During the months of April and May 2015, I had the great privilege to complete a two-month internship at a Chinese law firm in Beijing, through CRCC Asia. The idea to benefit from a professional experience abroad had crossed my mind a few months earlier. When it became clear that I wanted to pursue an internship abroad, I immediately chose China. What had emanated from some research because of my curiosity became an ongoing learning experience during those two months that I will never regret!
I applied to CRCC Asia because, after researching other internship placement options, it seemed to me that the CRCC Asia Program was wide-ranging enough to offer me the opportunity to develop an advanced understanding of the innovative way law is practiced in China, with a privileged glance on the fundamental aspects of international business. China has the world’s fastest-growing economy and is undergoing what has been described as a second industrial revolution. China is one of the world’s top exporters and is attracting record amounts of foreign investment. To be introduced on a practical basis to the main legal issues arising from the globalisation of the world economy and to gain some experience delivering international standards of excellence in a stimulating unique environment, I knew that that internship with the CRCC Asia program was the key.
CRCC Asia provided me with the opportunity to complete my internship in a Chinese law firm consisting of more than 200 legal professionals and considered as one of the oldest and largest private full-service partnership law firms in China. My department specialized in facilitating legal services to multinationals, domestic companies, and individuals for both inbound and outbound investment. As an intern, I drafted and amended legal research documents, performed market research and sector analysis, attended contract meetings with colleagues and potential international clients, and practiced my presentation and interpersonal skills by briefing my supervisor on my research and individual projects. I really felt like part of the team!
Thirdly, thanks to CRCC Asia, during the very first days, I learnt the difference between visiting another country and living there. In fact, it was even refreshing to be destabilized from my usual environment. It was also good to be able to lean on someone who knows the place for any enquiries I had regarding the attractions, public transportation, fake money or fake alcohol, and cultural differences to pay attention to. With an amusing quiz testing our knowledge on China’s demographic and economic portraits, Sheree and Gogo, our two Program Managers, introduced us to this big city’s survival tips. How do we use our transportation cards? How do we read directions on bus stops since they are only in Chinese characters? How do we give business cards (yes, it matters a lot!)? All of this was eased thanks to these two friendly women who made us comfortable to ask questions – even the most ridiculous ones – from day one.
Also, if you have never been to China, the first thing that will strike you upon arrival is how you definitely need more Mandarin than “Nihao” and “Xie Xie” to get around in Beijing. In Western countries, we can easily find people with a minimal comprehension of English, and if not, it is quite possible to jabber some Italian or Portuguese thanks to our basic knowledge of Latin idioms. However, in Beijing, understanding each other is a massive challenge! Fortunately, with CRCC Asia, some Mandarin classes are included.
It is undoubtedly a well-structured program with constant support for your wellbeing, from the day you apply to the moment you will come back to your country. However, don’t believe that, because of that, you won’t have time to visit the city! First, the accommodation where all the CRCC interns lived was excitingly located in the District 798, where we can find several art pieces from Chinese artists. This area had such a modern energy! On our second day there, we visited the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, which was organized by CRCC. Catch a cab and quickly you can be in Sanlitun, the district that could be in any other international city with its infinite futurist towers and its trendy bars full of expatriates. On our second weekend in Beijing, we were offered the opportunity to climb the Great Wall and to camp by it for a night. You cannot go to Beijing for an extended period of time without seeing the Beijing Acrobatics Show, a classic of the Chaoyang Theatre, since the history of acrobatic shows in China has been existent for more than two thousand years. We saw it as well, courtesy of CRCC.
Finally, we also had the opportunity to meet other expatriates and feel like, as interns, we were part of the whole Beijing young expatriates community. If some cultural or business event for expatriates was held, CRCC Asia never failed to invite us. I performed some community service, attended networking events held by the British Chamber of Commerce, and even assisted to a Seminar at the Residence of the Ambassador of New Zealand. If these activities were incredibly intrinsically enriching, they were also great opportunities to meet like-minded young professionals and students from around the globe, to develop a lasting network of business connections, and, of course, to establish treasured new friendships.
Considering everything I gained, my experience with CRCC Asia undeniably provided me with everything I needed…and more. What I wanted to acquire from this internship program was the ability to run into unfamiliar situations with confidence. I did get that confidence; however, what I did not know before leaving Canada is that, thanks to CRCC, Beijing is now a place that I can call home.