NZ China Council internship "challenging and exciting"

Victoria University graduate William Spear says right from day one of his two-month internship at the New Zealand China Council he was tasked with challenging and valuable work that used skills he had acquired through his humanities and science degrees but also threw in the odd "curve ball". Half way through his internship, William has a new found appreciation for the importance and complexities of New Zealand's relationship with China and is looking forward to learning more.
William Spear

William: "Every day at the NZCC has brought something new to excite and challenge me."

When I graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in October, I wasn’t sure what direction life might take me in, with Covid-19 and global travel restrictions the OE was certainly off the cards.

I jumped online looking for opportunities closer to home and came across the Foundation's summer internship at the New Zealand China Council (NZCC). I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the internship, so packed my bags, and headed north to Auckland for two months.

Now, to say that my internship with the NZCC has left no dull day would be an understatement. Every day at the NZCC has brought something new to excite and challenge me.

Within my first half-hour in the office, I was already delving into data analytics and social media tracking. A week or so after that, I was researching emissions reductions and cross-sector collaboration opportunities for environmental action. And now? I’m doing animations for education and information diffusion.

That’s what its like working in the NZCC team - different, challenging, and exciting. I always felt that the work I was doing was important and valuable to our organisation and partner agencies. The work was varied and made use of my undergraduate studies in humanities and science, but also threw the odd curveball and chance for something new.

Working during Covid led to new challenges I wouldn’t have thought about as a student coming into university four years ago. Knowing that any day could see my place of work move from the office to my lounge or kitchen table in the event of a lockdown made flexibility and communications key.

During level 3, zoom calls became a daily occurrence. “You’re on mute”, or “Your screen’s off” the new norm. The Asia New Zealand Foundation took Covid challenges in its stride, providing interns the opportunity to connect and learn cultural competency from experts and workers across New Zealand and China - bringing the world we couldn’t reach right to our laptops.

 Kirsten Wong and Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon at the Foundation's Asia After Five event looking at the history of the SS Ventnor

Kirsten Wong and Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon at the Foundation's Asia After Five event looking at the history of the SS Ventnor

Prior to the spate of lockdowns this year, I got the chance to engage and learn about the Chinese community in New Zealand. Specifically, I attended a talk in Wellington hosted by Kirsten Wong from the New Zealand Chinese Association who spoke about the tragedy of the SS Ventnor repatriation voyage.

The ship sank as it was taking 499 bodies of gold miners back to South China from New Zealand and how local Iwi protected and took care of bones that washed ashore.

While the Asia New Zealand Foundation provided cultural experiences and learning opportunities, the NZCC showcased the fact that trade, business, and how we interact with each other both locally and globally is rapidly changing.

Given NZCC's role as a cross-sector organisation, we interacted with government agencies, suppliers and industry experts in New Zealand, through to think-tanks, businesses, and media agencies in China. Every experience developed my knowledge of trade, track-II diplomacy and workplace culture across diverse organisations and companies.

Everything connected back to the core values of the NZCC - building resilience in our relationship with China and creating engaging content and information for public engagement.

Given the complex position China holds within the global system, I believe any opportunity to develop your knowledge and understanding of this unique nation, its people, and the region it inhabits is invaluable.  

I’m only halfway through my internship, but already feel humbled to have engaged and made connections with so many incredible people, for the chance to contribute to work that always felt meaningful and for the endless opportunities this internship has provided.