Internships in China can either be paid or unpaid due to the limitations on the types of visas interns are given but you can earn Extra income while interning in China. The risk of deportation, fines, and being blacklisted (or flagged and banned) is a too high risk if you are caught using the wrong visa for a purpose. Instead, companies are legally allowed to provide stipends for interns to cover insurance, transportation, and food expenses but may not be adequate to cover the entire cost of the China Internship.

Some internships may include housing if they have employee dormitories and apartments to begin with. Others might offer shuttle bus transportation if their offices are remotely situated from the city. Some companies offer a daily lunch budget, while larger organizations will include lunch from their cafeteria. Chinese employee benefits can also include overtime transportation cost reimbursement, overtime dinner budget, and national vacation days.

Regardless of the company you intern at and the benefits they offer, there are numerous ways to recoup the cost of your internship in China without illegally working or breaking the law.  Here, we’ve outlined a few:

Opt for a homestay experience while interning in China

If your company does not offer free housing, to cut your living costs, you could consider a homestay with a Chinese family.  Homestays tend to be very affordable, allowing you to stay in a room of your own with meals included for a set amount of money and language exchange for the family, usually the children in the family.

Homestay Accommodation Saves cost

Sell things from your home country (dai gou)

If you have space in your suitcase, consider doing some research on what your home country produces/sells that cannot be purchased in China, or that fetch high prices in China.  You can research by checking out wanted ads in the classifieds sections of online city guide communities of your destination city.  For example, a Finn coming from Finland might bring dried blueberries, vitamins, and snuff, while an American might bring electronics or luxury goods that are easy to sell to both expat and Chinese locals.  Do be careful about not overdoing it and bringing too much, as you might face taxes at customs. As long as the total value of your items is below RMB 6,000, you should be able to convince them that you have brought gifts for the Chinese you will be meeting (standard custom).

Participate in voice recording or testing gigs

Depending on the city you’re in, there are often opportunities for voice recording or, in the case of tech zones, voice testing.  Companies often seek native dubbing actors, textbook readers, or guinea pigs that can test their latest app or software in a language other than Chinese. Such opportunities do not count as employment, as they are usually on a case-by-case basis and are only available when certain projects are running.

Voice Recording Gigs

Write freelance articles about your China experience or for local media

If you’re interested in writing, you can pitch your China experiences to media back home and see if you can find a company that would be interested in paying you for your articles/blogs.  In China, again, depending on the city you’re in, there is also a lot of local media you can pitch ideas to.  Unfortunately, the majority of media are in English and the compensation varies based on whether it’s for print media, online media, or social media.

Teach your home language in private online classes or via an app

Teaching your native language in China doesn’t have to be considered employment if it’s done on a freelance basis without going through an agency.  Nowadays, there are many online channels that employ freelancers from all over the world to run online language classes to a group of students.  Such classes only require an internet connection and a laptop.  Large cities, such as Beijing, also have apps that connect native speakers to locals who are interested in learning that language, often by some unconventional means more akin to language exchange.  With apps, you can set your own hourly rate, decide who you want to exchange with, and what topics you’re interested in talking about. You will notice that the salary for teaching opportunities in China is very high. It is a great opportunity to explore the increasing average salary in China

Teaching in China

Take photos in China and sell them

If you have a decent camera and an interest in photography, you could carry it around and take photos of what you see.  You can then edit and group your photos to be sold to media publications (in China or back home), package it together with a written piece, or uploaded to resource websites for sale.

Taking photos in China
A young woman using a DSLR camera

Sell your skills as a freelancer online

If you have other skills besides voice and writing, you can sell them by completing projects remotely.  The most commonly needed skills in China (for freelancers) are: web developer if you can create websites, programmer if you can write code, and graphic designer if you can design logos etc. If you don’t have skills you can specifically market in China, then sign up for websites such as fiverr.com and freelance.com.

 

Affordable Internship in China

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