Queen’s University Belfast student David Keenan (22) spent last summer in Shanghai on a Generation UK-China Scholarship. We chatted to David about his experience…
First of all, tell us a bit about yourself
I’m currently studying a Master’s Degree in Business Management at Queen’s University Belfast. During my studies, I am volunteering my time as the Corporate Relations Executive (CRE) of Enactus Belfast, a society at QUB which uses the power of entrepreneurial action to help create impact for local communities in need, including people deemed to be homeless to give them soft skills that could help them gain employment in the long run.
What were your reasons for applying to the Generation UK-China Scholarship?
I applied to the Generation UK-China Scholarship during my final undergraduate year studying History as an opportunity to fill my summer with adventure, excitement and a new opportunity to step into the global business world and better understand business in an international context. Applying to the Generation UK-China Scholarship was the perfect chance to step out of the comfort zone and be one step closer to fulfilling my dream of an international career.
Tell us what working in China was like?
Working in China was surreal! I got the opportunity to meet so many new people, attend business seminars throughout Shanghai, and had a great night life! One of the highlights of working in China was being invited to an exclusive Business Seminar with Citibank in their Shanghai headquarters. Working in Shanghai and gaining international experience in business and marketing was much more than what I expected! I worked as a business intern for a start-up company called Tea Plays in the French Concession of Shanghai.
What was your favourite part of the experience?
Getting the chance to travel for 3 weeks around China after completing my internship through The Dragon Trip, with a discounted price for being a Generation-UK participant. The best way to reward yourself after an intense (and amazing) 8 week internship!
What was the biggest culture shock?
Looking out of the taxi window to see the Bund in Shanghai after leaving the airport for the first time was one of the most mesmerising moments I have ever experienced. The sheer size of Shanghai compared to Northern Ireland made me feel nauseous for the first few days (in a good way!). After the first few days of finding my feet in one of the largest cities in the world, I was able to give it my all and fully immerse myself into the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Did the scholarship and experience open up any opportunities for you?
Participating in the Generation-UK scholarship has expanded on the global opportunities available to me. Coming back home, I have been given exclusive access to a closed jobs board for all things China alongside other Generation-UK alumni.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Generation-UK has taught me many things. It has taught me to appreciate the sheer diversity in the world, embrace all cultures, and to pick up a new language if you wish to globalise yourself and your career.
How are your Mandarin skills?
Getting there! I am currently taking night classes in Level 2 Mandarin at Queen’s University Belfast alongside my degree!
Finally, what would you say to students who are thinking of studying in China or applying to the scholarship?
The Generation-UK programme is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you definitely cannot miss! Not only have I globalised my career opportunities, but I have made friends from all around the world which I will forever cherish. This opportunity is only available for students, so take the chance to travel whilst broadening your experience beyond Northern Ireland!
There are still places available to Northern Ireland students on the Generation UK-China programme. Apply by February 10 – find out more.