From the incredible skyscrapers in Shanghai and historical sites in Beijing to the laid-back teahouses in Sichuan and the gorgeous countryside in Yunnan, China delivers an incredible mix of modernity, history, and nature.
Simply put, the Middle Kingdom is a great place to volunteer or intern, as the vast country offers everything from finance internships in the big city to community development programs in rural villages.
Here’s what you need to know about interning or volunteering abroad in China:
Know Before You Go
China is ancient, with over 5,000 years of history. Today, modern economic development has put the country on the world stage, and it’s an exciting time to visit.
Mandarin Chinese is the official language, though there are more than 200 individual dialects in China, as well as eight different linguistic groups. Do note the local dialect or language of your destination. It’s highly recommended to learn a little Mandarin before you go. It will make your travels easier.
Overall, China is a very diverse place in terms of culture, language, geography, and economic levels. China has 56 recognized ethnic groups, but Han Chinese make up over 90% of the population. Around 43% of Chinese live in rural areas, which are less developed than the modern big cities you’ll encounter upon arrival.
Types of Interning and Volunteering Opportunities in China
Interning and volunteering in China is especially popular for those who are fascinated by the depth and complexity of Chinese history and culture. The economic boom of the last three decades has also opened up new opportunities for people looking to understand one of the world’s most important markets. Additionally, China faces challenges when it comes to preserving its wonder natural environments — and that’s motivated many volunteers to come.
If you want to volunteer in China, popular options include:
- Teaching English: Help China’s rural and disadvantaged students improve their English skills and build a better future.
- Panda conservation: This amazing creature once neared extinction. Join in the efforts to continue to turn that tide.
- Special needs care: Many parents can’t afford education services for their special needs children. Provide the necessary support by working at a government center for children with special needs.
If you want to intern in China, popular options include:
- Healthcare: From dentistry to traditional Chinese medicine, opportunities abound.
- Journalism: Capture the amazing stories happening in the streets of China and build up your portfolio.
- Business: Learn more about the vast market here, and launch your China-focused business career.
Projects Abroad is one of the most reputable organizations in volunteering, having been around since 1992 and sent over 120,000 people abroad. When it comes to interning in China, few people have more options than going with Projects Abroad.
In China, they have a variety of volunteer projects and internships available for you to choose from. You’ll get to experience the difference between modern and more traditional life firsthand in Shanghai or Chengdu. You can choose from a range of projects, such as:
- Shadow doctors in an established hospital: Widen your knowledge of the medical field as you shadow experienced doctors at a world-class hospital. You can choose to spend time in different departments, including neurosurgery. You’ll also see how traditional medicine blends with modern practices.
- Work alongside and learn from experienced lawyers: Work with Chinese lawyers and sit in on client meetings to get a feel of how a law firm is run. You may even get the opportunity to sit in on court hearings. During this program, you’ll learn about different cases and the work that takes place in busy law firms around the city.
Projects Abroad also offers High School Specials, which are group trips specially designed for teenagers between 15 and 18 years old. You can work with children and the elderly or learn about business in the most rapidly developing economy in the world.
Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)
Global Leadership Adventures has been focusing on providing traveler life-changing and impactful experiences around the globe since 2003. If you want an adventure while volunteering in China, GLA is a great option.
GLA’s Mandarin immersion program in China offers you an incredible cultural experience. In addition to taking language classes, you get to hike the Great Wall, volunteer on family farms, meet traditional artists, and live in the historic town of Shaxi near the Tibetan plateau. The 21-day flagship program costs $5,399.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
IVHQ opened its doors in 2007. The organization has grown quickly, having sent more than 80,000 people overseas. They are truly fulfilling their mission of empowering people to make a meaningful difference in the communities they are visiting.
One of IVHQ’s most popular programs for volunteering in China is its special needs care program in Xi’an, once the capital of China and where the Terracotta Army sculptures are located. The program assist with services for those children and adults with physical and mental disabilities that come from poor backgrounds. You do everything from prepare meals and clean to arrange games and activities. The program lasts from one to 24 weeks, with fees starting at $280.
Find the Right Volunteer or Intern Program in China
As you can see, options for interning and volunteering in China abound. Whether it’s teaching English, caring for pandas, or coaching sports, you’ll be able to find a program in China that meets your needs, preferences, and budget.
Just be sure to start searching as early as you can. This way, you’ll be off to China — completely ready to have an amazing experience.
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.