Interning in Shanghai’s French Concession

Exploring Shanghai’s French Concession after work at Rethink. Fall 2018

This past semester, I have been an intern at Rethink Manufacturing Solutions, an American owned Manufacturing Consultancy in Shanghai’s 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 was to ease the contact process between Rethink and their clients.

As an environmental studies major with great interest in 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 for 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 China is far from adopting better Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices, some factories do exist in China 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 that view sustainability as a paramount practice in their supply chain.

Interning with Rethink has inspired me to continue this path along the intersection of sustainability and manufacturing. While mainland China is a few years away from developing the political practices and framework ideal for a sustainable manufacturing industry, Taiwan is a place where I wish to explore their top-notch sustainability practices within their circular-economy based manufacturing industry and continue learning Mandarin.

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 wth 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, a 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 would have experienced in China.

I anticipate returning to Shanghai over the summer as to learn more about this entrepreneurial spirit unique to Shanghai. During my return trip, I look forward to calling the French Concession home once again.