Blog by Sophie Wiggins.
Doing an internship via InternChina was an easy decision. I can study a course that challenges and compliments my skills while exploring the enigma that is China. The staff was very helpful before my departure back home which made the process a lot smoother. Poor Jack Fairhead who answered question after question. He must have had enough of me and was probably relieved when I finally arrived in Qingdao!
After tackling the gruelling 13 hour flight, with about 15 hours of travel and waiting in-between, I finally arrived in Qingdao last Thursday. Within minutes of my arrival I was taken aback with how different the culture compared to the United Kingdom is. I was greeted by InternChina’s accountant Amber and taken to my apartment. Later Calum my housemate and college arrived. We were both very jetlagged during our orientation at InternChina the next day.
My first impression of the city was that it had a lot more to it than an average city. Despite being highly business orientated, there is a variety of parks and greenery here, including an odd mountain right in the middle of the city. But the thing that struck me most when I got here was how friendly the locals are. Despite not being able to speak one sentence in Mandarin, every person I meet is so eager to engage in conversation and get to know me.
Here are 7 things I have learnt after being here for a week:
- It is hot. When I say it’s hot here it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You sweat about four hours the day, so basically whenever you are outside. It takes a while to get used to it.
- The language is difficult. I’ve had three classes and I just can’t get over the idea that if you say something in the wrong tone of voice it means something completely different! The locals often laugh at my attempts to speak to them in broken mandarin. It is a very beautiful language and definitely worth learning.
- Expect to be stopped for pictures on a regular basis (especially if your whiter than white as I am). They love foreigners over here and I get stopped every day for photos. It is quite fun actually.
- The Baidu Maps app is your best friend here. In a place where you can’t read or speak the language and only 0.78% of the population speak English, Baidu Maps is the best thing ever. An app which tells you how to get where you want to go, counts the bus stops and even shows you heavy traffic through a colour coded system. I am not sure how we would have gotten around without it.
- It is very cheap here. You can buy a big meal for as little as 1 pound. Which makes the £800 flight from the UK a little less painful.
- Expect to squat. I am not going to sugar coat, it is not pleasant sometimes but one way or another, eventually you will have to squat. Through pure luck I managed not to squat until today. It will happen. It’s inevitable. Be prepared.
- See everything you can. There is so much to do here. So far I have gone to the beach, to Fu Shan (the mountain in the middle of the city), the little Qingdao Island (the old town park), the night market and went on a few nights out at the international bars.
Why do an internship abroad?
To be completely out of your comfort zone in a way you wouldn’t think possible. To build character by seeing the history and culture, traditions and different ways of living. To enhance your employability and gain skills that make you stand out against other applicants.
I’m a British girl in Qingdao being challenged to the maximum in many ways and having the best time. – Sophie Wiggins, Design Intern