Shanghai stopover redirects interns career journey

Enthralled by the taste of Shanghai she got during a short stopover on a flight home from her OE, Harman Kaur decided she wanted to make Asia a focus of her studies and one day return to China for work. Over the New Zealand summer, Harman took another step closer to realising her dream by undertaking an online Foundation internship with China-focused digital marketing agency United Media Solution (UMS).
Harman sitting at a desk in front of her computer

Harman: "My time at UMS went by in a blur. The working culture at UMS was lively and fun."

My interest in China was ignited by a last-minute transit through Shanghai during a break from my studies.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Business majoring in economics and international business from AUT in 2021, but in my second year of university, not knowing what major I wanted to pursue, I decided to use my indecision as an opportunity to embark on an OE.

When the time came to return home, my flight was changed last minute to have a long stopover in Shanghai. Thinking I would never return, I wanted to use that time to explore; and was left awestruck.

I fell in love with Shanghai, a perfect balance of old (Chinese history) and new (Western influences).

Coming back from this trip, I knew I wanted to major in international business, focusing on Asia so that I could one day return to China for work.

Since then, I have been to China twice, the second time after I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a delegate for the first UN Youth Globalisation Tour.

I learned about the United Media Solution (UMS) internship through a friend, who thought it would be a perfect fit for me. She was right!

As part of the internship, I was assigned to two projects. One was a major market research project for an upcoming brand launching in New Zealand and China. My market research experience and experience with assisting market Hellofresh helped tremendously.

The other project was a research project looking at ways to attract and retain international students in a post-Covid era.

Throughout my internship, I knew that the work I was doing was meaningful and made a real difference. I knew my managers had complete trust in my ability to complete tasks, which does not happen with many internships.

My day to-day responsibilities consisted of meetings with the leads of both projects, market research for the pet-food industry in China and New Zealand, interviews with various stakeholders, report writing, proof-reading English reports, content writing and working on social media marketing campaigns.

One opportunity I particularly enjoyed was the interviews conducted with various stakeholders, which helped me understand how hard retention of international students had become during the time of Covid. To try and offset this, the university set up learning centres in China. The project taught me how vital choosing the right social media channel is to reach a specific audience.

UMS did a great job at making me feel supported throughout the internship, regularly communicating via emails, Zoom and WeChat. I also had regular meetings with my managers, colleagues, my fellow intern Ariana and weekly meetings with the HR manager, Annie (who also interviewed me for the role).

The Asia New Zealand also made a huge effort to support me - checking up on me and pairing me with a local mentor. I was paired with the amazing Nathalie Harrington, a senior solicitor and member of the New Zealand China Council who provided me with advice throughout my internship.

Harman on a street with her mentor Natalie Harrington

Harman and her mentor Leadership Network member Nathalie Harrington

My time at UMS went by in a blur. The working culture at UMS was lively and fun.

Such an amazing experience was not without its challenges. Working from home did get tough at times as I come from a loud family and would become distracted by domestic interruptions.

Other times it became isolating. In these moments I would reach out to fellow colleagues to catch up, have a chat with my mentor Nathalie or reach out to friends.

To overcome getting tired of working from the same space I would change things up, sometimes working in the garden, from university and from various cafés.

The Foundation provided great help from the first day to help us adjust to working from home. We had an online induction day, a wrap up day and the opportunity to undertake a Global Competency Certificate, which focused on providing us with skills to successfully navigate a multicultural and diverse workplace.

My time at UMS went so well that my contract was extended to continue with a research project, but due to unforeseen circumstances the project was postponed.

While my time at UMS came to an end, my relationship with them did not, with the CEO, Jessica inviting me to a lunch in May. The conclusion of my internship left me eager to work and travel to China when the situation allows.