As an intern with CRCC Asia, one of the words I hear flying around the most is “investment”. CRCC Asia is not typically a free programme and most interns here have spent around £2000 to have the opportunity to work in China. It’s a costly programme, but as many interns say, they have parted with the cash because they want to improve their CV and are investing in creating better future prospects for themselves.
CRCC Asia is a global organisation, so interns come from all over the world. British interns are a bit luckier than the rest though. I, along with the other Brits here, am in China on scholarship provided by the British Council. The Generation UK Scheme offers a pool of funding for UK applicants which means the internship, in-country accommodation and flights are all cost-covered, meaning the programme is essentially free (in-country living costs are the only thing you have to pay for yourself). So with this in mind, I can’t really talk about my investment in the same way as the other interns, I’ve paid little money to be here. But what I can say that I have invested is emotions, and in particular, fear.
Signing up to come and work in China is not the easiest of things, and I feel confident in saying that I felt more nervous about travelling here than any other place I have been to. China has never ranked too highly among places that I wanted to visit because it never seemed quite exotic or free enough for my liking. I was influenced by the suspect politics of China and thought that a place where Facebook is banned is not the place for me. My decision to come to China was much less because I really wanted to experience this country, but more because the opportunity was hanging on front of me and I would feel like a fool not to take it.
These pre-departure nerves followed me all the way to China. I remember looking over Beijing as my flight was preparing to land, feeling a panic and questioning what the hell I am doing – It’s smoggy and grey and I don’t know Chinese and I hear they eat brain! And actually it’s all true, they do eat brain, however, China didn’t turn out to be half as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, coming to China has been one of the best experiences of my life.
In two months I have lived the crazy city of Beijing, battling through the hectic rush hour, living the 9 to 6, eating random foods and feeling like I am going to die in the fastest taxi ride of my life. I have visited numerous temples, climbed the Great Wall of China, completed a wonderful internship at Thirst, visited some insane mountains and seen the futuristic city of Shanghai. I’ve watched the sunset on a beautiful Beihai park, I’ve partied past dawn, I’ve made great friends in work colleagues and fellow interns, and proved to myself that I can catapult into rural China alone with zero language skills and survive (Zhangjiajie cannot beat me!). I’ve been terrified at various points throughout this trip, but fear is a short-term emotion and never has it ruined my experience.
Opportunities are abundant and there are more tangible schemes out there than people realise. Too often money is the reason we can’t do the things which will benefit or further us. Not everyone can afford university fees or the costs of an unpaid internship, and being able to invest economically is not always an option. However, there are opportunities out there which don’t come at a huge cost. I lived a dream in Kenya with the government-funded ICS, and now had an invaluable two months in China on scholarship through the British Council. Programmes like ICS and Generation UK are not exclusive, so when money is no longer the obstacle to taking part, you have to question whether it is fear which is holding you back. Travelling is scary and taking on these challenges can feel like a mountain to climb, but once you face the fear and make the dive into the unknown, only then can you allow yourself an amazing experience. My wise and dear friend Ruth from Kenya once told me “if your dream doesn’t scare you then it isn’t big enough”; This is completely true and is something to live by. It’s easy to say no, to sit still and let opportunities pass you by. Often there is no loss in this. But there is also no gain, and I feel perhaps that too many people deprive themselves from experiencing the world out of fear.
I am so glad that I allowed myself to jump into China because my time here has been the best. It’s an experience I will never forget and I know it will help me in all I do in the future. I’d encourage every young person to do the same, to take the chance to see the world and work in it. It’s nerve-wracking, but make the jump and do what scares you. Invest the fear, because the payout is priceless!
– Jamie Baird is a Kent graduate, he studied Social Anthropology and graduated in 2014. He went to China with CRCC Asia, who are attending the University of Kent Careers Fair on 3rd November. Come and meet them and consider having an amazing experience, just like Jamie.