**LC = Local Committee. GCDP = internship but unpaid. GIP = internship, paid. PKU = Peking Univ. RUC = Renmin Univ. EP = Exchange Participant.
It’s my story when I went to Beijing last August (2012). I just moved it from another place to this blog…because I wanna share to wider readers.
This is a story of my second exchange experience with AIESEC with GIP program (two years ago I went to Beijing for a GCDP program, which was a bit messed up too, but this is another story). My EP ID is: EP-In-ID-US-2012-1445 and the TN ID of my program is TN-In-CN-PK-2012-1984 via AIESEC PKU.
This program is an Education Training program where I can teach English in China as an assistant teacher for one semester, started from September 2012. In the TN form, it wasn’t stated that only NATIVE SPEAKERS or WESTERN PEOPLE could apply, so I applied and got accepted by a girl named Gujing in May 2012. The interview process was very quick and I got accepted right away.
Yet several problems happened before and during my stay in China for a short one month. It was an exceptionally bad experience. To make it easier to understand, I will put this story into some parts. I wrote this solely for a ‘warning’ and ‘sharing’ purpose to other future-exchange-participants/people in general so they won’t experience the same awful things like us because of this company and a certain man called Larry (*9 people who were in the same project with me from many different countries). I don’t intend to do a libelous act nor put the blame solely on one party.
After I got accepted, I asked for the invitation letter for visa F requirement (visa F for internship) yet AIESEC PKU and the company kept delaying it since May, and in the end, I never had received an invitation letter until I departed to China.
The company said there are problems with the invitation letter and promised they will sort it out after I arrived in China. This is what they stated in the email:
The government has explained to us clearly that your Invitation Letter of F-visa should be ready by middle of the August. The reason is there are a huge number of applicants for arriving in China on August and the procedure has been delayed.
Now we need to discuss the new solution with you. Our suggestion is, you apply a 30-day Tourist Visa and arrive China on August 17th or 18th. We will meet you at Beijing airport. When you are in Beijing, we will apply to change your tourist visa to the 150 F-visa. It will be easier to wait for F-visa invitation letter after your arrival in China.
So I departed with only L visa for 30-days stay. I didn’t give much thought about it because of my excitement of going to this project. I thought I were going to Hongkong to get F visa, but then Larry told me I don’t need to, that I can do it in Beijing. Later he said I can work with L visa since many foreigners in Beijing also did so, I’m a bit uncomfortable hearing this since I know visa policy isn’t something you can play with. He also said he’s capable of extend my L visa for 3-months stay, which later I found out this is impossible because L visa can only be extended TWICE for one month for each extension.
I thought once I arrived in Beijing, I’d get TEFL Training right away and the school for me was already decided. And that I’d teach in Beijing.
But soon after I arrived, Larry said the TEFL Training would be conducted in October after we get ‘enough experience of teaching in Chinese school’. Also, that we all would teach in another city/province, one person for one city. Moreover, I also found out that the company was still looking for a school for us. AIESEC PKU later, after the problem occurred, claimed they didn’t know that EP still didn’t get any school even after we’re matched in the system. But some of AIESEC PKU member said otherwise. Surprising and confusing.
In the end, despite the fact I have 1.5 years teaching experience and TEFL Certificate from local English First, I didn’t get a school because I am not from western countries, because I’m an Asian. The same thing happened to the Holland girl but Cambodian-born. That is very racist, in my opinion. If the school refused me because I had no teaching experience or my TEFL certificate wasn’t enough, I’d find it more acceptable. But Larry and the AIESEC PKU said it’s merely a stereotype and a MARKET DEMAND. Then he offered me a job to work with him in the company. I said I’d think about it, and since I thought I got no other choice, I accepted it at first.
But after almost 3 weeks, nothing was clear about my contract, my job description, and when will I start working in the company. Larry did told me about the working details and visa on Sunday, Sept 02, but still asked me to “Wait. Because office is not ready”. And didn’t mention about working hours though he said I’d receive the same amount of salary as the other interns. Later I found out from my Thai friend (who was also supposed to work with him in the company), that I had to work from 9-6 Monday-Friday, which is twice longer than the working hours stated in EP AN (less than 20 hours a week).
During the three weeks, I ran out money+visa+patience of waiting in uncertainty. The uncertainty and frustration also happened to my other friends, because Larry kept changing their city/school. Everything was so unorganized and no clear details on why the plans was kept changing were shared to us. We only could wait and wait with “I’ll tell you tomorrow” promises. So then I told him (on Friday Sept 7th) I’d leave if there’s nothing clear about my work on Monday Sept 10th. He then started yelling and threatened he’d call the police and made me pay some fine if I dare leaving China and also how much money he spent on me, etc, etc (*while he said himself before this is government project and he got government budget. AND he didn’t pay THAT much either since the hostel was cheap and I paid for my own meals since the beginning even though in my EP AN it was stated that company shall pay for it.). At this point, I lost all my trust and respect for this person.
I contacted AIESEC PKU and AIESEC SURABAYA about this new condition and one girl from AIESEC PKU tried to solve it by talking to Larry. Then he gave me some offer about teaching in an English Institution and that he’d set up an English class so I can teach there. But these are still probabilities and sounds so unconvincing for me. Moreover, he also asked me to write the contract myself…which really doesn’t make any sense for me. He decided I refused the offer when I said I’d think about it and from that day on, he stopped paying me the accommodation. He also said if I leave China, I must pay him all the accommodation cost during my stay, wrote an apology letter stated it was my mistake and not his that I decided to leave, and If I can’t pay, he’d make AIESEC to pay because AIESEC has found him the wrong person for the program, also threatened to call immigration office to stop me from leaving, etc etc.. He also gave the same threat to EPs from Norway.
PROBLEM SOLVING FROM AIESEC
After all the threats I received, I felt so insecure and decided to move hostel (*and because the hostel was too expensive for my wallet) and told my embassy about this problem. The embassy asked me to go home right away and not to accept any more offer from Larry because they find him unreliable.
Yet AIESEC PKU and Surabaya persuaded me to stay while they’re trying to figure out some solutions for me. The solution at first was to accept company’s offer to teach in a kindergarten in ShanXi Province and that I had to spend 2 more weeks in Beijing to prepare. I refused this because of the un-clarity of “preparation weeks” and that I really ran out money to sustain myself in Beijing for 2 more weeks plus a month in ShanXi province before I get my allowance and that I don’t want to accept any more offer from Larry. I refused NOT because I don’t want to work, but I can’t be bothered about more uncertainty and more frustration if I accepted it, I’m totally drained already.
Then they worked out on other solutions on Thursday Sept 13th: PKU will take care of my visa extension, find me a temporary GCDP program, and find me a new TN for GIP. Though PKU still wished I’d take the company offer, in which me and my LC agreed under the condition Larry has to sign an agreement which is stated he won’t threaten me, gave out clear details about the project, etc etc.
To shortened the story, because of some misunderstanding and miscommunication between AIESEC Surabaya and PKU, people from PKU said it’s hard for them to find me another GIP and that Larry refused to sign the agreement based on some legal reasons. Because of that, I finally had to go home, empty handed. Moreover, I got no reason to stay since no GIP for me to do as well.
This is my second exchange experience with AIESEC. The first one was messed up because I was told the project was cancelled on my way to China. Because I couldn’t come back, so I still went to China and AIESEC RUC (the LC at that time) promised to find me and my friend another GCDP. They did, and it was sort of making the whole exchange experience better.
This time I went for GIP, giving AIESEC a second chance and wishing they won’t mess up the project again. But then, again, something more terrible happened, because of the unreliable company in the TN that AIESEC raised.
Try to put yourselves in my shoes: coming to China to find a job with money only enough for a month there because I was thinking I’d get allowance at my second month, sacrificing the open recruitment from Foreign Ministry which I’d been waiting for 2 years only to come to China, but in China I got rejected by the school because of a racial reason, then went through almost a whole month of frustration and uncertainty, and also got threatened by Larry. If you were me, how would you feel and react?
The problem with Larry is not only personal problem like what the AIESECers thought. They didn’t seem to understand WHY the uneasy and insecure feeling I had for him led me to decline his offer to teach English (which was a job stated in the EP AN). Picture this: you run a business, wanted to make a deal with another company then found out the company is led by a man like Larry. Even in business matter, company’s credibility and trust we have for business partner are important, too. I saw how he dealt with the other interns, the frustration all of them went through. Even if they got their school at the end, the process was extremely exhausting and frustrating for them, because Larry kept changing their cities, kept changing plans, breaking his promises, not giving clear answer/explanations about many details, etc etc. Moreover, none of us got the 150days-F visa company promised in the beginning. From this experience, I found that working professionally with him or accepting his offer, was not something I wanted to do, aside from his personality.
I’m grateful to the efforts spent by the AIESECers from both LCs especially during my last week in Beijing. I really appreciated that. Really. But it doesn’t change the fact at how disappointed I am and my family and how much I had lost (not only financially, but also time and opportunities) for this pointless-one-month trip. It’s actually mostly Larry’s fault, but it doesn’t mean AIESEC is not part of the blame at all.. Because it was them who provided the TN. It was them who sent me there. And it was them who, indirectly, forced me to go back. This case, my case, is still unsolved until now, for me. Even if AIESEC insisted it is, because AIESEC International said my decision to leave China making me at ‘weak’ position. Frankly, who wouldn’t leave if they were me? Even my friends who were in the same internship also wanted to go home. Some did. Some didn’t but they suffered throughout the internship period. From all these experience I get impression that all AIESEC care of, is their ‘good name’ and ‘good reputation’, not the EP’s well being. Well, I must say, reputation, name, and trust are earned….and they failed, terribly.
I do wish no other interns/EPs encounter the same problem like me and my intern friends. And also, please, for AIESEC, find a reliable company to work with so no other people will waste their money, time, energy to travel overseas only to go back home empty handed. It’s not easy for many people to travel overseas and we do to gain some more experience, more preferable the good ones. Beijing is a memorable and great place for me, but it’s now tainted with bad memories because of this.