For the majority of seniors in college, finding employment post-graduation can be an intimidating experience. However, for those with an unwavering desire to dive into an unfamiliar environment before officially joining the workforce, the Princeton in Asia (PiA) Fellowship provides an exciting opportunity that is hard to turn down.
Founded on the mission of “promoting good will and understanding, and facilitating the free interchange of the best ideals of both the East and the West,” this non-profit organization helps talented young people obtain a yearlong job at various institutions throughout Asia. For the past few years, there have been one or two PiA fellows working at WildChina’s Beijing office every year. Each begins with an open-mind, a curiosity for the unknown and a relentless love for dim sum, and ends as a member of the Beijing bikeforce, with a better sense of the unknown, and a continued, and maybe even stronger, love for dim sum.
What sets the experience of PiA fellows at WildChina apart from those of their colleagues? Because WildChina is still a growing company, fellows are treated just like full-time employees in terms of the amount of responsibility, level of commitment, and the array of opportunities. However, though our fellows may all work for WildChina, each has a unique experience individual to his/her personal goals and particular interests.
For Anna Bosco, one of our current fellows, PiA offered the best of both worlds: the chance to improve her Mandarin and the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience. For the past year, the extensive networks of both the fellowship and WildChina itself have provided a nice support system both inside and outside the office:
“It was comforting to know that if need be, I could turn to previous PiA fellows at WildChina with questions about anything from housing to purchasing a bike. Having someone else’s experience to learn from helps you set realistic goals and expectations for your own fellowship.”
Looking back on her year, Anna reflects upon her most rewarding experience: “The first trip I ever went on with the company was also the most fulfilling. I was a tour leader for an educational trip we had in Chengde (just outside of Beijing) for a local international school. Having focused on the “behind-the-scenes” aspect of planning a trip, it was nice to interact with the clients themselves and witness first-hand the motivations behind our methods and why we at WildChina do the things the way we do. The realization that the little choices we [in Operations] make during trip-planning results in an overall, smoother trip, was very satisfying.”
WildChina is unique in that several of its fellows have stayed to work at the company even post-fellowship, including Nancy Tan, a previous fellow and now full-time employee at WildChina, for whom the fellowship provided an opportunity that she could not bear to pass up: living and working in Beijing, the city that initially made her fall head over heels for the Middle Kingdom in the first place.
Working at WildChina has broadened her perspective:
“Before my arrival, I easily viewed China and its people as one-dimensional: a central government with a great big plan and a sea of black-haired heads preoccupied solely on economic progression. During these past two years, I have been lucky enough to travel with the company to the greater provinces, including Guizhou, Xinjiang, Yunnan, and meet a more diverse range of individuals with a variety of aspirations and challenges – the real China.”
The most rewarding part of working for WildChina is the people: “The leaders here have all been great mentors, and my colleagues make the work environment fun and challenging every day.”
After having time to explore the Capital, Anna and Nancy tell us about some of their favorite sites and eateries. For Anna, Huanghuacheng, the less-restored section of the Great Wall where she went for guide training this past spring, “feels unique and so different from other sections of the Wall” and Da Dong, “has some of the best Beijing Duck (北京烤鸭) in town.”
Following a week of hard work, Nancy’s definition of a “perfect Saturday afternoon” would be one spent in Jingshan Park on a clear day followed by a delicious Manchurian feast at “那家小馆”, located behind the LG Twin Towers.
So what does WildChina as a company gain out of taking Princeton in Asia fellows? “A fresh perspective,” says Anna.
Recent graduates who become fellows are chosen for their creativity, flexibility, and adaptability. They are chosen because their self-motivation, enthusiasm, and open-mindedness will aid them in handling a range of situations, from corporate events to writing blogs.
In a way, WildChina and the PiA fellowship are quite similar, from their close-knit communities, extensive network of experts, and underlying goal of providing an opportunity for genuine cultural exchange between the East and the West.
The experience PiA fellows have with China prior to their fellowship parallels that of our clients – some may have studied abroad in China while others may never have even studied Chinese before. Both Princeton in Asia and WildChina are dedicated to providing their fellows and clients a transformative experience, the chance to understand the real China.
Eager to join the Chinese bikeforce? Check out the Princeton in Asia fellowship website here for more information.
Interested in learning more about local Chinese culture? Contact WildChina about our “Chinese Treasures” trip where the China of the past, present and future can be experienced all in one.