My Co-op in China

My Co-op in China

By: Jacky Zhang
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Jacky is a fourth year Business Student who spent his co-op in Beijing China.  Read his interview to discover what his co-op abroad was like.  Jacky covers preparing for the work term, work life, and living abroad.


1. What made you decide to do International Co-op?

Many reasons. The first was that my parents lived in China; therefore I thought I could be closer to them. Secondly, I hoped to get some experience working there, as everyone believes China is the next big economical center of the world. Lastly, although I was born in China, I left the country when I was very young. Therefore, I haven’t had a chance to fully discover the culture there. Through this trip I wished to see more of China, and how much it had change since I had left.

2. How did you find your international position? (Self-directed, Symplicity, local search, etc…) 


3. What do you think helped you get the job?

Study the role that you’ll perform and practice answering general interview questions. From what I heard later on, I impressed my boss with my fast reaction to the interview questions and gave the impression of someone that had a plan for the future.

4. How did you prepare to live and work abroad?

I believe you must have an open mind when it comes to moving to an unfamiliar country. I did my share of research in regards to travelling, but in terms of living, I just had to expect the unexpected and overcome any challenges that came my way. Therefore, right before I left, I had one rule in mind: only bring the necessities. Anything else may be extra burden when it comes to settling in.

5. How did SFU Co-op/SFU WIL prepare you for your work term abroad? 

The BIL exercises opened me up to many possible problems that I may face when I got to my work place. They also taught me things that I should be prepared for when I am in a different and unfamiliar environment.


6. What did you do as a Business Development Officer? (Day to day tasks, general experience, etc…)

My work comes down to two things: Coordination and Communication. I would help with some daily administrative tasks such as coordinating meetings for my boss and preparing PowerPoint presentations for his meetings. I was also put on a virtual project team with co-workers in Germany to prepare business proposals for Headquarters’ approval. Lastly, I was tasked to explore new market opportunities and cost saving ideas that could be contributed to the divisional growth initiative. 

7. How did you find it working in a different country? (Similarities/differences, language, etc…)

In the beginning I thought there would be lots of differences, since it was a European company in China (completely different than the North American culture). However, when I got there I realized it was completely westernized. As the official language of the company was English, every email and document was published in English. I guess I was lucky, as the whole culture of the company almost made me felt like I was back in Vancouver.


8. Did you receive any financial aid from SFU? Did you receive financial aid from other places?

Yes, I did receive the International Co-op Award each semester.

9. Students might think an international co-op is all work. Did you get to do other activities?

Tons! I met several international co-op students through Symplicity and I organized many trips with them, such as to Chengde, the summer palace of the late Qing Dynasty, and to Qinhuangdao, the eastern end of the great wall where it extend a little bit into the ocean. 

10. What was your favourite food in your city / country?

The food culture in China was so rich! Although this is probably unoriginal, my favorite food in Beijing was the famous Peking Duck.

11. What was the best thing about the city / country you worked in?

The mixture of the old and new is what I loved about Beijing. Unlike Shanghai, which is known to be a completely westernized city, Beijing kept some of its traditional heritage while mixing with a hint of modern atmosphere. One example was one night, I was walking by an antique looking house with some friends thinking it was just an old residential housing. However, the door was open with neon lights indicating it was a bar. When you go to the inside, western rock music was pumping in the background as lights were flashing. Both the locals and foreigners were speaking fluent Mandarin and were conversing and drinking to the music.  


12. What was your most memorable moment?

The most memorable moments were probably the “field trips” I took while I was working at Siemens. I went to visit a logistic hub for a courier company called SF express, the biggest private courier service company in China (I ordered an item online at 9pm the night before, and the package got to my office at 11am the next day at a distance from Vancouver to Winnipeg, they are AMAZING!). I also went to visit the factory where they build China’s high speed trains. These trains can travel up to 350km/h and if implemented in North America, you could get from Vancouver to San Francisco in 5 hours. Lastly, I went to visit Beijing Airport’s Baggage Handling system, the largest airport in the world in terms of passenger volume, handling more than 80 million passengers a year. 


13. Has this experience changed your career or educational goals? How has this work term fit into your SFU Co-op experience as a whole?

It definitely did. Before Siemens, I believed every end goal of a corporation was to maximize profit. That was also how I thought a business should operate. However, working at Siemens changed that perspective. At Siemens, I saw how dedicated the company was to making people’s lives easier in the future. And that is why I want to continue working at Siemens, to use my education and contribute and give back to society.

14. If you could describe your international experience in one word, what would it be?


15. What is next for you?

I was rehired back into Siemens and am now working as a Business Development Officer for the Rail Automation Department in Beijing.

16. If you could give one piece of advice to students who are thinking about International Co-op, what would it be?

Go explore! There are many exciting things out there. Surround yourself in a new environment. Try out new food, go on an adventure to find new places, travel to nearby cities for the weekend. You’ll be amazed at how many new things you can learn outside of your work place. And of course, stay safe!

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Posted on August 18, 2014