Intern puts language, research and photography skills to work in Shanghai

Returning to the city where his parents grew up, Silver Fern farms Intern Brendan Zhang-Liao was amazed by Shanghai's blend of modern and traditional, and the changes the city had undergone since he visited as a child. The internship provided an opportunity for Brendan to put his university studies to use, and pick up some skills in the kitchen along the way.
Brendan standing in front of a Silver Fern Farms sign with a colleague on either side of him

Brendan with a fellow intern (right) and their mentor at Silver Fern Farms

I grew up in New Zealand and visited China with my parents for short family visits only during school holidays.

My parents would tell stories of their childhood in China, and I became fascinated with the country's history, culture, and rapid economic development.

As a commerce student, I wished to experience working for a leading New Zealand business in one of the world's largest and fastest-growing economies. When I saw the Foundation's Silver Fern Farms internship in Shanghai, it seemed perfect for me.

When I arrived in the city of Shanghai, my expectations were blown away. I saw a city filled with electric cars, trendy crowds, and some of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

The city offers a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, from the neo-classical buildings in the former colonial concessions to the traditional Buddhist temples of Jingan.

From cafes serving Oolong tea lattes to authentic Shanghainese restaurants, the city takes shape in many forms—satisfying the needs of its multicultural communities.

Watch this video to get a taste of some of what Brendan got up to during his internship   

I was placed in Silver Fern Farm's marketing team. The team provides market research, social media platform management and new product development research.

After a brief onboarding session familiarising myself with the company, its operations and products, I was put in charge of video content creation for the company's Douyin (China's Tiktok) account.

I utilised my skills as a photography hobbyist and my writing skills to plan and film content, while I learned video editing skills from an experienced videographer.

The cooking video series was a highlight. I became a better chef by filming new recipes using company products.

The New Zealand Facts series provided a meaningful platform for me to share New Zealand's culture with Chinese audiences. It was insightful to assist in product photoshoot planning and coordination.

I also witnessed the work that goes into preparing and running a livestream, a key marketing and sales channel in China.

While not filming videos or editing them in the office, I was given research tasks for various new product developments and packaging guidelines.

I utilised my academic research skills and bilingual abilities in accessing, analysing and translating information in both English and Chinese.

During weekends, I would visit where my grandparents lived some 80 years ago and go on city walks through Shanghai's historic districts and modern precincts.

I also travelled to nearby cities such as Shaoxin and Yangzhou on bullet trains that averaged 300 kilometres per hour.

One of the most impressive aspects of China is its diversity and how each city or town is so different in terms of cuisine and culture.

For example, although Shanghai is a global city with a blend of Eastern and Western influences, the nearby city of Yangzhou maintains a unique identity with its famous Huai Yang cuisine and historical sites dating from the ancient Han dynasty.

For the first time in over a decade, I celebrated Chinese New Year in China. The festive atmosphere was surreal with impressive decorations and a record amount of people travelling.

Shanghai is typically pretty crowded, but the crowds during new year’s was something else.

I ate dumplings with my relatives and attended New Year lantern shows. The festive season showcased an extra lively and human side of China, bringing together families to celebrate together.

Brendan and fellow Foundation Brendon Jost-Turei

Brendan caught up with fellow Foundation intern Brendan Jost-Turei, who was interning at United Media Solution

The internship opportunity allowed me to comprehend the size and volatility of China's consumer market and helped me recognise the need for a more in-depth understanding of the country.

Such knowledge is crucial for New Zealand businesses to find success in China and respond to its unique and rapidly changing consumer preferences.

I am more confident working and living in Asia through this amazing opportunity provided by Asia New Zealand Foundation and Silver Fern Farms.

I have only seen the tip of the iceberg after staying and working in China for two and a half months. It is a large country with a lot to explore.

I've made some amazing friends and memories while learning more about Asia and its relationship with Aotearoa.

As a Chinese-Kiwi, I want to further my understanding of China and New Zealand's relationship and be able to utilise my knowledge and bilingual skills to bridge differences and facilitate meaningful cooperation between the nations.

The Foundation's business programme supports New Zealand companies to better understand Asia so they can make the most of opportunities in the region. We are also focussed on growing the next generation of Asia-savvy business leaders.

Our internship programme helps interns build a better understanding of the people, place and culture of their Asian host country, while developing industry-specific skills that will benefit them as they progress in their careers.