Last week, all Western Academy of Beijing students had to do a one-week internship as part of the World of Work (WoW) program. Instead of going to school, students spent five days experiencing what it’s like to work.
Students went to a wide range of workplaces. Some went to the Danish Embassy, while others taught elementary school kids, interned at law firms and hospitals, helped out at hotels and restaurants, assisted a professional balloon artist, and even flew out to diving resorts in the Philippines.
It all started in 2007, when a teacher from New Zealand, Faye Cowin, had the idea to give students an opportunity to experience what post-university work was like. Back then, WAB was a small school with only 30 to 40 students per grade.
Now, about 99 percent of WAB students attend university after high school. But during that time, not everyone did; some students went to work directly after graduating high school, which is why the teacher thought that the program would be a valuable experience for many. In addition, it’s not common for students to do internships and gain work experience in Beijing because it’s simply not part of the culture.
As part of the WoW program, students have to write a resume and cover letter and contact potential employers to set up an interview, in addition to doing the internship itself.
After interning at True Run Media for one week (the company that produces both beijingkids and the Beijinger), I think that the WOW program is fantastic, not only because it allows students to get a glimpse of what working is like, but also because it can give them a better idea of what they may or may not want to do in the future.
Through the internship, I’ve learned a lot about writing and have had to practice a lot of important skills. Last week, I went to few different places in Beijing to interview people for magazine articles were assigned to me.
I went to Chaoyangmen to interview the manager of the karaoke place, Party World, and Nanluogu Xiang to interview the owner of Plastered T-Shirts, a well-known local business.
Due to the fact I had to commute long distances by myself (I live in Shunyi), I learned how to use the subway system extremely well. I’ve also improved my interpersonal and interviewing skills. In addition to this, I’ve had to practice my language skills, since one of my interviews was done completely in Chinese.
The fact that I had to go out to new places and meet new people helped me adopt a more open-minded attitude, especially towards the people and places in Beijing.
Throughout the internship, I gained a better understanding of journalism, specifically in the areas of interviewing and magazine/blog writing. The experience helped me solidify my interest in writing and fueled my passion for journalism.
If I were to give some advice to the future 10th graders doing this program, I would say “Keep an open mind,” because you can learn more that way. Also, if you take your internship seriously and put more effort into it, you’ll definitely gain more.
Even if you find that you don’t enjoy what you have to do and realize you don’t want pursue this profession in the future, it’s still a good experience because you can exercise your strengths and weaknesses, as well as learn useful skills that are transferable to life.
Talia Jin is a Grade 10 student at the Western Academy of Beijing. She is passionate about writing, has self-published a poetry book, and co-wrote a novel with a fellow student. Her other interests include tennis, songwriting, and visual arts.
Photos by Ellis Friedman (1) and Talia Jin (2 and 3)