Is the ISI College good for internships

15th August 2019

Shanghai is considered the financial center of China and is one of the economically strongest cities in Asia. Reason enough to start an internship here and feel the pulse of the city. But how do you best organize an internship in Shanghai or in any other city in China?

On my very first day in Shanghai, almost three years ago, it was above all the skyscrapers in the financial center of Luijiazui that fascinated me. Now my hometown Hamburg is not the smallest light in the world either, but Hamburg cannot keep up with the high-gloss polished floor-to-ceiling window facades. What would it be like to work in one of these buildings, which are up to 600 meters high? Since the beginning of August I can finally experience it every day. I am looking forward to the opportunity to do an internship at a southern German automobile manufacturer for six months and at this point I would like to give you something about the preparation steps for the internship.

The elephant in the room: the visa and the money

The most important topic when it comes to internships in China is definitely the visa. A lot has changed here in recent years and, as far as I know, it is not possible to do an internship as an international student. That means, do you want to do an internship, you have to be enrolled at a Chinese university for at least one semester abroad and the university must allow you to do an internship. There may be other options, but I haven't heard from them yet.

As a full-time master's student at a Chinese university in the field of international business, an internship is even mandatory, which is why I had absolutely no problems with the visa issue. As a master’s student, I have a Chinese residence permit in my passport, which has been extended by the police to include a restricted work permit for the internship. Restricted, as I am not allowed to receive a real salary during the internship. Rather, it is customary in China to pay an intern an expense allowance during an internship. But you mustn't have any illusions here. Some interns have to settle for € 100 or nothing at all. The usual amount is RMB 3000, the equivalent of a little more than € 300.

This manageable compensation is likely to blow the budget for one or the other German student. For this reason, the DAAD offers grants for an internship in combination with a language course. Friends of mine are scholarship holders of this program and are very satisfied with it. In addition to financial support, the DAAD organizes company visits so that the scholarship holders can get in touch with and gain insights into various companies on site.

How do you find an employer for the internship?

The internship search is of course individual for everyone and also in Shanghai depends heavily on your qualifications, your ideas and, crucially, on your network. Chinese society is relationship-driven, which also and above all applies to the world of work. So if you want to work in a Chinese company, an application from Germany will be difficult. The situation is different for international companies that are also actively looking for interns on portals such as LinkedIn.

Do you need to be able to speak Chinese fluently?

Chinese is not absolutely necessary for every internship in cities like Shanghai. International companies in particular also offer internships in English. I am now fluent in everyday Chinese, but I am still light years away from a working level. But everyday Chinese also makes things much easier, because not every Chinese in a company can speak English or is used to it.

Even if an internship in China is not easy to organize, you should try your luck! After all, it is the second largest economy in the world!