My Summer Internship Experience in Hong Kong: Embracing Opportunities and Learning from Mistakes
賴信宇Mathematics, Year 3
I was looking forward to going home in the summer, but the 14-day quarantine was still required for Mainland China, so I decided to stay in Morningside. To combat homesickness during the summer, I applied to some internships in Hong Kong. Surprisingly, I got offers from AIA and Deloitte. Although I knew nothing about insurance or accounting as a maths student, I was excited to try out new things.
I’m thankful for the opportunities, not only because they let me get a closer look into the working life in Hong Kong but also because I learned irreplaceable lessons that changed my views on value and on life.
With my fellow interns
So now let me share with you five lessons I learned during my summer internships.
1. Don’t be afraid of mistakes
As AIA was my first internship in Hong Kong, I was quite nervous, because I was afraid of doing something inappropriate in unfamiliar settings and embarrassing myself. But I made the right decision to talk to my boss about my fears. “University is a place to make mistakes” were the unforgettable words he told me.
Too often in our education we are taught to avoid embarrassment and show only our best side, but our lives — not just university — are about experiences instead of perfection. After all, successes and failures are all chances for us to learn to be wiser and stronger. Still, the first time I went to meet clients with my boss, I was extremely nervous, not knowing where to place my hands and feet. However, I found myself acting more and more calm and natural as I met with more clients. As I adopted a new mindset that is open to experiences, my fear of mistakes and embarrassment eventually disappeared.
2. Be considerate to others
On my first day at the AIA office, I was a little anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid to be left alone with nothing to do all day, which had happened to me before. However, I was extremely impressed at how caring and attentive my senior was. She showed me my desk, introduced me to my boss, set up my account, and directed me to useful training videos. As a one-month intern, I did not expect such warmth and support. It was then that I realized that the workplace demands high emotional intelligence and consideration for other people. The benefits of an internship include the opportunity to see how more experienced colleagues treat other people with care and consideration, and it is difficult not to learn how to be considerate!
3. Never be afraid of asking questions
During my internship at Deloitte, I worked with different engagement teams each week. I wasn’t familiar with the working process every time I joined a new team, but at first, I was afraid to ask questions because I thought that would make me seem dumb. Once, my senior gave me a task on my first day with his team. I took the task seriously and worked on it for the entire day until 6:30pm, when my senior asked me what had taken me so long. As it turned out, I misunderstood the task and overestimated the complexity of his requirements. After his clarification, I handed him the right files within five minutes. As I headed home to Morningside later that night, I knew that the lesson of that day was that one should always ask questions no matter how stupid they might sound, because it’s always better than doing the wrong work and wasting everybody’s time.
With my boss and mentor at AIA
4. Stay organized and concentrate
In the audit department at Deloitte, tasks pile up like hills. Some of my colleagues never got off before 2am even though it was low season. Luckily, usually there weren’t a lot of tasks for interns. One day, my senior asked me to document and scan some files in the office on my own. I thought the files were easy to document, so I just did some scanning in the morning and chilled out. But when I started documenting the files in the afternoon, I found the process extremely complicated with many requirements that I didn’t know about. I had no choice but to call my senior and learn about the process from the beginning step by step. I stayed until 8pm but I was only halfway through. I couldn’t finish my task that day, and I felt upset about burdening others when they could have been already off work.
This reminded me of when I first met my senior and asked her why she worked at such a fast pace. She answered, “You have to finish the tasks efficiently enough in order to set aside more time for yourself.” From my observation, efficiency stems from well-organized schedules and tremendous concentration. This lesson prompted me to tackle my procrastination, both in my internships and in my studies.
5. Form good habits and set goals
What I learned from both internships was far more than professional knowledge. Many of my accomplished colleagues and clients had good habits such as exercising, especially my boss who woke up at 5:30am every day and exercised before work. Inspired by them, I started jogging at 5:30 every morning for 30 days in the summer, setting continuous goals, and keeping track of my progress and improvements. New habits such as exercising and adopting a more caring and considerate attitude toward others had a positive impact on my social life.
My last day at AIA
Looking back at my internships, I realized that Hong Kong is a place full of opportunities and that the people here are truly the most precious resources, as they have taught me things I could never have learned by merely reading textbooks. As long as you open up to new experiences and overcome your fear of making mistakes, summer internships may benefit you more than summer school does. After all, there’s no such thing as a wrong decision when signing up for an internship, and everything you experience is a valuable lesson!