My internship experience with Clean Energy Associates in Shanghai, China, was one of the most rewarding parts of my semester abroad. When I arrived, I was not sure what kind of internship opportunities would be available and when I found this internship, it was the perfect fit. Since I am still trying to figure out what I want to do in the business industry, this internship allowed me to explore the various aspects of running an international company. I learned how to use Microsoft programs such as Visio and Excel. Since I a am in an Information Systems concentration, learning these skills were very beneficial. I was also able to learn a little bit of QuickBooks, an online accounting software. Since this software is widely used with smaller companies, it was interesting to be able to directly make journal entries into QuickBooks.
One of the most exciting parts of this internship was just being able to work in a foreign country with people that did not speak English. It was very beneficial that I was able to communicate in a certain level of Chinese, but I ended up learning how to read and write a great deal of Chinese characters. I learned many norms of the Chinese culture too since most of my coworkers were native to China and did not speak many English. I definitely had to become accustomed to hearing Chinese all the time and learn to read a plethora of Chinese financial terms. One of the biggest projects I worked on while at Clean Energy Associates was vetting a potential customer. I was tasked with reviewing all of their financial statements, but they were all in Chinese and hundreds of pages long.
While working as a finance intern, I was able to learn the business practices in China such as filing taxes every month, and not being able to use any staples in their paper financial statements. There are so many foreign business practices that I would not have known about if I were not interning at a company run out of China. I was able to interact with customers and coworkers from countries all over the world, and they taught me how business is conducted in different countries. Although Clean Energy Associates is a relatively small company, their financial statements were very extensive and detailed, which allowed to me see their entire chart of accounts and how they spent their money. I learned a lot more accounting rules and practices of an international company and how expenses were paid from different bank accounts with different currencies. Working in the Finance Department really sparked more of an interest in the corporate finance industry of multinational corporations.
The business culture of China is drastically different from that of the United States. Employees do not start working until the late morning and work later into the evening. At Clean Energy Associates, the dress code and working environment were very relaxed. All of the employees were very welcoming which made it a lot easier to learn and interact with one another. I was anticipating a very professional workplace environment, but everyone was very accommodating and willing to teach us about Chinese culture and help us navigate the daily struggles of living in China.
This internship experience altered my outlook regarding working for an international company because it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I thought that the language barrier and cultural differences would prove to be very difficult to overcome, but they turned out to be advantageous. I was able to share my knowledge with people from all over the world, and vice versa, I was able to learn from them. I am so grateful that I was able to intern with Clean Energy Associates while abroad in Shanghai because it helped me grow both personally and professionally.
Monica Lee studied abroad in Shanghai, China for the Fall 2018 term.