Ashton Jones: "The opportunity to intern in such rapidly developing country was an invaluable experience and will definitely have a formative impact on my career into the future."
The city of Chengdu has a lot more to offer than its image as the home of the giant panda and spicy hotpot. With a surrounding population of 200 million in neighbouring provinces and as a key city in the central government’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy, Chengdu is a city on the move.
This was my third visit to China and it enabled me gain a much deeper understanding of the country and experience first-hand the work of New Zealand diplomats in the rapidly developing region of Western China.
Wanting to experience full immersion during my time in Chengdu, I chose to live with a local Chinese family. They were incredibly hospitable and welcoming, constantly overfeeding me in true Chinese custom with local dishes; I even became accustomed to eating spicy noodles for breakfast every day.
It was also a great opportunity to practice my Chinese and I ;managed to also pick up a couple of words of the local Sichuan dialect in the process.
I can honestly say working alongside the Consul-General and the Deputy Consul-General was a great experience with something different happening every week!
In my role, I attended and reported on government meetings, wrote several reports on trade and economic issues, monitored English language media reports, prepared briefing notes for meetings and assisted in organising events on behalf of the Consulate.
Working alongside the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise business development manager at the Consulate was also a great opportunity to understand their work and what they do on behalf of New Zealand businesses in China.
I was lucky enough to go on a trip across to Chongqing for a couple of days to accompany five New Zealand companies on a series of visits to help them better understand doing business in China.
Being in an office of eight people definitely has its advantages. I was able to work closely with everyone in the office and got to know everyone really well.
The internship allowed me to experience the range of work the consulate undertakes, said Ashton Jones.
They were all incredibly helpful, especially when it came to setting up my own WeChat wallet, which is a must have in China. It allows you to pay for everything from your phone at high-end retail stores right through to your hole in the wall $2 noodle restaurants.
As part of the programme, I was connected with an organization called Intern China, which organized weekly dinners and weekend trips in and around the city with other interns. This made making friends easy and I got to enjoy lots of activities - eating rabbit head on a local food tour and checking out local sites such as the Leshan Giant Buddha and Qingcheng Mountain.
When I first told my family and friends I was doing an internship in Chengdu, most had to reach for an atlas, despite it being a city of almost 15 million people.
The experience has helped further evolve my view on China and its sheer scale, diversity and complexity. The opportunity to intern in such rapidly developing country was an invaluable experience and will definitely have a formative impact on my career into the future.
I would highly recommend to anyone thinking about an internship in China to just go for it and to look beyond Beijing and Shanghai as China has so much more to offer!