Vesselina Naskinova - General Business Projects in China
As a 2nd year Geography with Economics student I knew that I had to make the most of my 4 month summer holidays. What I really wanted was to gain valuable work experience within Management Consultancy but also have the opportunity to travel and experience a new culture.
I’d mostly travelled around Europe previously but now wanted a completely unique experience that would take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me. China had always fascinated me in terms of its economic growth and sheer diversity of culture and so I felt it was the perfect place for my cultural and learning experience.
Arriving in China
I arrived at Pudong airport after a 15 hour flight, where a member of the Projects Abroad team was waiting for me. I arrived at the apartment which I shared with three other boys – we all had our own double rooms initially then as new volunteers arrived we shared. The apartment was fully air conditioned which was a relief as the heat and humidity was nothing like I’d experienced before. My room had a balcony, washing machine and an en-suite bathroom which was extremely convenient.
The apartment had a huge living room and dining area where my flatmates and I would socialise, eat dinner together, watch films and invite other volunteers round. The kitchen was fully equipped but we never used it much as there were so many places to eat out cheaply – the street food was extremely cheap and surprisingly tasty, although it’s probably not for the squeamish or faint hearted!
The Projects Abroad staff were really accommodating – they made sure to show me around my local area, took me to my placement and were always there to answer any questions and resolve any problems I had.
My Business Placement
I interned at a small Management Consultancy in the French Concession which had to be one of my favourite districts in Shanghai. My typical day would involve waking up at 8:00am and arriving at work between 9:15 and 9:30am. My placement was only one stop on the Metro from my apartment! We had morning meetings every Monday and Wednesday, in which everyone was allocated tasks, shared their progress on their work and had the opportunity to ask questions.
My main task was to assist with writing the final report for a major project which was coming to completion. I found this very interesting as I learnt a lot about the client’s business, the frameworks used to benchmark their performance against competitors, the recommendations made to improve efficiency and the outcome and evaluation of the project. As the report was to be presented to the client my work had to be carefully presented and approved by the senior consultant who was in charge of this particular project. That meant that I had to produce countless drafts and modifications which taught me how important attention to detail was in this line of work.
Once the report was complete I was extremely satisfied that my work had directly contributed to the project and it felt rewarding to know that my work was valued. Other tasks that I did included writing training and workshop material, writing proposals for new projects, researching and writing up-to-date articles on key industries in China and compiling a supplier database.
Everyone in my office worked long hours as our work was project based which meant that you were always working towards a deadline. On average I would finish work at 8:00pm but sometimes if a deadline was near I could finish anywhere between 10:00pm and midnight. One good thing about working late was that you could order food and claim the cost on expenses – we took full advantage of the Sherpa service which allows you to order from your favourite restaurant and get it delivered!
Travelling in China
Although I worked extremely hard during the week I still made time to visit as many tourist attractions as I could. I would thoroughly recommend the revolving restaurant on top of the Pearl Tower for its amazing view and Western style buffet. Xintiandi and Tianzifang were my favourite places to visit for drinks with friends at The Bell and shopping for souvenirs. The fake markets and the fabric market were surreal experiences but don’t go before you have learned to haggle!
I had the opportunity to travel to Beijing after my placement had finished. I would highly recommend travelling around, as China is such an enormously diverse country - no two places are the same. Beijing proved to be a more traditional Chinese city compared to the Westernised Shanghai that I was used to. There were so many places to visit from Tiananmen Square to the Summer Palace, but the most iconic attraction would have to be the Great Wall of China - it was simply breath taking!
I would definitely recommend volunteering to anyone who is seeking an adventure. I feel like my experience was invaluable and I am already itching to go back. My advice to future volunteers would be to just get out there and experience it for yourself!