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Working with an Environmental NGO in China

An Internship that Makes a Positive Difference

Lights in China
Lanterns illuminate this city street.

When you think environmental policy, clean energy, or green technology, you may not immediately think of China. In recent years, China's impressive economic growth has created environmental challenges in rural and urban areas of the country. However, that trend is steadily changing, and climate change is coming to the forefront of conversation and in Chinese policy. During such a crucial time in China's development and industrialization processes, I knew that the opportunity to intern at an environmental NGO where all policy-making takes place would be a highly valuable experience. This is how I ended up in China for the summer.

Environmental Policy with the China Carbon Forum (CCF)

After completing a month-long internship at an organization called China Carbon Forum (CCF), I can say I've learned more about China than I have in a year of studying it in college. The China Carbon Forum is an organization that works to encourage conversation and investment in climate change and clean energy. As an intern I interviewed an expert from Greenpeace, as well as the Managing Director of the Climate Change and Air Pollution program in Beijing. I had the chance to assist in gathering responses to a survey about China's carbon pricing and its effect on certain industries as well as foreign investors. I even attended a China-Japan Policy Research Workshop.

I enjoyed working in environmental policy, and for a company that dealt with the pressing issue of air quality because it felt as though my work was relevant while helping to make a difference. It was satisfying to know that my labor was not only contributing to the mission of the organization, but to furthering efforts regarding environmental policy in China. By raising awareness and making practical suggestions regarding China's future strategy, CCF and companies like it are working to benefit local communities.

Rainforest in China
A bridge in a rainforest in China. Preserving places of beauty such as this is a goal.

What an Internship in China is Like and the Benefits

As an intern working on Chinese environmental policy you can expect to assist your company in developing new strategies to bring environmental policy makers to the table. NGOs work with government oversight and collaboration, and this is an opportunity to learn how to solve issues in creative and innovative ways.

An average work day at a local environmental NGO or Think Tank includes meeting and interviewing climate change experts, attending conferences and workshops with influential policy makers from all over the world, and meetings with prospective business partners. A non-Chinese speaking intern will most likely focus on updating website content, assisting with the editing of research papers and articles before publishing, and developing relations with international organizations who maintain local offices in Beijing.

People fishing in Beijing
People fishing in Beijing.

Living and Interning in China

Living and interning in China will mean having to step outside of your comfort zone. If you choose to work in China, you are demonstrating that you are adaptable and can handle challenges. For almost any experience-related question you might receive during a job interview, your time in China will provide you with countless examples and talking points. Your ability to adapt to Chinese business etiquette and handle other cultural differences will demonstrate to prospective employers that you are ready for new situations while working in a diverse environment.

On a personal level, such immersion will boost your confidence and enable you to understand the logic behind China's policy making. You will collaborate with international as well as local organizations, and learn that understanding cultural nuances can be crucial when working to make a fundamental change in the way Chinese citizens perceive climate change and social responsibility.

Whether you are interested in international relations, economics, green technology, or entrepreneurship, landing an internship at one of China’s think tanks or green technology companies will contribute greatly to your resume and will open new opportunities for future jobs in the area.

The Future of Chinese Environmental Policy

With the Paris UNFCCC COP approaching, and China's commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 60-65% until 2030, the country's national strategy to tackle environmental issues will be part of an international conversation. Getting involved in this conversation through an internship in China will be a memorable and valuable experience for all those interested in pursuing a career in environmental policy or green technology. My summer in China was not only fun and memorable, but an incredibly significant part of my education in environmental policy. 

Summer on the river in Beijing
Boats in Beijing during the summer.

Resources to Help You Find an Internship in China

Connect-123 Environment and Sustainability Internships in Shanghai

Related Topics
Internships Abroad
Internships in Asia
Articles and Resources for Living in China
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How an Internship in China Can Lead to a Dream Job
Internship Opportunities for Students in China

Shaked Atia in China Shaked Atia is a rising junior at Georgetown University (Washington D.C.) studying Science, Technology and International Affairs. Shaked interned abroad on the 2-month Chinese Language + Internship Program with CRCC Asia, where she participated in research and marketing efforts for the China Carbon Forum.

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