In Beijing, an internship worth yakking about

Guest post by Joyce Tang, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Joyce TangAt a recent Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) Alumni Panel, I heard a woman say she wished she had spent more time during her study abroad experience building a professional network, rather than only engaging with other students. I couldn’t agree more because I personally benefited from this decision while I was an exchange student at Peking University, the most prestigious higher learning institute in China.

After a meaningful summer internship in Shanghai, I knew I wanted to have more work experience while I was studying abroad. My resolve led me to find and accept an internship at a social enterprise called Khunu. This company produces premium yak wool apparel, while supporting the yak herders from whom the wool is sourced. With a great passion for social entrepreneurship and fashion, this was the perfect opportunity for me. Three days a week, I took a 45 minute commute—if I was lucky enough to squish my way onto the first subway that came during rush hour—to work and 45 minutes back to school.

During those three months, I learned things that turned my assumptions about China upside down. For example, I assumed most luxury fashion brands produced their products domestically to maintain quality and workmanship, but found out the factory we produced our apparel in was also used by a big name luxury label. It was also a lot smaller than I expected, as the picture in my head was of an enormous factory designed for mass production. Many people immediately think low quality when they hear the words manufacturing and China in the same sentence. However, this is not always the case. Khunu is one fashion label that is trying to redefine the “Made in China” tag.

What I learned at Khunu was reinforced at a panel discussion I recently attended on ethical sourcing, which was sponsored and organized by CISB and AIESEC. The vice presidents of global sourcing from Costco and Brooks Running Company spoke about the manufacturing, supplying, and operations practices of their respective companies. They emphasized the importance of setting a new market standard where businesses create value chains at every step of the process, rather than just supply chains. To accomplish this, the players at each stage of the chain—from cotton farmer to spinner to business to consumer—must demand and be provided fair compensation for the part they play. As I pursue a concentration and future career in operations and supply chain management, my experiences in CISB have played an invaluable part in helping me understand sustainable supply chains from both sides of the Pacific: Seattle and Beijing.