (Tremough Campus) Graduate and current Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg

After graduating from Exeter, I went on to do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL, also known as the law conversion course). I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the law school (BPP), which covered the majority of my course fee. I then obtained a place on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and decided to do an integrated Master of Laws (LL.M). Upon successful completion of the BPTC, I’ll be getting called to Bar of England and Wales. I’m currently undertaking a six-month internship at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, as the lucky recipient of the Hon. Sir Peter Bristow Scholarship. I was given this opportunity by my Inn of Court, who is funding me to be here. It is an amazing opportunity to develop both my legal experience and use my French language skills.

When I return to the UK, I’ll be seeking to obtain pupillage in a London-based chambers, which is the final step to qualifying as a barrister. Ultimately, I am planning to become a human rights barrister and then qualify as a judge.

“I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system.”

I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system. What I enjoy most about my work is knowing that I am using my skills to impact lives in a positive way and bring hope to those who may have lost it.

My degree put me in good stead for career at the Bar in that it developed my critical and lateral-thinking skills. I particularly enjoyed writing my third-year dissertation titled: ‘Is Margaret Thatcher the Ultimate Feminist Heroine?’, which explored the significance of Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister. Due to the largely polarized opinions of Thatcher, I was required to extract objective facts from tendentious material; a skill which will be invaluable at the Bar. Academics aside, being president of the African and Caribbean Society during my second year significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee in my third year gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.

“..being president of the African and Caribbean Society significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.”

I would advise all current students who wish to pursue a career in law, regardless of whether they want to be a barrister or a solicitor, to start their research early. Try to find out what the difference between a barrister and a solicitor is as early as possible, and then work towards building your experience in that field. Don’t worry too much about specialisms, just try to get whatever legal experience you can get your hands on. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to ascertain which areas of law you like and which areas you don’t like. I would also recommend applying for as many scholarships as possible to fund your legal studies (GDL, LPC, BPTC, LL.M etc.). Lastly, I would say: don’t let the statistics scare you. Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!

“Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!”

Volunteering is key at the beginning as you will be very inexperienced. As you build experience, you can look for paralegal roles or legal internships which will benefit you greatly when it comes to applying for pupillage (barristers) or Training Contracts (solicitors).

Go Global

Susannah Day is a Global Employability Consultant (currently on secondment), based on the Streatham Campus. She gave us the low-down on getting work experience outside the UK. 

Susannah Day, Global Employability Consultant

Students often ask me how they should start looking for work overseas, or if I know of any organisations in a certain sector or country which may be hiring. As my remit is to help you find work outside of the UK that’s an awful lot of sectors and an awful lot of countries, not to mention immigration requirements and employment laws I’m expected to know.  In most cases, as I’m sure you can imagine, I don’t know the answer but this I do know:

I think there are two approaches to finding work overseas; one is focussing on your sector of choice and seeing where it is on the rise globally, and the other is focussing on which country you want to go and then seeing how you can get there. They aren’t always the same thing. Sometimes this alone is enough to help people get started as it gives some purpose to the research.

“There are two approaches to finding work overseas; one is focussing on your sector of choice…and the other is focussing on which country you want to go and then seeing how you can get there.”

Don’t Google “How to find work overseas”. You’ll be inundated by articles, advice and offers of perfect internships in return for large sums of money. Be strategic in your job hunt.

The Global Employability website has a load of information about working overseas. It’s well worth looking at Target Jobs – Working Abroad as well and Prospects.

The Country Information section is divided into continents so you can look at North and South America, Middle East, Europe etc. separately. In most cases each country section provides information on sectors on rise and decline, chances of getting work (including visas) and some in country job websites.

Understand that immigration rules and visa restrictions exist and are implacable. There are no work arounds or quick fixes (not legal ones anyway). Understand the feasibility and likelihood of gaining work in that country based on their immigration rules, then decide whether you really truly want to invest all that time and emotion into it with potentially little chance of success.

We have alumni networks all over the world, you can find out who you may want to contact here: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/alumnisupporters/networks/international/ . They’ve volunteered to be country contacts so it’s fine to email them asking for advice and insights on how to find work in the sector/county.

I’d also encourage you to use LinkedIn, you can see where alumni are working around the world, so actively expand your network by connecting with University alumni and ask them also for ideas and tips on how to find work in your chosen sector and location. You can also see the career path they’ve taken to get where they are.

Don’t expect to jump straight to your dream job. Often it’s a series of steps involving smaller internships to gain experience in your sector, or because that’s the only visa available for that country. From there you can build up. On the flip side, don’t let this stop you applying for ‘proper jobs’ but choose these wisely and be sure you’ve answered the questions in the application form and absolutely highlighted how your skills meet their requirements.

“Always consider teaching English through TEFL or TESOL. This is one of the easiest ways to work in a non-English speaking country; once you’ve a “foot in the door” you can start looking for work and networking in your preferred sector.”

Always think; how am I going to make this application stand out from others, especially as I’m applying from overseas? Target Jobs also has a really good article on Writing Speculative Applications. Lots of students find international internships through speculative applications made via LinkedIn research.

Always consider teaching English through TEFL or TESOL. This is one of the easiest ways to work in a non-English speaking country; once you’ve a “foot in the door” you can start looking for work and networking in your preferred sector.

Finally, don’t worry if you don’t speak another language. Of course it helps, but many organisations are looking for English speakers so you can either pick up the language as you go, or enrol in tandem language classes, evening classes or use many of the online apps to help with this. Language is not a barrier.

Finding work overseas is a top down process; start at the top with the macro view researching countries, visas, sectors, companies etc. and then work down towards the micro level identifying who you may want to work for then applying speculatively to that organisation if they’re not advertising. This can make it seem like a longer process but ultimately when you do start applying to places you should be making more targeted applications with (hopefully) a higher chance of success.

If you’d like any further help you can book an appointment with the Global Careers Team by contacting the Career Zone

Launch your Career with an Internship in China

The University of Exeter has recently partnered with the British Council and InternChina to run a bespoke funded internship programme exclusively for Exeter students this summer 2018.

Mark Pettitt, an Exeter Graduate of History and Middle East Politics who spent 7 months in Shanghai with CRCC Asia (the British Council’s other partner provider of Internships in China), tells us about his experience as an intern in China and the impact it has had on his life and career so far. 

British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai’s Burns Night event

What did your particular internship entail?

I worked for the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. As part of my role, I led co-ordination and marketing of a project finance workshop on behalf of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Chamber. I also led production of a report to the Executive Committee on the Chamber’s annual events, making recommendations on how to increase profit. On top of that, I gained experience preparing marketing materials and managing internal and external communications at the Chamber. I was offered a permanent position with the Chamber upon completion of my internship.

Did you have to speak Chinese to get the job?

No, not at all. Nearly all interns spoke zero Mandarin. My placement provider offered Mandarin lessons but they were not compulsory nor did your level of Mandarin impact the ‘quality’ of your internship. Whether you made an effort learn was down to you, your natural drive and how seriously you treated your experience.

What did you enjoy most about living and working in China?

I loved how different it was to what I was used to (a small Yorkshire village and Exeter!). My experience in a huge foreign city and culture opened my eyes to the wider world and took me completely out of my comfort zone. It was a chance for me to grow personally and professionally. Meeting a diverse range of people as part of the internship and making lots of new friends (other interns and local people) with whom I still stay in touch years later was the best part of the experience. It’s an experience that has shaped me, made me stand out CV-wise and given me a huge lift in getting to where I am today career-wise.

‘Employers frequently emphasise the importance for graduates and young professionals of combining overseas experience with other transferable skills in order to maximise their employability. China is becoming an important player in the world economy, and, increasingly, careers involve an international element. In this context, helping young generations to gain experience of China and improve their cultural fluency is an excellent investment in the future.’ – British Council

Where do you work now? Would you say working in China has made you more employable?

I would absolutely say my time in China has made me more employable. But only because I took it seriously and went with the goals of growing personally and professionally as well as having a great time and experiencing a new culture. The travel, exploration and enjoyment is important. But so too is making the most of the internship. I was offered two jobs in China off the back of it.

I now work for the Civil Service, in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I am responsible for the design and build of a new radiological monitoring and information management digital project.

What would you say to Exeter students considering working in China?

Absolutely do it but take it seriously as that’s where you will maximise the value. It’s better not to go it alone – use an intermediary like CRCC Asia or InternChina who will find you a host company. Equally, be mindful of your expectations. You will not be placed in a massive company as you’re a student. You will likely be put into an SME (Small or Medium Enterprise) and in many ways this is better as if you do well it will afford you more responsibility and allow you to shout about your experience more on your CV. Future employers want to know what you have done and achieved, not the names of the organisations you have worked at.

Feeling inspired by Mark’s story? Ready to apply for an internship in China this summer? The deadline for applications to Exeter’s China Internship Programme 2018 is 18 March. Industries covered include engineering, law, business, architecture, translation and many more.

Finding a Common Purpose

Natasha Lock is studying BA History, International Relations & Chinese at the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus. 

Natasha Lock

From the 5th-11th January 2018, I was lucky enough to be selected for the Common Purpose Programme hosted at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Here, amongst 30 other students from Exeter, I was given an insight into leadership skills, the city of Sharjah and Emirati culture, and how to ensure that cities of the future are both inclusive and sustainable.

Boundaries are everywhere: between sectors, specialisations, geographies, generations, backgrounds and beliefs. Common Purpose aims to support future leaders who can work across these boundaries, who are therefore ultimately more likely to solve problems and create change. In the ever competitive world for graduates seeking employment, it is no longer enough to rely solely on one’s IQ. Common Purpose aims to show the importance of having EQ (Emotional Intelligence) – the ability to connect with people on a social level, and CQ (Cultural Intelligence) – the ability to work with people that are not like you. It demonstrates the necessity of being able to successfully lead people of a different culture, race, age, gender and religion.

Common Purpose students at the American University of Sharjah

The programme was hosted over four days and provided ice-breakers, pitching sessions, guest speaker sessions, trips to businesses and debates. On the penultimate day, we were arranged into groups of six and asked to design a product that would help Sharjah to become a more inclusive and smart city. We were given 24 hours to come up with an idea, design a poster, make a video, produce a written outline of our concept and finally give a 3 minute pitch to three senior members of local companies followed by a Q&A session. I found this particularly memorable, not only because of my wonderful group who worked so well together, but also because of the incredible ideas that every other group developed in such a short space of time.

“Common Purpose aims to support future leaders who can work across boundaries, and who are therefore ultimately more likely to solve problems and create change.”

Common Purpose programmes are based on the idea that cross boundary leaders need to experience the world and the people around them. With this in mind, the programme organised visits to four start-up businesses in both Dubai and Sharjah. Here, we were able to meet with both local and international entrepreneurs and get some insights into the core skills required to start your own business, the most important being resilience. Despite the difference from business to business all of the entrepreneurs agreed that starting your own company is undoubtedly the best way to get a grasp and understanding of enterprise, corporate structures and themselves.

Aside from the programme, we had the opportunity to explore Sharjah and Dubai in our free time. We quad-biked in the Al Qudra desert, went up the tallest building in the world and went to the world’s largest aquarium. Every Common Purpose trip takes place in a different city – previous trips have been located in Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Philadelphia and Melbourne – allowing for the unparalleled opportunity to explore a city on a scholarship funded trip.

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world

The Common Purpose trip to the American University of Sharjah was a huge learning experience and one that I will value throughout my academic and career progression.

For students reading this and wondering how they can enhance their enterprise skills and employability, here would be my two recommendations:

Local: Get involved with Think Try Do at Exeter University! The team offer sessions to enhance enterprise skills and provide support to students who are engaging with their own entrepreneurial activity. You can find a list of their current sessions and more information on the following link: https://mycareerzone.exeter.ac.uk/workgroups/student-enterprise-support

Global: Apply for the Common Purpose trips! This is a great way of networking with like-minded people, building on your soft skills and having a taster of life in a different city. You can find more information about Common Purpose here: http://commonpurpose.org

Careers in Nature Conservation

Louise Mason is Second Year Geography with a proficiency in Spanish at the University of Exeter. She talked to us about how she enhanced her skills and experience with the Careers in Nature Conservation Programme. 

The beautiful and diverse Portuguese landscape
The beautiful and diverse Portuguese landscape

Being a Geographer with a love for nature and the environment, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the Careers in Nature Conservation Programme. After applying online and attending an interview (my first one!), I was excited to find out that I had successfully gained a place. I didn’t fully know what to expect, but I hoped that the experience would aid me in deciding what I want to do in the future, and to develop some skills to help me achieve this.

We arrived in Mitra, Portugal a day late after flight complications, but everyone was so friendly that we slotted into the group without any issues. Our experience was split around a mixture of employability classes, employer presentations and practical activities on the montado. The montado landscape was the focus of our nature-related investigation; its mix of scrubland and forest providing us with a field space rich in biodiversity.

Our sessions included valuable employability skills such as learning about presentation skills, CVs and having a growth mindset, whilst the interactions with employers gave us some really useful information about the importance of networking and examples of how people in the industry had achieved their career goals.

“Not only have I reaffirmed my interest in nature conservation and learnt some valuable skills for my future career, I had a great time laughing and learning with individuals, now friends, from across Europe.”

During the week we visited the nearby city of Évora, where we had a look around one of the impressive university buildings, before having a delicious lunch on the campus. We then had a session about entrepreneurship and the business canvas model where we worked in groups to plan a business, taking into account some of the key principles we had learnt beforehand.

Exploring the montado
Exploring the montado

Working with a range of experts throughout the week, particularly in employability, insects and birds, the week culminated in three nature walks led by us trainees. In our group of three, one person from the UK, Hungary and Portugal, we planned our audit task based on our chosen creature, grasshoppers, with some help from a species expert (thanks Gergő!). Being the last walk of the day we had to contend with some ‘disruptive participants’, but it went well, meaning in the afternoon we could all relax and enjoy our last evening in Portugal.

Much to my excitement one of the project trainers from SPEA (Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds) agreed to take us back to Évora in the afternoon where we explored the Chapel of Bones, the Cathedral and had some time with the group. Our meal times throughout the week were also a great time to get to know the other trainees and the trainers, not to mention tucking into the delicious food that was prepared for us every day. This was also a great time to try and learn a few Portuguese phrases from the other participants who were very helpful, and kindly put up with my terrible pronunciation!

If a trip to Portugal was not enough, I have come away from this week having developed my skill sets in numerous areas. Not only have I reaffirmed my interest in nature conservation and learnt some valuable skills for my future career, I had a great time laughing and learning with individuals, now friends, from across Europe.

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How you can get involved If you’re interested in participating in this project, you can apply to take part in the Participative Management Training programme that will be running in south Devon in August 2017.  You’ll also get to work with students from Hungary and Portugal and work with the trainers I worked with in Portugal. ex.ac.uk/cinc

You can find out more about the project and access a lot of learning materials by logging into the project website  http://careersinconservation.elte.hu/moodle/login/

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