The Japanese man sat in my company’s meeting room (which doubled as the interns’ office) and asked, “What language should we use, Chinese or English?” With an Australian, an American, and two Mainland Chinese participants, the question was reasonable enough. Although just an observer of that meeting, I was amazed. By seeing the diversity of four nationalities all working together to solve a problem, I could experience the reality of today’s business world.
This meeting occurred three months into my internship at Barrington and one month after my college graduation. My time in China and as an intern with Barrington was eye opening for me and beneficial for Barrington.
How my internship helped me…
I had learned a lot about China from classes, but during my internship with Barrington, I lived with a Chinese coworker and his wife. That three-month experience significantly increased my understanding of and appreciation for China. If I go back to China in a business context, I will know much more about the Chinese people because of this experience through Barrington.
From the first moment at Barrington, I was propelled into the world of real, purposeful business. Of course I cannot sum up everything this internship gave me, but I was learning practical international business from the beginning.
My internship gave me three full months in China with some expenses already paid for by the company. For example, they paid for my housing and provided some meals. I had been in China for three months as a student, but the internship allowed me to stay three months longer.
I learned the importance of language acquisition (my American boss was great with Chinese), of managing lovingly (my American boss is the only reason some workers are still there), and of cooperating successfully.
I also developed practical skills. Although a business student, I wrote my first business plan sitting in my Xiamen, China “office” as part of a licensing application for Barrington. I did not know how to write one, but with the inspiration of necessity, I produced my first.
How my internship helped Barrington…
English comes naturally for me, but not for 99% of Barrington's employees. Barrington has one native English speaker, and four well-trained non-native speakers. Although well trained, they would have had difficulty working with the depth of English that I could do, and do without thinking. For example, the English aspect of writing the business plan was easy for me, simply because I was born that way. So adding another native English speaker to the Barrington team was a real benefit to their operations.
I was able to make my boss’s life much smoother. I would spend a day or two researching, then condense the important information into thirty minutes. I benefited from learning the information, and my boss benefited from the knowledge without having to spend two full days working to acquire it.
One advantage interns provide relates to consulting. At Barrington, I could provide an outside perspective, and I used that perspective to give ideas on how to improve our websites and brand image.
I think my three month internship was perfect. I definitely got a better sense for China and have much more knowledge about working overseas. Also, Barrington was able to use my skills, which are not readily available to them. I would definitely recommend that students take international business internships and that companies offer those internships. Both will benefit.