Li-Wei Chu is a former UC Davis and UCEAP student, having studied at Queen Mary, University of London. Li-Wei Chu is a prime example of an engaged, enthusiastic UCEAP student, constantly involving himself in photo competitions and trips planned for UK & Ireland UCEAP students. During his time abroad, he was provided the opportunity to intern for Raindance, a film festival in Central London. Read about how Li-Wei gained this unique opportunity, as well as what this incredible internship in London entailed, below:
Getting an internship in my host country was always at the top of my list. After studying film in my small college town for three quiet years, I felt that I was stuck career-wise. I always dreamed of working and living in the big city in the future, but I never had the courage or experience to do so. Now that my time in university was ending, this was my final chance to step out of my comfort zone as a student before I headed out into the real world. With a million nervous thoughts swirling inside of my head, I packed up and headed to London, hoping to learn about what the film industry was like in a truly international city. My journey had finally begun!
We’ve all heard the age-old adage: ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ As it turns out, there’s a reason why this saying exists–it’s completely true. Even after getting career advice from my host university’s helpful advisors and asking my new professors about job opportunities, I still felt lost. Dozens of companies ignored my applications, and after a few weeks of trying I was starting to feel more and more discouraged. Should I should just give up on finding an internship? Does anyone even want to hire a small-town kid like me?
I guess that would’ve been where the story ended had it not been for the UC Alumni network. I noticed that the UC London Study Abroad Centre was advertising for a mentorship program that connected current study abroad students to UC alums working in London, so I signed up to fill up some of my free time. All I really wanted was a friend, and maybe someone who would be able to guide me in the right direction.
As it turned out, the UC Alumni network was that friend who knows everyone. Within a few weeks I was paired up with David, one of the producers of Raindance–a film festival that just so happened to operate out of central London! After meeting with him a few times over coffee (and pomegranate juice) and asking him a bunch of questions about the industry, he mentioned that he was actually looking for interns for his company. Of course, I immediately jumped at the prospect of getting hired. Since David had already gotten to know me through the UCEAP mentorship and he happened to be the recruiter, I was able to get the job easily. “It’s who you know,” indeed.
During my time at Raindance I did many, many different things from handling calls (and learning how to transfer callers to the right people) to setting up a massive party for independent filmmakers, actors, and one famous 80’s pop star. I wrote a number of articles for their website, with topics ranging from “6 Tense, Quiet Moments in Film” to “How To Get Your Short Into Raindance” and flexed my social media skills by tweeting off of the @Raindance main account and @RaindanceNYC. My fellow interns and I were even allowed to watch all of the submissions for Raindance 2018, and our input was valuable enough to help decide which films were potential candidates for being shown at the upcoming festival. Working for Raindance opened my eyes to the staggering amount of film talent there was in the world, and it was heartbreaking every time I had to pass on a film that I knew was great but not up to our festival standards.
But aside from that, maybe the best part of Raindance was the fact that I felt valued as a team member. Not once was I forced to make someone a coffee (which so often happens in film internships)! Despite the fact that I was an office intern, my opinions were often appreciated and taken into account by the core staff, and for the most part we were independent workers. For that, I’m eternally grateful to both UCEAP and Raindance… thank you for helping me achieve my goals while studying abroad, and for helping me find a place where I felt that I was valued. David didn’t just help me find a temporary job abroad–he introduced me to some lifelong friends.
Tips for people interested in finding an internship:
- Make use of any opportunities that UCEAP provides for you, and check your emails! If I didn’t apply to be a part of the mentorship program who knows where I would be right now?
- Go to your host university’s career advice center to spruce up your resume and make it appealing to UK standards.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your new professors for career advice! They’ll know how to best find you a job in your field, especially since you’re in a new country.
- Sending out resumes actually DOES work (despite how discouraging it can be). I obtained a second internship with a private film club just by asking around, and now I’m good friends with the boss.
- Step out of your comfort zone! One of the job interviews that I had to do was actually in a pub (which I’ve never been to before) and it ended up being very fun. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You are, after all, abroad!
If you have any stories, pictures, or experiences you want to share to be featured on the UKI UCEAP website, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!