Widening participation for students and graduates in China
CRCC Asia specializes in organizing internships in China for students and graduates worldwide. Since the China Internship Program was launched in 2008, the number of participants on this unique program has grown exponentially year on year and as of July 2016, over 6000 interns have gained the opportunity to live and work in China through CRCC Asia.
Accessibility to China enables UK university students and graduates to develop both personally and professionally in a global environment. As professional experience in China is not always readily accessible for financial reasons or otherwise, CRCC Asia has placed great importance in looking to widen participation for its programs through the provision of annual scholarships for various groups. To this end, in 2013 CRCC Asia became an official provider of the British Council’s Generation UK- China Scheme, which provides full funding for UK students in receipt of a maintenance grant to intern in China for two months. In the same year, CRCC Asia launched the ‘CRCC Asia-British Council Disability Scholarship’ to ensure that interning in China could be made accessible to UK students living with a disability.
Launching the Disability Scholarship
Established as a joint effort by CRCC Asia and the British Council, the China Disability Scholarship offered any UK student with a disability the opportunity to intern at a British Council office based in China. This initial scholarship received a tremendous amount of support from public figures, politicians and paralympians including Stephen Fry, David Blunkett and Tanni-Grey Thompson.
With the support of the British Council and CRCC Asia’s in-build support infrastructure, the Scholarship was designed to not only provide the opportunity for a UK student with a disability to live and work in China, but also to instil a sense of confidence in other young people that living with a disability does not mean a closed door on international work experience.
The first Scholarship recipient, Jessica Stubbs, interned at the British Council’s office in Shanghai and worked on various projects including promoting British art and education, as well as administering the world-renowned IELTS test to foreign students wanting to study in the UK. During her time in China, Jessica also had the opportunity to write copy for the Shanghai International Film Festival and was involved with the British Council’s work in Equal Opportunity and Diversity by participating as a panellist at a discussion about attitudes to disability in China and the UK.
Expanding opportunities and increasing confidence in working abroad
In 2014 the Scholarship was extended to two UK students in two Chinese cities, with the opportunity for recipients to gain work experience at the British Council’s Beijing and Shanghai offices. This structure remained in place for 2015 and 2016.
In 2015 Disability Scholarship recipients Jasmine Rahman and Laura Gillhespy, took the decision to remain in China after their Internship Programs had finished. Jasmine is now studying Chinese Law at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Laura Gillhespy is working at Law Firm, Stephenson Harwood LLP in Beijing. In May 2016, Laura was approached by the BBC to write an article on living and working in China with an invisible disability. In the piece Laura discussed her experience living in China with a hearing impairment. The article was featured on the BBC News main page, and following this, both Laura and CRCC Asia received positive feedback from numerous students and graduates with a disability looking to study or work in China.
Amongst all the excitement and enthusiasm for bringing International Internship Opportunities to students living with disabilities, it is important to remember that specific provisions need to be made for disability scholarship recipients. Current scholarship recipient Alex Gatehouse, has a visual impairment, which requires the provision of a larger computer monitor, ability to enlarge both digital and physical text and appropriate lighting and seating arrangements. Awareness of these provisions is important as are regular check-ins from CRCC Asia’s 24 hour on-call Program Managers.
These provisions and safe-guards do not however, need to dilute from the important opportunity to experience a new city, country and culture with a sense of independence. As part of the scholarship Alex has written a review of his time in China so far detailing the work he has been involved in during his internship and reflecting on the social and cultural endeavours he has embarked upon in China thus far.
Looking to the future
With an increasingly competitive job market, there has been a rising demand among employers for applicants who can demonstrate the ability to integrate, show flexibility, communicate across cultural boundaries and step outside their comfort zone. For these reasons CRCC Asia believe it is important that schemes such as the CRCC Asia- British Council Disability Scholarship continue over the coming years in order to boost employment prospects among students and graduates with disabilities and encourage confidence that gaining international work experience is an achievable goal.
By Will Perrins, CRCC Asia
Photo Credit: Laura Gillhespy