AIESEC-NZCFS China Exchange: Volunteering in Chongqing, China

In April 2015, the NZCFS Wellington Branch and AIESEC, the world’s largest student run organisation that sends university students on internships and exchanges around the world, called for applicants who wanted to go on a 6+ week AIESEC exchange to China. Funding to support the exchange for successful applicants was to be provided through the Simon Deng Li Fund.

Tess Pilkington, from the Auckland University of Technology, was selected as one of the winners of the NZCFS-AIESEC China Exchange project. She is currently studying Business Management and Health Science and has previously travelled to China through the Aotea Youth Symphony Orchestra in 2011.

In July, Tess was selected for a Global Community Development internship in Chongqing, Southwest China. During her time in the city, she worked for a ‘Special Care’ project, which focuses on children with autism, and included visiting local hospitals, and raising funds awareness in the city.

Below is an update of the Tess’s experiences in China so far-

I arrived in China on 16 of July and went sightseeing for one day in Beijing, visiting the Forbidden City. Following this, I attended the Global Community Development Seminar in Beijing, with 360 people from 51 countries and territories. The seminar was really fun as I met people from all over the world and learnt about previous exchange stories and how we could make a difference during our exchange.


Tess with some of her students

Following the seminar, I went on a 25 hour train to Chongqing city, which in my opinion is the most beautiful city in the world, with a number of other international interns. We spent our first week at Number Nine People’s Hospital of Chongqing learning about autism. The second week we spent with the autism centre at the hospital teaching lower functioning autistic children how to communicate and express themselves successfully. We helped the higher functioning autistic children to integrate with society by taking the bus to a cake store and decorating cakes, taking the train and eating lunch at a restaurant, going shopping at the supermarket, and taking them to the local kindergarten to participate with non-autistic children. This was very challenging, fun, and rewarding experience.

AIESEC-NZCFS China Exchange

Fund raising event in Wanda Square

During the third week, we set up an event at the local shopping mall to raise money for autistic children in China. This was a lot of fun interacting with the public and we collaborated with another project, meaning I got to meet more wonderful people. This week we prepared a concert to raise awareness of autistic children in China. The concert was amazing and we raised over 80,000 yuan for the autistic children.

AIESEC-NZCFS China Exchange

Fund raising event in Wanda Square

China as always is wonderful, I am so glad I came to Chongqing. The host family I am staying with is wonderful. On the first night they were a bit shy to speak English and I knew little Chinese but the boy who is eleven busted out some Michael Jackson and we instantly bonded over our love of music and specifically Michael Jackson. People always told me music is universal but I never believed it until that moment. The food in Chongqing is amazing especially as I think my host father is a chef, his cooking is indescribable. I was also lucky that the host mother is a doctor, and we instantly bonded when she found out I am studying Biomedicine. I was also lucky to have met the host family’s friends who all are so friendly, giving me my Chinese name Yao Mei, and meeting the host mother’s friends who are all doctors. This turned out to be very good as I got sick, just with a common cold, but the host mother took me with her to work and got her friend the nose, throat, and ear doctor to see me and they made me better with this weird machine instantly, I think we need one of these in New Zealand, and I didn’t have to wait or pay for anything including my medication.

My host mother teaching me how to make dumplings

My host mother teaching me how to make dumplings

I couldn’t have gotten luckier staying with a Chinese family who love my three favourite things; food, health and music. It is funny, I tell them they need to come to New Zealand as they have a very Kiwi lifestyle, they don’t take much seriously, are very down to earth and love beer and fishing. I know I have a second family now, and that I am always welcome in Chongqing.

Following her exchange in Chongqing, Tess will travel around China, including visiting Chengdu, Xi’an, Beijing, Hangzhou and Hong Kong. She will then travel around Southeast Asia before returning to New Zealand.

If you would like to learn more about the AIESEC-NZCFS China Exchange, please contact Kirk McDowall at A further round of funding for students wanting to go on an exchange will be available later in the year. Please contact Kirk if you are interested.

AIESEC-NZCFS China Exchange

Chinese gardens in Chongqing

About the author

Kirk McDowall (NZCFS Youth)
Kirk McDowall (NZCFS Youth)

Hi I'm Kirk, and I'm part of the New Zealand China Friendship Society. I've spent time volunteering in Mainland China and currently (trying) to learn Mandarin. As a result, I joined the Society to be more involved in the Chinese community in Wellington. If you want to find out more about NZCFS Youth please contact us.


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