Volunteer Review: Simon T., Law in China
In 2009 and again in 2012 I was lucky enough to travel around the world; however, I never made it to China. It’s always been a desire to go there, and after completing my LPC I decided to look into combining getting work experience with traveling to China. After researching different ways to do this I came across Projects Abroad. They made everything exceptionally easy, from helping me decide which programme would be best for me, to providing me with constant help whilst in China.
Arriving in China
I decided to do a Law project in Shanghai. I knew Shanghai was a big city, but you can’t quite comprehend just how big until you get there. Words and pictures just don’t do it justice.
I was met at the airport and taken by taxi to my flat. After dropping my things off, I was given a tour around the local area including places to eat, nearest shops, etc. After everything was sorted, I went back to the flat to meet my flat mates, of which during my time there, there was between two and four of us. The flat itself was roomy, air conditioned, and situated just 30 minutes from the financial district.
My placement in Shanghai
Whilst in Shanghai I worked for Dacheng Law; the biggest Chinese law firm. The firm has a couple of offices in Shanghai, but I was lucky enough to be situated in the Shanghai World Financial Center, commonly known as the “Bottle Opener”, Shanghai’s marquee building!
Each morning I arrived at work at around 9:00am and either began work that was on-going, or checked my emails to see if there was any new work. Early on in my placement my first port of call was to see my supervisor in order to be given work, however, after only a week or so it was common place to receive work from various partners at the firm who were keen to take advantage of my knowledge of English law.
Work ranged from simple proof reading and letter drafting to complex research activities and drafting share purchase agreements. As someone who has undertook a lot of legal work experience whilst at law school, I know that a lot of the time the work you can be given often seems trivial as you are seen as the intern.
Working for Dacheng was different, I was seen as a regular employee, someone who had to manage their own workload without constant supervision and was expected to deliver on time which was difficult at times, but the experience I gained is second to none.
On my last day I was taken out by some partners and a few of the lawyers as a thank you for the work I had done. I made some very special friends at the firm, some of who I keep in contact with now. I was also given a very nice reference from the head partner of International Business at Dacheng, which is never a bad thing!
My free time in Shanghai
Shanghai itself has to be seen to be believed; a truly awe inspiring city. You could spend a year there and never see everything. My flat was based in the heart of Shanghai and was never more than a 30 minute commute by metro to any of the attractions I wanted to see.
There’s a real mix of old and new in Shanghai and it’s never more evident than seeing the Bund and Pudong. The old former center at the Bund featuring old classical buildings that wouldn’t look out of place in Victorian London, perfectly contrasted and separated by the Huangpu River from Pudon, the current hub featuring some of the most modern, forward thinking architecture in the world today.
Despite being seen as such a modern city, Shanghai is full of history and culture. There are so many museums and art galleries you can visit to pass time. If you’re brave enough to take on the Shanghai sun then there’s a plethora of parks, gardens and squares to experience.
The food in Shanghai is second to none. There’s so much choice, every single type of food in China is on offer in Shanghai, food you would expect and food you don’t. Dishes range from simple noodles to pig intestines (actually quite nice!). If it moves its food in China!
It was at night the city really came to life. Whether it was street food, street musicians, walking along the Bund and taking in the sights across the river when it was lit up in all its glory or experiencing one of Shanghai’s numerous bars and clubs, the night scene was excellent. The bars ranged from grungy student places to over the top super clubs where clientele arrived by Ferrari. Of course this all has to be managed on a budget, but one indulgence to M1NT every now and then to see the shark tank, it doesn’t hurt right?
If you get time it is also well worth getting out of the city. A weekend trip to Beijing is a must. The bullet train can get you from Shanghai to Beijing in just five hours. A weekend is enough time to see the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I also made the effort to spend a weekend in the Yellow Mountains which was absolutely spectacular.
My final thoughts
I loved every minute of my time in Shanghai. The help and advice I received from Projects Abroad from the start, all the way to the finish was excellent. Everything was so easy and straight forward. The placement exceeded expectations; it was challenging and at times stressful, but very rewarding. I met some amazing people along the way and it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.