Facing the reality of a grim job market in China, NYU Shanghai students are striving to prepare
themselves for a promising career life. For many of them, internships of high quality and with big
titles can pave the way for success in their career after graduation.
Some believe that only by starting the internship experience earlier than their peers and by
accumulating more experience can they gain an edge over other candidates and win their dream
job offer.
Usually, students get an internship during the summer vacation after their junior year, to either
try to get a return offer or prepare for recruitment in the fall. This internship serves as a
transition from academic college life to a more practical society.
However, as the job market gets even more severe year by year, college students, especially
students from NYU Shanghai, are starting to do an internship earlier. Some even start the
internship as soon as they are enrolled in college before they enter their freshman year.
According to a survey done for this story, two-thirds of students did, or plan to do, their first
internship during their freshman year, including the summer vacation after it. More than one-half
of sophomore students have done more than one internship and some of them have done three
to four.
When asked if they are enduring career anxiety, more than half of them admit to feeling peer
pressure. Also, among all the expected gains from internships, “make my resume more
competitive” is the most popular answer ahead of “Self-growth,” “Explore different fields,” and
“accumulate experience.”
Yiru Zhou, a sophomore who started to intern during the winter vacation of freshman year, was
concerned about how much she was being pushed at that time.
“I hadn’t thought anything about doing an internship during my first winter break in college until I
continuously saw the posts in WeChat Moments from peers showing (off) their life as a worker,”
Yiru said.
She became restless about staying at home and doing what she had planned, so she started to
send out resumes and became an intern. The anxiety didn’t end there, driving her to do another
two internships during the following summer vacation.
Elena Huang from the class of 2023 is strong proof that students who are both outstanding and
well-prepared can succeed, despite the dismal external job environment.

Huang received a full-time job offer from global management consulting firm McKinsey at the
beginning of her senior year, after doing six internships in renowned companies such as
Bytedance, LVMH, and Disney in different fields in the first three years of her college life.
She also led many student events and organizations at NYU Shanghai such as the Digital
Innovation Challenge, and won awards in business competitions. However, looking back on all her
efforts, Huang admits to the levels of anxiety she encountered.
“We don’t have many options,” she recalled. “It’s like the job is choosing you rather than you
choosing the job offer.”
Besides being worried about getting the job offer, anxiety often lies in being unsure about your
career goal.
“Many students around me seemed to have a clear goal about what they wanted to achieve after
graduation, but I hadn’t even decided my major in my junior year,” Huang recalled of her many
internship experiences.
Compared to international students who have taken specialized and professional courses during
high school and get more opportunity to experience career options, Chinese students only learn
fixed subjects to prepare for the college entrance exam.
Also, unlike other Chinese colleges where the major is determined before starting college life,
NYU Shanghai students are encouraged to explore their options under the university’s slogan of
“make the world your major.”
And without a truly determined career path, they may wonder whether the efforts made to
pursue an internship opportunity are a waste of time, bearing little relation to their ultimate job
position.
But Huang believes things are not all that bad.
“Career anxiety comes from the uncertainty,” she said. “The more you explore, the more you
know about your strengths and to be confident about yourself.
“If you have worked very hard, and you failed, it just means maybe this job is not suitable for you.
Then you can focus on what you are good at with more confidence and certainty.”
Reflecting on her internships, Huang believes all the seemingly irrelevant experiences contributed
much to her soft skills and business sense, the insights gained and knowledge accumulated
making them all meaningful during her fall recruitment.
The best approach, for now, it seems for students, is to grasp any opportunity offered, and don’t
think too much about failing to get an offer. Anxiety is everywhere and inevitable throughout life.

A career is a life-long journey where everyone is following different paths, so just maintain a
focus on your own pace of moving forward and not be influenced by the outside chaos.