Student Spotlight: Undergraduate's Passion for China Takes Her to Shanghai Internship

Before last summer, Aubrey Moulton, BS '18, knew very little about China other than that’s where she wanted to do a summer internship.

“I didn’t know the language, cultural etiquette, or have any connections,” says Moulton, who is a senior majoring in public health. “I just thought [working there] would be a way to get out of my comfort zone and try something totally new.”

With that goal in mind, Moulton began zeroing in on how could get to China, reaching out to organizations and people in the GW community that might help connect her with internship opportunities. She eventually landed an internship at the Joint U.S. China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), an NGO that works to create a healthier, more sustainable China.

Two weeks later, Moulton was on a plane to Shanghai, where she would spend the summer working on JUCCCE’s Food Heroes project, which integrates nutrition and sustainability to educate Chinese children about making better food choices that benefit both their health and the environment.

Moulton and her co-workers were responsible for developing a gamified curriculum for kindergartners that included in-class and out-of-class components. She describes the experience as a whirlwind, having to learn new skills quickly on the job and adapt to a much faster pace of work than she was used to at school.

She remembers one part of the project in which the team had to create homework sheets from scratch using graphic design software that no one on the team knew how to use. Moulton jumped in and learned Adobe Illustrator on the fly, designing a curriculum’s worth of worksheets in a matter of days. She says it was a “crazy” experience, but it taught her the importance of stepping up and taking responsibility, even in areas in which she is less comfortable.

Throughout her internship, Moulton put to use all of the skills that she’s learned at Milken Institute School of Public Health. “I did some grant and policy writing, which plays directly into the senior seminar class I’ve taken, and there was a lot of teamwork and collaboration, which is also encouraged here at GW,” she says. Health communication skills were also important. Moulton researched how Chinese people view their food system and how to market to that specific audience to make culturally relevant promotional and marketing materials.

She also credits her fellow interns with helping her to learn new skills and broadening her perspective on work and public health. “I was working with this incredible team—it was 20 interns from all around the world,” she says. “They brought entirely different educational backgrounds, entirely different experiences to the table.”

By the end of the summer, the team finalized Quest 1 of the Food Heroes curriculum that will be implemented in the city of Shenzhen. Seeing the project to completion was extremely rewarding for Moulton, who hopes to return to China to work after she graduates this December. She says that her summer internship experience taught her that’s she’s capable of pursuing her dreams, no matter how big. “I had no clear path to follow, but I had a goal in mind and I made it work,” she says. “If you want it bad enough, you can get anywhere.”