Kyle’s Experience in China: An Adventure of a Lifetime


Kyle’s Experience in China: An Adventure of a Lifetime

By: Jesse Choo | International Co-op Communication and Marketing Assistant
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Since its launch in 2005, the Students for Development (SFD) program has been supporting senior-level Canadian university students' participation in internships for a minimum of three months in developing countries and in emerging economies.

On behalf of International Co-op, Jesse Choo got the chance to speak to Kyle Acierno regarding his SFD experience. Kyle went on the SFD program in Summer 2012 where he worked with an organization called the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network, in China.

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

I decided to do International Co-op because I wanted to enhance my skills, improve my cross-cultural skills, improve my communication abilities, and learn from experts in other countries.

Q.    How did you find your international position?

I found the international position through the Students For Development program from the SFU International Co-op office.

Q.    Which organization did you work with? What country?

I worked with the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network located in Beijing, China.

Q.    How was your international interview unique and how did you prepare?

I prepared for the interview by becoming familiar with the organization and practicing my Chinese.

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

My connections through the SFU Geography department helped me get the job.

Q.    How did you prepare yourself to live and work abroad?

Since I have lived abroad for 8 years, I was already prepared to work abroad. However I did find the SFU International Co-op program to be very useful too.

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

Amy Lee from the SFU International Co-op office was fantastic! Not only did she continue to support me after I struggled to find a work term, she guided me through the process and kept in touch throughout my current work-term.

Q.    What did you do as an Intern?

I was a Research Assistant. My main task was to compile documents, coordinate with professors and researchers from North America, and help the Chinese Academy of Science build partnerships with North American Universities. The experience, from an International Studies student’s perspective, was excellent!

Q.    How did you find working in a different country?

Working in a Chinese environment was interesting. Everyone is allowed to take naps after lunch!

Q.    Did you face any challenges throughout the work term? How did you deal with it?

I had some issues with people slowly responding to my messages. I dealt with this challenge by being patient.

Q.    Was this your first time leaving the country or traveling by yourself?

No, this was not my first time leaving the country. I have previously lived in China for three years.

Q.    Did you receive any financial aid from SFU? Other? How has AUCC funding made your internship possible? Or how has it contributed to your internship?

The AUCC funding allowed me to live in Beijing on a sustainable budget. It has also allowed me to take part in nightly activities with my colleagues and eat on a diet that was not solely composed of fried rice.

Q.    How did you gain or improve your intercultural skills?

I learned to cooperate with individuals from 15 different countries. In addition, though I don’t consider it as an improvement in my intercultural skills, but I definitely improved my Chinese.

Q.    Students might think International Co-op is all work. Did you get time to do other activities?

Yes, I went on various weekend trips, a week-long trip to Mongolia, and I regularly played sports with my colleagues.

Q.    Favourite food in your city/country?

Dong Po Rou, Beijing Duck, and meat sticks!

Q.    What was one of your most memorable moments?

My birthday when my colleagues brought me out for a gigantic feast!

Q.    Were you able to make valuable connections/networks while abroad?

Yes, I was able to make valuable connections while abroad. I made connections with many PhD and Masters Students, my boss, and other scientists.

Q.    Has this experience abroad changed your career or educational goals?

Yes, this experience abroad has changed my future goals. I would now like to focus more on making environmental policies. My internship allowed me to communicate with people who research the daily effects of climate change and understand the tremendous consequences humans will face if we do nothing to curb our present consumption patterns.

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


Q.    What is next for you?

I will be studying at Qinghua University in September.

Q.    What would be the one piece of advice you would give to students who are thinking about International Co-op?

Check out It will help you make friends in whatever country you visit.

For more information on AUCC funding and how you can apply for a Students for Development Internship, please visit:  

Interested in an international co-op?  Visit the International Co-op page on the SFU OLC for students stories and International Spotlights and the SFU International Co-op website.

Kyle is a third year student in the International Studies Program.

Posted on January 08, 2013