The end of university term is approaching and many graduates remain without ideas as to what they will do after graduation. The application process into graduate schemes are really competitive leaving many without a place and forcing them to look for a job in areas not necessarily related to their degree. As a final year student I have attended many career- oriented workshops where I have been always told work experience and languages are the two most important things on anyone’s CV. I believe that there should be more funding in form of scholarships for students, which would allow them to practise language skills, acquire cross-cultural sensitivity and most importantly gain invaluable experience of working in a culturally diverse environment. It seems to me that not many realise the potential of China to boost graduates employability.

Bearing in mind the low cost of living in China, completing a short term internship in China can be very good value for money. Having done some research, there does not appear to be much support offered by the British government. Study China programme is the main initiative funded by the British government in 2007, which arranges 2-weeks placements in China for undergraduate students. There is a lot of demand for the scholarship with only around ¼ of successful applicants each year. I believe the key to solve the problem of graduates’ employability, lies in more similar initiatives. In the world, China is becoming economically one of the most powerful countries, therefor basic Chinese knowledge and work experience in China can be decisive for the future of a graduate. As a final year student of a business degree, who spent two weeks on the Study China programme in Zhuhai, southern China and someone who is planning to spend the next academic year in China learning Mandarin, I would personally like to encourage publicity to support the discussion on Mandarin and work experience in China as factors boosting graduates employability.

Just at the time when a big cloud was hanging above Liverpool leaving many doubting in the optimistic weather forecasts, 6 thousand miles away, in a city of Zhuhai in southern China, some students were being pampered in pools filled with hot springs smelling of coconut, coffee and flowers. After this self-indulgence, they sat at a round table and relished a traditional Cantonese dinner for which among other specialties a peculiar black fish caught just over 20 minutes ago was served. To the further annoyance of Liverpool dwellers, who probably chose to stay at home rather than go out at those rainy weekends, the students finished that relaxing day at a karaoke bar, where they got their own private room with a wall-wide flat screen television and a selection of songs from ‘the best of English language’. Yet, the following day was nothing like that: they had to struggle with Chinese characters at Mandarin classes and overcome the language and cultural barriers whilst working as an intern in local companies.

16 students from UK universities are spending this Easter break away from their homes to experience living and working in Zhuhai, southern China. This opportunity was given to them by Study China Programme- a scheme run by the University of Manchester and funded by the British Government. Along with the first ever southern China programme being run in Zhuhai, students have been placed in 3 further cities in China: Beijing, Jinan and Hangzhou. Zhuhai is a Special Economic Zone, where many international companies have relocated their premises.

Intern China have been organising Chinese language (Mandarin) courses and internships for foreign students for over 6 years and this year joined forces with government funded Study China programme to provide 16 students with this once-in-a-life-time opportunity. This is the very first time students have been able to do both the language course alongside gaining valuable Chinese business work experience. Amongst all of this, students are part of a home stay with a local Chinese family, which is seen as one of the biggest advantages Intern China offers, as students get a chance to experience Chinese culture in an authentic environment.

On this Easter programme, 2 students from the University of Liverpool made it through the Study China Programme application process and spent 17 days in Zhuhai exploring everyday life in China, and the business environment in local companies. Yet, I feel that in spite of great Chinese city, we have a Confucius Institute which runs a couple of events and seminars every few weeks, there is still a low interest in Chinese culture and language in comparison to other cities in the UK. In the current economic situation, when many people look out to China for having the most investors, customers and tourists to help our economy grow, it is of a great advantage for students especially of business degrees to gain experience related to Sino-European relations.

There are some opportunities out there to grab, from Study China Programme via Intern China, through to local Confucius Institute. It is then that all the Chinese coconuts, coffee, flowers Chinese hot springs can be within one’s reach. However, with more support from the British government coupled with stronger publicity on the role of Mandarin skills and work experience in China, hopefully the employability for graduates will rise.

Anna Homa