My Transformative Summer In Shanghai

Blog post by Internship Program participant and second-year Harvard undergraduate student, Jeslyn Liu

Jeslyn Liu
February 20, 2024

This summer, I had the opportunity to work not only in an entirely new field but also in a new country and language. From conducting research alongside China’s leading disability rights activists to befriending the food stall vendors below my accommodation, I was able to contribute meaningful work toward the advancement of disability rights in China while experiencing the everyday life of one of the greatest cities in the world — Shanghai.

Liu at the Bund in Shanghai
Liu at the Bund in Shanghai

One Plus One Group, my host company, is truly one of a kind. As a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for the integration and rights of individuals with disabilities in society, they’ve successfully challenged societal stereotypes, combatted discrimination, and improved the socio-economic status of those with disabilities throughout China. The organization has been a pioneer in shaping disability rights, believing in the full integration of individuals with disabilities into society and demonstrating that people with disabilities are creative and valuable members of society.

While interning with One Plus One Group, I was able to learn skills that I most certainly would not have had the opportunity to learn elsewhere. From greatly improving my grasp on the Chinese language, to learning about the state of disability policy globally, to becoming an expert on tools used in Chinese workspaces, I left with countless transferable skills in my inventory.

Most importantly, however, I learned how to work alongside an amazing group of coworkers. Out of the almost thirty employees at One Plus One Group’s Shanghai office, 90 percent are without vision, with the remaining employees having other types of disabilities. Though I learned so much through the work I was assigned and the research I conducted, I learned just as much — if not more — from conversing with my coworkers about their experiences. The unique opportunity to contribute daily toward advancing a movement directly impacting the livelihoods of those around me was eye-opening.

Liu in Xi'an in traditional Chinese garb
Liu in Xi’an in traditional Chinese garb

As someone who has always been passionate about social justice, this opportunity showed me that nonprofits, such as One Plus One, are at the forefront of today’s momentous societal movements. Through their efforts, progress is being made toward making the world a better place for everyone. With my interests being in law and policy, I learned that nonprofit work is a perfect way to combine my interests and passions into a career. Furthermore, I also realized my interest in pursuing a career outside of the US due to my incredible experience abroad. Though many things can be read about in books and discussed in classrooms, seeing and doing the work yourself is an entirely different experience that expands worldviews and shifts perspectives.

Not only did this opportunity allow me to advance my studies and understanding of inequality related to disability rights, but I was also able to learn more about the culture and country that make up half of my identity as a Chinese American. Alongside an amazing group of fellow interns, I had the opportunity to travel to different cities, visit museums, eat extraordinary food, and experience the daily life my parents experienced growing up. There were many moments of awe and wonder, but there were also many moments that made me realize how grateful I am to have the opportunities I have today. I can confidently say that this summer, I grew as a student, activist, daughter, and human being. I truly believe that there is no price that can be attached to an experience like the one I had, and I am incredibly grateful to the Harvard China Fund, Lillian, Emma, Emmeline, and everyone else who allowed for a successful return of in-person HCSIP.

To learn more about the Harvard China Student Internship Program, click here.