US Interns in China “Homeless for a Month”

This summer, things went badly wrong for a group of US college students taking part in the South China Internship Program to gain real-world working experience related to their majors. Their experience serves as a warning to young Americans embarking on similar programs, reports Rob Schmitz at Marketplace:

And that’s the moment Madson realized he had traveled 10,000 miles around the planet so that he could greet visitors at the front gate of a Chinese amusement park. His job was to wear a candy cane striped suit and collect entrance tickets from Chinese tourists. Intern Mark Rowland — the accounting major — was given a safari costume to wear. He was told he’d be working inside the park’s zoo.

After two days of this, all but one of the American interns at Chimelong quit. Amusement park staff told students the South China Internship program had misidentified them as hospitality students. And they were now on their own — four American students, stuck in China, homeless, crashing on the couches of other expatriate Americans who felt sorry for them. “We were just couchsurfing after we left the employee dorms,” says Rowland.

[…] If there’s an expert on U.S. students doing internships in China, it’s Jeremy Friedlein. He’s managed an internship program for CET Academic programs for five years. The trick, says Friedlein, is managing expectations. Even though China is the world’s second largest economy, it’s still very much a developing one. “In America, when you have an internship with a company, people are used to having interns, generally speaking, and they know what their end of the deal is,” says Friedlein. “In China, internships are more or less free or cheap labor and foreign and Chinese companies will make use of that however they want to.”