Charlie Taggart - October 2015
My name is Charlie Taggart, a senior at St. Lawrence University majoring in Economics and Business. This past summer I traveled to Beijing, China to intern at China Everbright Bank and Easy Transfer Limited. In the spring of my Junior year, I spent the semester studying abroad in Vienna, Austria. When the time came for me to start searching for summer jobs, I knew that I would love the opportunity to work in a foreign country because of the great experience I had traveling to different countries during my Vienna semester. I was scrolling the SaintsLink website’s job postings when I stopped on the title “Summer Internship in China”. I had never been to China, didn’t speak any Chinese, and didn’t know anyone in that country, but something in me told me that I had to do it.
From there, I was put in contact with Helen Huang, the Director of Asia Programs at the Center for International and Intercultural Studies at St. Lawrence. She was very excited to hear about my interest in the program, and walked me through every step of the job application process. Helen suggested that I intern at two companies while in Beijing, China Everbright Bank and Easy Transfer Limited. Austin Riley, a recent SLU grad, had an internship at Easy Transfer the year prior, so I was able to talk with him to get an idea of what the program would be like. China Everbright Bank, on the other hand, had never had a foreign intern before, so it was very new for both them and me and it took a little more planning. Helen helped set up three-way Skype interviews between her, the companies, and me. The whole process went smoothly and all seemed to happen so fast: the next thing I knew I had a work visa, booked flight, and translation book. I was really going to China.
For my first four weeks in Beijing I stayed in the Hai Dian district and worked at China Everbright Bank. Helen had previously put me in touch with an employee named Han who helped me get acclimated with the bank office and the city of Beijing. Not all of the employees spoke English, but those who did were happy to help and were very patient with my lack of Mandarin skills. At the bank I worked in the Asset Management branch, the clients I worked with were mostly small to mid-size business owners who were new to investing. Along with the working in Asset Management, I conducted a personal research paper on the Chinese shadow banking system, comparing and contrasting it to the United States. The President of the bank, Mr. Nian, set up meetings for me with other bank executives and business owners all over Beijing to help me further understand the climate of the Chinese financial system. Working at China Everbright expanded my knowledge of Chinese business practices and the banking system as a whole.
For the next four weeks, I moved to the Chaoyang District to begin working at Easy Transfer Limited. I was lucky enough to have my friend from St. Lawrence, Will Willsea, move in with me for those last four weeks. Will was interning at Sohu.com in investor relations, and having a friend living with me really made my stay in China easier and more enjoyable. Will is also fluent in mandarin, which made it a whole lot easier for me to do simple things like ask for directions around the city or order chicken instead of mystery meat.
Easy Transfer Limited is a relatively new start up with about 11 employees working there at the time of my internship. The company is a tuition payment service that allows Chinese students to easily transfer funds to American Universities. Easy Transfer handles all of the extra fees involved in paying tuition, and creates a network of Chinese students to connect and get the most out of their international study. I worked directly with the company’s CEO and founder, Michael Shang, and focused on market research and client relations. It was a great opportunity to be working at a company that size because of the extra responsibility given, every action you did had a greater impact on the success of the company.
My experience at Easy Transfer, China Everbright, and in the exciting city of Beijing has expanded my knowledge of Chinese business practices and Chinese culture. I have to thank my time spent at St. Lawrence University, my experiences in my Vienna semester, and people like Helen, Han, and Michael for giving me the confidence needed to immerse myself in a foreign country by myself. The eight weeks I spent there was truly a lifetime experience that I will not soon forget. As I finish my final year at St. Lawrence and start to peruse a career in finance, I will use the lessons I’ve learned in Beijing to help me succeed.