Intern's China appetiser
has her wanting more

Over the course of her internship at United Media Solution in Shanghai, Cleo Gilmour discovered that New Zealanders' perceptions of China need updating to account for the massive changes the country has undergone in recent years. In this article she writes about her experiences as an intern and getting to know China, its customs and culture.

Cleo Gilmour talks about her experiences in Shanghai

I think you can tell a lot about a country from its food and China is a lot like its cuisine: vast, varying and most people’s experience of it outside China is not reflective of the real thing. This was certainly my experience living in Shanghai as an intern at United Media Solution.

At times, living in China was frustrating and exhausting. However, daily life continuously left me feeling that our impressions of China are incomplete and outdated.

In China, you have the whole world at the touch of your fingertips. I could leave the house without a wallet and pay for everything including the metro, doctors appointment and street food through apps on my phone. The immense convenience made budgeting difficult and having sufficient battery charge on my phone paramount.

Shanghai is a modern, international city and very foreign friendly. Yes, you sometimes have to endure 11 pm construction, a crammed metro, and the language barrier (I can speak basic Mandarin which has helped a lot) but these daily challenges give rise to small daily victories.

Interning at United Media Solution was the perfect introduction to living in China. Within the first week I had downloaded over 20 new apps. Being at UMS meant I learnt how each one applied to brands as well as how to use them in my own daily life.

Cleo sitting at a table eating a meal with a group of colleagues

Cleo says having supportive work colleagues made living in Shanghai so much easier

Most of the UMS team have studied overseas, English is widely spoken and my colleagues’ perspectives on life in and outside of the Middle Kingdom were a brilliant source of daily knowledge. Having such amazing colleagues was a definite highlight and meant I got the low down on where to go, what to eat, and how to live life best in Shanghai.

My role in the digital planning team included doing research on the current social media climate, designing marketing campaigns and writing case studies on work UMS was involved in. This was the perfect learn-by-doing experience as the China social media scene is mind boggling and constantly changing.

I don’t think I was ever bored in Shanghai. There was never a shortage of galleries, live music or cafes to visit with my colleagues or flatmates. Outside of the big-city life I also had plenty of opportunity to experience some fantastic nature; China’s wilderness is not to be underrated! Hiking above the clouds in Huangshan and returning to soak in outdoor hot springs was a definite highlight.

Cleo leaning on a handrail with a rocky mountaintop peaking through the clouds behind her

Cleo: "Hiking above the clouds in Huangshan and returning to soak in outdoor hot springs was a definite highlight."

I would highly recommend anyone up for a challenge and an awesome new experience to take the plunge on this internship. The first taste can be a little overwhelming, and you can choose to spit it out, give it up and declare China is strange, wrong and not for you. Or you can accept the difference, keep trying new things, and come to appreciate the many distinctive life flavours that make China unique.

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to have been swept up in this bustling, vibrant country. I feel as though I have only scratched the surface and can’t wait to come back in the near future and dive in deeper.