Name: Ewan Patterson
University: University of Glasgow
Programme: Beijing, 2 Month Internship
Host Company: Magic Ears, NGO
My name is Ewan Patterson and I am an undergraduate Politics and Public Policy student from the University of Glasgow who recently completed a 2-month internship programme in Beijing through the Generation UK - China scheme. I first found out about the programme at a university internship fair and was immediately drawn to the opportunity of living and working abroad in an exciting and vibrant country. The fact that the British Council was providing financial help for less privileged students made this a financially viable opportunity for me too; I could not have afforded this life-changing experience without their monetary support. Through this internship, I wanted to gain an insight into working in a fast-moving and challenging environment which would help me to improve how I work under pressure, both on my own and as part of a team. Additionally, I hoped to further my knowledge of Chinese culture, society and improve my language skills. I also hoped the experience of working for an NGO abroad would boost my employability and give me a competitive edge as I apply for graduate jobs when I finish university next year.
My day-to-day life in China was very busy but greatly enjoyable. Navigating around Beijing was difficult at the start of the trip as we got lost a few times but I gained confidence using all public transport by the end of my two months away. On Tuesday evenings I attended Mandarin lessons which I found quite difficult but very useful for learning survival phrases for my time in China. I found the language barrier to be the biggest challenge for me personally; it certainly tested my communication skills and challenged me to embrace learning a new language (something which I’ve never done before). My friends and I tried to sample lots of the authentic Chinese food for dinner each night which we all really enjoyed; some of it seemed strange at first but we embraced all the local delicacies and don’t think we had a bad meal in the entire 8 weeks!
I worked for an NGO called ‘Magic Ears’ which offers very low cost online English lessons for Chinese children. The business is less than a year old but has been remarkably successful: challenging competitors’ high prices and allowing more Chinese kids to learn English regardless of their family’s economic background. My work was very varied and presented a wide range of challenges. I was tasked with conducting market research into rival firms, shooting training videos for teachers, writing new teaching materials for lessons and also helped to quadruple Magic Ears’ social media following during my time working for them.
The highlights of my time in China included visiting some fascinating and stunning places such as The Great Wall, the Summer Palace and Longqing Gorge. I was surprised that at many of these sites, my friends and I appeared to be the main attraction with lots of local people often asking us for pictures!
During my time spent in China I have embraced a completely new culture, challenged myself in a demanding work environment and made friends with people from around the world. This life-changing experience has certainly given me more confidence to pursue employment abroad in the future, whether this is in China or elsewhere. Despite the significant language barrier, I think that China is a lively and interesting place to live and I would consider returning if the opportunity presented itself in years to come. I think my participation in the Generation UK - China programme will show that I am a confident, driven and able individual who can adapt to situations outside my comfort zone. Having this experience on my CV will help me stand out from the crowd for these hugely competitive graduate positions. These past 8 weeks have also contributed to my personal professional development; I have worked independently on my own projects and advanced my interpersonal and communication skills while working in a predominantly foreign speaking office. Not many young people from less-fortunate backgrounds are able to have these incredible experiences.