So you’ve scored an international internship to work in China, and you are still in shock and without any slightest idea of what to expect. The emotions are all over the place, nervous, anxious, excited, happy, and confused; you can’t even explain with precise words what you feel. It is typical because no situation in the world can prepare you enough for an opportunity to work in the second largest economy in the world. It is exciting, and you know how golden the opportunity is since a million other people did apply but hey, it was your lucky day.

Then comes your first day of your internship. You are operating on your last nerve, probably not even sure of you capabilities anymore. You are like; will I leave a good impression on my boss? Am I going to get it right? What if I flop? And what about the culture shock? Trust me, you will survive and even with your long list of worries, just stay active. The second day will be much better but on the first day, you can minimize the stress by knowing one or two things about what to expect and prepare for anything.

It is imperative that before showing up for the first day of internship that you do some background check of the business etiquette of your host country. In China, most of the international internship recruitment agencies usually offer an orientation program to their interns. They do cover fundamental topics such as first days at a course, life in China, transportation, shopping, safety, food, holidays and the do and don’ts. They psychologically prepare you and teach you one or two things about what to expect and others even offer Mandarin classes to help you with your stay in China.

Here is what to expect and do on your first day at an internship in China to leave a good impression.

Get there early

Regardless of the time that you’ve been asked to arrive, on the first day coming 15- minutes earlier is the rule of thumb. It’s way better to wait around for a few minutes on your first day than risk keeping your boss waiting. Some of the internship recruitment agencies will help you prepare early enough and drop you off at the company after introducing you to the supervisor and the HR manager. But if you don’t have the luxury of all this practice on you commuting options to avoid being late.

Since it is an unfamiliar place and most of the Chinese cities are quite big with Chinese signs, then practice whatever transportation options you are planning to take on the day before to avoid giving the excuse that I got lost or stuck in traffic jam. Also arriving early allows you to settle down much better and compose yourself before kicking off the frenzied day. If you are lucky, you will meet with the other interns early enough and start chatting about the activities that you assign to, which can double up as a therapy to calm you down.

What to bring:


On the first day, interns are exposed to a lot of information and taking extensive notes on employee’s work, work processes and institutions will actually help them learn the ropes more quickly. Interns should designate a special notebook to keep all their notes organized over the course f internship.

More than one pen

Since there will be a lot of note-taking going on, carry more than one pen just in case the first one stops writing. It is not professional if your pen stops writing and you are finding it hard to source another one. It’s just awkward.

Water bottle

As expected, it would be such an activity-packed day and to stay on top of your productivity, stay hydrated hence the water bottle comes in handy. Water forms a central component of performance and mental agility, and you always have to stay hydrated.

Energy bar

Interning is such a high-energy job and with so many things to be oriented on, an energy bar will save you the mid-morning energy slump. You won’t want to look tired and bored in a foreign land on your very first day at work. It would send quite a wrong impression.

What to wear

There is no two-way on this, just dress professionally. You would rather overdress than under-dress since in the latter it clearly shows that no thought was put into your outfit and would portray you as somebody who doesn’t pay attention to details. It’s not like the Chinese workplaces are that uptight but as they say, “better safe than sorry.” But that doesn’t mean you sacrifice on style, let you dressing spell classic, demure and stylish. It is good to inquire on the dress code beforehand or if you are required to dress in a uniform or carry anything else.

Meeting your Intern Supervisor

Regardless of your specialty, usually your first day starts with you meeting your supervisor. Learn about Chinese greetings and how they observe hierarchy. The supervisor will then give you a lengthy breakdown of not only what to expect from your internship but what they expect from you. This information is quite essential in helping you understand the scope of your responsibilities as an intern. You will be given a full run down of the details of what to do on your first day, on a day to day basis and how to complete loads of tasks.

The supervisor will then take you around and introduce you to the other staff as you get acquainted on what exactly happens where in the company or institution. You will be given a tour around the business just to enhance your understanding of what they do. You might end up being invited out for lunch by one of your colleagues, just have fun with it and enjoy the meals.

Ask the right questions

As an intern in a new company you are bound to have issues and as you are learning the supervisor expects you to ask for clarification. Questions are perfect since you might not be able to learn everything just at one mention. Take advantage of the time and ask all the relevant question that you have but respectfully. Remember in Chinese the concept of saving face is imperative.

Be professional but yourself

Demonstrate character and be as professional as it can get, because it might just place you at an attractive position. You may be considered for future hiring. Exude genuineness, realness, all natural and professionalism. With so many entire building personal brands in China due to the connections they got during their internship thanks to their professional sense, it is entirely possible to achieve this.

China is a growing economy and internship opportunities for international students get better by the day. Globalization has been good since many students, and even graduates can now access these rare opportunities of interning in China. It’s great you’ve gotten the internship, just ask yourself what’s the next thing you will do with the chance. Run with it, work hard, leave an impression, network and rest assured it will not only be good for your career but also your character.