International students embrace the opportunity of internship at Alibaba

What is it like being an intern at one of the most successful tech companies in China? For Vivian Wong, one of the summer interns at Alibaba, it helps her step out of comfort zone and reinforces her decision to do a PhD after graduation.

Departing from Stanford University, Vivian journeyed halfway across the world to Hangzhou for the ZIERIP program, which gave her the opportunity to act as a research intern in the City Brain Project at Alibaba Cloud.

Launched by the School of Software Technology, Zhejiang University International Education-Research-Industry Program (ZIERIP) is open to master and PhD students from top universities in the world.

ZIERIP integrates academic and cultural training at ZJU with a 10-week internship at top tech companies in China. It is the first time that the University has developed such program with its partner companies. The internship that the program provides aims to bring talented young people from around the world into Chinese tech companies鈥 not as a path to a future job at the company, but as a way to experience the corporate culture firsthand and take the thoughts and inspiration back for their own future success.

Alibaba Group, the world鈥檚 largest retailer, attracts and amazes the international interns, thus becomes the main destination of their internship.

鈥淏efore I came here, I knew it was a big company, not only in China but also (it was) very popular and prestigious worldwide, so I think it would be a good opportunity for me to both see the culture of China and work in this big internet company,鈥 said Theodoulos Rodosthenous, a PhD student in statistics at Imperial College London, who stepped on the land of Asia for the first time in his life.

Internship at Alibaba isn鈥檛 a sinecure by any means. Alibaba group allocates the interns pursuant to their academic backgrounds and interests to the essential departments including Alibaba Cloud, Damo Academy, and many others. These interns are required to be highly involved in the projects and tap into their potential.

Theodoulos, for example, has to perform a variety of tasksfrom developing scalable Graph Embedding techniques in JAVA and Apache Flink for streaming data to optimizing algorithms to reduce computational complexity on big data. Another intern, Vivian, is currently in charge of adding Q-learning and implementing reinforcement learning techniques into the traffic signal control algorithm.

YU Liang, Vivian鈥檚 supervisor at Alibaba, gave very positive feedback on her performance.鈥淗er work will definitely benefit us in the long term,鈥 said YU. 鈥淥ur team has always wanted to start optimizing the traffic signal control system. And since Vivian has the background of civil engineering and continuous interest for this area, we allow her to take the lead and let her surprise us.鈥

Though the working environment at Alibaba is fast-paced, the overall vibe is still vibrant and inclusive. 鈥淵ou don鈥檛 see many hierarchical situations here. Everybody is pretty young and chill,鈥 said Wanliang Tan, a PhD student from Stanford.

Starting from the mid of July, the internship still has four to five weeks to go. The whole ZIERIP program, which includes lectures, cultural experience and internship, has left an unforgettable memory for participants.

鈥淚 would definitely recommend it to anybody who's interested in it,鈥 said Vivian. 鈥淭his is a really enjoyable learning experience. When you come here, you really get to learn a lot of things, because it鈥檚 highly likely that whatever department you get into, it may probably be very different from something you鈥檝e been doing at school.鈥

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