Why did you decide to intern abroad with Absolute Internship in Shanghai?
Rebecca: I travelled to Shanghai around eight years ago now for only a few days, I absolutely loved the city, it was so high tech even then I always wanted to go back. As China’s economy is growing at such a rapid speed there are so many opportunities for young people to get a great head start with their career in comparison to their home country. In my final year of university I was researching jobs and internships for the next year and came across Absolute Internship. It was the first international internship company that offered creative work placements, including photography, graphic design and art gallery placements.
This was unique as most only cater to the business sector which is what Shanghai is most known for; many do not realize the huge creative opportunities can be made in the city too. The program directors were very helpful with any questions I had prior to committing to the program, the accommodation provided was great and there were a lot of activities provided to see the city as well as trips to neighboring cities around Shanghai, it was easy to chose Absolute.
What made this experience unique and special?
Rebecca: The people I met made the experience the most special to me. Meeting people from all over the world is always great and you can learn so much from each other. I hadn’t expected that the social aspect would be so important; I was so focused on what work was going to be like and the challenges I would face there. Yet as we were all in the same situation in a foreign country almost none of us spoke the language it made us rely on each other for support. Experiencing the city with my new friends has been the most memorable for me, from getting hopelessly lost, ladies nights, finding great bars and restaurants; these were some of my best memories of Shanghai.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Rebecca: The experience has personally impacted me by making me a better traveler, more tolerant and adaptable. It was often challenging in China not speaking the language and the many cultural differences but experiencing it for an extended period of time and really made me feel like I was a part of the city. Professionally I have a cv with international work experience which will set me apart from most and show that I am willing to go the extra mile and am really committed to my career. Working in a large company like Time Out gave me invaluable experience in the industry, which prepared me for the demands of the workplace.
What was the highlight of your experience?
Rebecca: The highlight of my experience was after a very long day going to several different locations for shoots around Shanghai in 40 degree heat I was asked to shoot a bar which would feature in the drinks section of the magazine. It was last minute, I was tired and after a long walk from the closest metro station I finally arrived at Magpie. Magpie was a cocktail bar that had only been open for a few months, a tiny little place in the middle of a suburban street in the French concession with tables and chairs on the footpath. It was so charming I liked it before I even went inside. As I was setting up my tripod the owner Jackie came to meet me on the street and gave me a warm welcome and his card. As I took pictures of the shop front he came back out again with a cocktail for me to try as well as some chili peanuts. It was really generous and friendly of him and great for me to relax with a cocktail on a Friday afternoon! Jackie was the most hospitable Chinese person I met, the kind that you only get in a small off the beaten track place. The red interior with vintage pin-up posters and fantastic happy hour cocktails made this my favorite place of the city, great people, great drinks and a place you would only find if someone told you.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Shanghai?
Rebecca: My best piece of advice would definitely be to have an open mind, not only about your work placement but about the city itself. I found that a lot of people struggled with the cultural differences of the Chinese and the chaos of the city. No one in cars will wait for you as you are crossing the road, people spit, the lack of personal space on the metro in peak hour. But it all adds to the charm of the city, as soon as you stop comparing it to home/ the west you will enjoy yourself a whole lot more. Shanghai and China will never be western or like home and shouldn’t be, you have to love it for what it is and what you can learn from it. I loved how different it was, the controlled chaos on the streets was so interesting to see everyone lives in such close proximity to each other and they enjoy their life and make it work.