A day out at Disney … for work, not pleasure | Duke Kunshan University

A day out at Disney … for work, not pleasure

March 26, 2019

We’re bouncing down the highway headed to Shanghai Disneyland and there’s a flurry of activity on our minibus, which is carrying nine excited Duke Kunshan undergraduate students and the Career Services team.

This Friday field trip is no joyride; there will be no tour of the Enchanted Storybook Castle or hugging Mickey and Minnie. Instead, we’ll be dropping by Disney University, a more business-like part of this vast theme park, to discuss internship opportunities with campus relations specialist Cherry Qu.

While some of the smartly dressed students go over their research on the “happiest place on Earth,” Jake Hsu, senior manager of the careers team, sits toward the back of the bus to take a call from a Shanghai media company that’s also interested in taking interns from Duke Kunshan.

At the front, Hyunwoo Lee, one of the university’s Career Services officers, chats with students about international branding and some of the questions they might want to ask at the upcoming meeting.

It was the third field trip in as many weeks organized by the careers team, with earlier outings taking in a Giant factory that produces about 5,000 bikes a day and the headquarters of ICBC, one of China’s “Big Four” banks.

It’s worth pointing out that the students on these trips were all freshmen, part of the Duke Kunshan’s inaugural Class of 2022, meaning they are still some way off graduation.

For Hsu, it’s never too early for students to start preparing for their potential career path. “Even at this early stage in their academic life, students need to be learning about the various cultures across industries and securing professional connections,” he said. “We’re here to encourage them and create as many opportunities as possible to make those things happen.”

During the visit to Shanghai Disneyland in early March, students got to see backstage areas and the vast costume warehouse, and had a chance to talk with Qu and get to know the qualities the world’s largest entertainment company looks for in a candidate.

The excitement level arguably reached a peak when she mentioned that employees – including interns – receive a free pass to any Disney park in the world.

“It was a fantastic trip,” said Chinese undergraduate Lan Tang. “I was able to get a glance at the tremendous effort Disney puts in to make the ‘magic’ happen. It got me interested in learning more about how the park works by joining its team.”

In addition to arranging field trips and providing one-on-one consultation services to Duke Kunshan’s graduate and undergraduate students, this semester, the careers team has organized job fairs; skills workshops, such as in resume writing, networking and surviving a job interview; talks by guest speakers; and held photography studio sessions so that students can have professional portraits.

In the weeks following the Disney trip, the team took students to a robotics company in Hangzhou, a high-tech city about two hours away in neighboring Zhejiang province, and hosted an on-campus session with global recruitment firm Hays.

Coming up, Duke Kunshan students are also scheduled to tour a factory belonging to Schindler, the Swiss-based escalator and elevator manufacturer, as well as visit Innovent Biologics, which makes innovative medicines to treat cancer and other major diseases, and the HQ of NBA China.

“The company visits have been extremely well received by students, as they’re eye-opening experiences that make the working world real for them,” Hsu said. “They get to take a close look at what an organization actually does, how something is made, and get a better understanding of what different jobs involve.”

Shang Li, who visited the Giant plant along with 28 other undergraduate students, described the trip as “amazing” and called for more factory visits so she could learn about production processes.

After about two hours at Disney, we’re back on the minibus and heading home, although now there’s a little less legroom thanks to all the goodies from the Disney Store and other outlets on the way out of the park.

The students, all of whom took the initiative to add Qu on WeChat to ask follow-up questions, are discussing what they have learned and whether they will apply for Disney’s summer intern program.

“Liberal arts students like those at Duke Kunshan get to choose from a broad range of courses and subjects, and we also want them to see a wide spectrum of companies and working environments," Hsu said. "Our services, including the Friday field trips, aim to raise awareness of the countless possibilities our students will have after graduation.”

To find out more about the Career Services team, visit its website.