Exploring Shanghai: My Internship Journey in the Heart of the French Concession

September 2018

During the fall of 2018, I was an intern at Rethink Manufacturing Solutions, an American-owned startup manufacturing consultancy in Shanghai’s Former French Concession. Rethink is owned by two young entrepreneurs from Portland, Oregon. Their objective is to connect American and European startups with Chinese manufacturers for their manufacturing needs. My supervisors were amazing to work with and made my time in Shanghai a period of professional growth. As an intern, my jobs included creating and managing social media, writing articles about sustainability practices within China’s manufacturing industry, and developing ways to ease contact processes between Rethink and their clients. 

As an environmental studies major with a passion for entrepreneurship, I found this internship to be quite beneficial. Prior to accepting the offer, I was hesitant to agree to work with Rethink partially because of the bad press China’s manufacturing industry receives. This industry rightfully deserves such media coverage; China’s manufacturing industry is the main contributor to air and water pollution in the country, not to mention poor working conditions in many factories. However, during my time at Rethink, I learned that, while much of greater China is far from adopting better Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices, some factories do exist that pride themselves on their sustainability practices and working conditions. Foreign manufacturing consultancies such as Rethink do their best to place their clients with such factories with high CSR values. While at this point in time, it is impossible to always match American and European companies with factories with the best CSR values, in a decade, it is my belief that China will offer more factories for those who view sustainability as a paramount practice in their supply chain. 

While I grew much as a professional in the sustainability field as an intern at Rethink, I was also able to explore a part of Shanghai not easily accessible from Fudan University’s campus. Working in Shanghai’s French Concession, I had easy access to many amazing restaurants and cafes. It is important to realize that Shanghai’s French Concession is a bustling part of the city that is home to many foreigners with a long history starting in the 19th century. For this reason, this area contains a diverse range of eateries, from Tacolicious, a delicious Mexican restaurant, to Pain Chaud, an aromatic coffee shop, not to mention the many restaurants offering the best Shanghainese cuisine offered in the world. The French Concession represents the immense diversity and entrepreneurial spirit found in Shanghai. 

In this part of the city, I never felt out of place. I developed a sense of belonging that I never thought I could have experienced in China. I came to realize that, during my semester in Shanghai, I was able to exist as my most authentic self. Shanghai became a second home.

Getting work done at a café in Shanghai’s Former French Concession.

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