At the time of writing this blog, I have been in Chengdu for just five days. This is my third day as an intern in the InternChina office but I am already getting into the swing of life here. Having spent my year abroad as part of my degree studying at a university in Taiwan, I was eager to get a taste of living and working in mainland China. Chengdu appealed to me as it is a more manageable size and less international than the huge metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai, but still with lots to explore within the city and surrounding areas!
I chose to start my time in Chengdu staying in a homestay with a family and their seven-year-old son. While living in Taiwan and briefly travelling in China certainly broadened my understanding of certain aspects of Chinese culture and life, I had not developed an insight into Chinese family and home life. My family have been extremely hospitable and gone out of their way to help me get accustomed to life in Chengdu. Even in this short time, I have got an insight into their daily routine, met their family and colleagues, and tried a huge variety of delicious home-cooked meals. In Taiwan, I found that it was easy to learn what you liked on the menu and then stick with what you knew to avoid translating the menu every time. However staying with a family has led me to try new dishes, fruits and vegetables almost every meal, including foods that I would not usually have ordered myself, such as 美蛙鱼头火锅 (frog and fish head hotpot)!
Difference and Similarities to the UK
Whilst there are many similarities between family life in the UK and China, there are also some striking differences, most noticeably the pressure on young children to study. However, what particularly surprised me on my arrival, is that my family also have an 18-month-old son who is being raised by his grandparents almost 3000km away from Chengdu until he is old enough to attend kindergarten. While I had read about the phenomenon of parents living in urban areas sending their children back to their hometown to be raised by other family members, I had not grasped how common this was among Chinese families. Only seeing your parents once or twice during your first few years of life seems almost incomprehensible to me, and 3000km away from my hometown of London would mean crossing multiple countries ending up in Turkey, for example. However, the pressures of Chinese working life and the lack of affordable childcare options in urban areas, mean that this is a necessity for millions of Chinese parents who have to instead make do with video calling their child.
Communicating in Chengdu
Although I have been studying Mandarin for over four years, the language barrier with my family can still be a challenge. While I generally understand what is being said on a one-to-one basis, group conversations at mealtimes are definitely more difficult, especially with my host dad often switching into Sichuan dialect! However, I am definitely becoming more confident to say to the family when I don’t understand, and, with the help of Pleco (a Chinese dictionary app), I am learning lots of new words and phrases so, as is said in Chinese, 慢慢来 (it will come slowly)!
When I first mentioned to my friends and family that I will go to China for my year abroad, their first reaction was: “China? Why China? What are you going to do there? Why not Australia or America like everyone else? Is China even safe?” I’m sure everyone in the same situation as me, went through the same experience. But the question is why is everyone’s reaction like this about China?
Shouldn’t it actually be the other way around? Considering how rapid Chinas economic growth is, it’s a land full of opportunities! After being here for five months I keep asking myself, “why don’t we have the things they have here in China? Life here is so convenient and a lot of big business ideas could be brought back to Germany.”Not to mention how attractive your CV will look with ‘Accomplished an Internship in China’ written on it. Behind these written words lays a wide range of professional skills achieved while working in China. Skills such as flexibility, strong mentality, adaptability, high stress tolerance etc. It’s definitely not easy coming to China to work – especially when you’re alone and coming from a Western country. This means that getting through the day can be difficult sometimes.However, this shows just how much self-improvement that I’ve gained since working in China, and I’ve kept a few things in mind when things haven’t worked out the way I want them to:
“Keep trying and don’t give up”
Even if things don’t work out the first time, you learn from what went wrong and you try again and succeed from the second, or even third time.
“Every day is a challenge that you will overcome and grow”
Especially when coming to China for the first time, as many things are different. However, slowly and surely you will figure out the system. Just simple things like learning how to use the metro/bus the taxi, or even ordering food for the first time. It seems hard at first but when you’ve done it, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and one day you may even be as good as the locals!
Coming to China is challenging but coming out of your comfort-zone really isn’t as hard as you think. You just need to take the first step, because after that there is only self-improvement and growth!
Besides all of this, I fell in love with Chengdu. It’s a really fun and exciting city to live in. With lovely food and endless options to spend your spare time, even after being here for five months I’m still not tired of seeing parts of the city where elements of traditional and modern China clash together.Even though Chengdu is one of the bigger cities, it doesn’t lack nature as the city tries to be a green city with numerous parks. Not to mention how affordable everything is – you could live like a King/Queen here and it’s still cheaper than in most western countries!
Ciao! My name is Ferdinando and I am one of the office interns here in Chengdu. I come from Torino, a lovely city just a short drive away from the Italian Alps. I have now been in Chengdu for almost a month, but it honestly feels like I have been here an entire lifetime! The atmosphere and energy of this laid-back metropolis have completely won me over, and I could definitely imagine myself living here one day.As the days have passed, I have found myself more and more at ease in this new environment. I’ve started asking myself a simple question: Why? Why is it so easy for me to dive into and settle in this very different and complex culture, while with so many others I have a more challenging time? After some pondering over many hot bowls of dandan noodles, I have realised that the reason for my rapid acclimatization was that Chinese culture is, in fact, not so distant from my own Italian culture after all.The obvious starting point of this comparison is food: both Italians and Chinese are passionate about their food and possess very complex and proud eating cultures. Due to its abundance of strong flavours and “exotic” ingredients (such as chicken feet and pig brains!), traditional Chinese cuisine can seem threatening to Western palates. However, after a few days of rumbling stomachs, foreigners will get to know and appreciate the incredible richness of this wonderful culinary tradition. I am a great fan of Chinese food myself, and I believe that, upon my departure, the thing I will miss the most of Chengdu will be its succulent chuanchuan houses and its authentic noodle corner-shops.Another main point of contact between our two cultures is the paramount importance we both give to family and tradition. While strolling by Chengdu’s People Park, it is possible to see old grandparents practising Taichi with their young nephews, just as my grandparents used to play football with a young me in Torino’s parks. In addition, in the numerous large family gatherings I have seen in Chengdu’s hotpot restaurants I see the reflection of my own “extended family” lunches, that could last anywhere between three to six hours. I am of the opinion that this strong sense of community and belonging, typical of both Italian and Chinese families, not only creates deeper family and friendship ties, but also enhances your sense of cultural awareness. Thus making it easier to “jump over” the cultural divide at hand.A third similarity I have observed between Italy and China, especially in regards to Chengdu, is their common relaxed, “dolce far niente” approach to life. I have surprisingly found that the concept of being on time is exceptionally similar both in Italy and China, so that my canonical five-minute lateness is not only accepted (unlike in England), but almost encouraged! Although Chengdu still is a bustling, work-oriented metropolis, somehow its citizens manage to maintain a hands-off approach to both their professional and personal lives. This makes this city the perfect spot to jumpstart an ambitious, yet stress-free career.
I believe many other cultural analogies can be found between Italy and China, but that is not the point of this post. The point is, in my opinion, more important to underline and point out the existence of such similarities – as comparison brings recognition, recognition brings acceptance, and acceptance brings friendship. In other words, the purpose of this post is to highlight that, no matter where you are from and where you go, as long as you seek similarities and avoid division, you will find it easier to “jump over” the cultural divide and feel at home anywhere around the world. Therefore, this is the main advice I can give to new interns coming to China: seek the familiar in the foreign and the foreign will look familiar.
Previous interns had nothing but positive things to say about this programme. Further research into InternChina had drawn me to apply for the programme. I felt that they were passionate about integrating individuals from the West into China. This was exactly what I was yearning for.
After living in the U.K. for all my life, I wanted to experience a culture that was completely different from my own. What better way to do it than an internship in China? Not only would I be able to gain invaluable work experience, but I could also meet my goal and expand the perimeter of my comfort zone.
The experience communicating with InternChina staff made me even more at ease about flying 7000+ miles away from home. In particular, Ali Hashemi and Liam Dempsey were noteworthy. They were professional and caring members of staff who were pivotal in my final decision to apply.
Ali and Liam were prompt in reply to emails in regards to a small complication I had with my visa application. They alleviated fears about the accommodation, the flights and any other worries I may have experienced. With their support, I had a smooth pre-departure process that ensured me a pleasant arrival.
The Internship Experience and InternChina Support
My initial internship company aimed to interactively teach young children coding. (Python, Java, and Script). Being one of the few pioneering companies to take such an approach with programming, we agreed to use the skills from my degree to develop the psychological literature around the effects of coding from a young age. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to continue as planned. My overall goal was to not only experience China, but also gain work experience applicable to my future career. Therefore, I had to find a more suitable place.
Again, this is an instance whereby Liam demonstrated his ability to be understanding. He reassured me and found another placement that met my requirements very quickly. This led me to my new internship. Similar to the first one, the second was an innovative and expanding company with a passionate team that integrated various techniques (from the west as well as China). Such techniques were successfully employed to make functional fitness fun for adults as well as children from as young as 3 years old.
A Fresh Start
With a background dominated by physical activity and future prospects of going into Sports Psychology, this seemed like the perfect company for me. I had various tasks during my internship. These included making warm-up music or the staff to use with the children, international comparison with western fitness and suggesting exercises for staff and children.
Despite few English speakers, it was clear the team worked hard to ensure that I was involved. When there was overlap with InternChina weekend trips (e.g. TaGong, Four Sisters Mountains) and dinner meetups, my company was understanding and allowed me to tailor my working hours to ensure I was able to attend. Overall, my working hours allowed me to see the city and experience China as I had planned.
In My Spare Time
Outside of work I also took the time to visit some of the tourist sights. But I was more interested in having an authentic experience and understanding of the culture. In light of this, I took to the back streets and side alleys. Despite the language barrier, which I was able to overcome with the use of technology, I found myself not only learning the language but also teaching others about myself. Alongside the etiquette around eating, one of the things I refuse to forget is how to use chopsticks! Especially as it was so difficult to learn.
One of the highlights and surprises of my time in China is understanding that despite the obvious differences in culture and society, I could relate to similarly aged individuals. It seemed to me that these individuals were going through the same things as myself; we had more in common than we initially considered. This turned out to be a pleasant surprised which lead to considerable bond and international friendships.
Reflections on the Programme
I am from a low socio-economic background. Without this opportunity, this experience would have taken a much longer time to acquire. I am fortunate and honoured to have been a part of the Generation UK programme as I was able to come to China, meet like-minded people, develop business ideas, understand the business environment, gain experience, experience the culture and expand my comfort zone at a pivotal age.
I can happily say that it was a pleasure to be an intern in Chengdu. Also, InternChina facilitated my great experience and allowed me to meet my aims/goals in China. However, given the vastness of China and being on just a two months placement, I have plans to return to China and explore more. Instead of being an intern, next time I hope to have a business in China that is taking on interns.
Ever since I was a child (around the age 3), Mulan was my favourite Disney princess. She was a great inspiration on the love I developed for China. Throughout the following years, I started to love Chinese culture, food, clothes and history.
Coming across the Generation UK programme immediately caught my interest. It pushed me to research more about InternChina, the opportunities they offer and feedback from previous interns. After reading the positive feedback about the Generation UK programme, I knew to take this opportunity. I decided to apply to the programme for an internship in the marketing field.
Staff such as Ali Hashemi and Liam Dempsey were very helpful and quick to respond to my emails. This was very helpful and helped me build trust with InternChina and the services. This lessened my worries, as I would always get fast replies and answers for any questions I had regarding visa application, my apartment and life in China.
I have a background in psychology and want to study an international MBA for my masters. So I thought that doing an internship within the business field would be a bridge between my transition from psychology to business. I was hoping to familiarise myself with key terminology in marketing, broaden my network and surround myself with the business environment.
The Master’s course I will undertake is international. Thus, doing an internship in a foreign country would make me understand more about the different procedures required for businesses in a country outside of the UK and Europe which I am familiar with.
During the Programme
Landing in China and realising that I made it so far made me feel like I’ve accomplished a big part of my goal. It was a sunny day and I could not stop smiling when I was walking from the airport, all the way to the compound I lived in. My departure and arrival in China were very smooth. Liam picked me up from the airport with a warm welcome. He made me feel like I was ready for an adventure.
Throughout my time in Chengdu, all I had to do was throw myself out there and adapt to the environment I was in. I would use sign language and mime. And lastly, I would use a translation application to get a Chinese person to understand what I was trying to say. I always loved relying on myself before using translation applications. The language barrier was never an issue for me. I would see it as a fun challenge where I could learn a Chinese word from.
The weekly Chinese classes that I received were very helpful. I would use a lot of the words that I learnt in class in my everyday life in Chengdu. The Chinese classes were great fun with the other interns. I am still learning more Chinese now, as the languages and characters were very interesting.
The Internship Experience
Doing the internship and working with the best team was great fun. I would look forward to going to work every day and learn more about digital marketing in China and the Chinese way of doing business. My boss was a very cool person, and I made great connections with the team. I was so surprised that I could take a nap (my lazy hobby) at work during the break. The normality of it surprised me.
Having the opportunity to work in my internship familiarised me with business models and key terms that will be useful in my postgraduate degree. Broadening my network and making connections with businesses in China via work will be beneficial for me in the future.
Outside of Work
After work, I would always visit the bubble tea shop under my apartment. I became friendly with the people who worked there. Also, there was a little noodle shop that was me and my friend’s favourite place to visit. Building a little community for myself in the area I lived in was very important. It made me feel more like I was at home.
Tourism in the city never ends! From my experience, walking down the market and going inside a little restaurant to eat fried rice and dumplings with chopsticks was some sort of tourism. The trips organised were great fun, and I enjoyed visiting the Chengdu panda research base. Seeing the Jinlong Great Wall in Luodai was an amazing experience which motivated me further to take another trip to China and visit the Great Wall in Beijing. The Thursday dinners were also exciting because it allowed me to try lots and delicate traditional Chinese dishes and give me the perfect time to catch up with other interns.
After the Programme
I appreciate the opportunity for me to do an internship and reach my main goal. It makes me proud to inspire other minority women, such as those from a Muslim background. I hope to inspire them to push themselves out of their comfort zone and do an internship or travel to different countries. I did have doubts and second thoughts about doing an internship in China sometimes. However, I managed to live 5000+ miles away from home, whilst still being able to be myself. This experience taught me to express your values comfortably. And will never feel like you need to fit in because others will accept you for accepting yourself.
This trip to China is an unforgettable chapter of my life. It is the beginning of my travelling journeys. It was a break that I needed from my average daily life. I am very thankful to InternChina and the Generation UK programme for giving me this chance to accomplish my goals. My advice to anyone thinking about this internship would be, take the opportunity and just be comfortable with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone!
When I was asked by one of our NGO partner companies here in Chengdu to join them on a company trip to Yunqiao village accompanying one of our participants, I became very excited. This NGO are a non-profit Community Service Organisation approved by the Chengdu Civil Affairs. Their mission is to “improve ecosystems by working directly with communities to achieve sustainable development and the construction of an ecological civilization” – the organisation offer internship opportunity CDNGO06.
I was accompanying InternChina participant Rosa on the trip to Yunqiao Village, during the entirety of the trip I was discussing with Rosa about her stay in China and her internship with the NGO. Rosa has been here for about 6 weeks and is half way through her programme; her official role at the company is Ecological Marketing Associate.
Rosa is in charge of writing promotional material and placing volunteer activities on record but she has been involved with a lot more than this, she has actually managed entire visits to Yunqiao. Rosa has also been responsible for applying for grant schemes which has included the creation of projects and allocating budget.
I was happy to hear how much she enjoys her internship, before coming to China she didn’t expect to be as involved in the day to day projects. She has been very impressed with her colleagues’ passion, especially with the Yunqiao Project that she also tries to put her heart and soul into it.
On the day of the company trip I was very nervous as I didn’t know what to expect as well as being a representative for InternChina. Little did I know, how important this day was for the company itself.
My day started around 6 am wondering what the trip would be like, obviously it wasn’t a normal workday. I was informed that 50 students from Baruch College in New York would be joining us, so I was getting prepared to meet the students and talk to them about InternChina and its work as well as gathering my business cards to go.
With my breakfast in hand I headed out to meet Rosa at the hotel where the students were staying. There I met Alina, the students’ coordinator and two of Rosa’s Chinese colleagues at the NGO. After making final arrangements and assisting all the students into the buses, we headed out towards the North West of the city at around 8:15 am.
Two hours later we arrived at a small village named Yunqiao (云桥) in the Pidu District. After arriving we met the Project Manager and he informed us about their work, especially in the area. One of the companies projects is the rehabilitation and protection of Chengdu’s Yunqiao Wetlands Water Resource Protected Area.
But what is so special about this area? Yunqiao is located between the confluence of two of Chengdu’s most important rivers: the Botiao and Xuyan rivers. Botiao is one of the four “mother rivers” of Chengdu city. Along with Xuyan river, they both are the major source of drinking water for the city.
The “Magical Earth” project is an initiative to protect native plants and animal habitats in the Yuanqiao Wetlands. One of the major problems in the area is the alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) which is a non-native species; alligator weed is considered a major threat to ecosystems because of its negative effects to both aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Through the joint efforts of government departments, community organisations, scientific research institutions and entrepreneurs, the recovery and management of Yunqiao wetlands has been gradually and successfully implemented.
Even though the initiative is very important for the village itself, unfortunately only a few villagers volunteer. But several international companies not only provide volunteers, they also provide donations.
What We Saw
This day was a day to celebrate. After the Project Manager explained to us the importance of the wetlands, we witnessed the signing of an agreement between Rosa’s Internship Host Company, the local government and the head of the village. This agreement recognizes Yunqiao village as a natural protectorate, which gives the area an official status of a natural reserve.
We were able to see the wetlands ourselves and get our hands dirty by pulling out some alligator weed. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t in our favor. This made it difficult for us to stay longer and for me to explore the area a little more.
The overall experience was very rewarding. Sometimes we take for granted what nature can give us and this trip has been a eye-opening experience. Therefore, I am happy I was able to meet very passionate people within the company who are willing to give that extra push for the environment.
Especial thanks to our partner company and Rosa for providing us the diagrams of the area.
My name is Zachary Black and I am from York in the North of England. Although I pride myself on being Yorkshire born and bred, I have been very fortunate to travel a lot. Having frequently visited South-East Asia as a child, it is safe to say that I have always had an affinity with this part of the world.
My passion for Asian culture led me to my study of Mandarin at Newcastle University along with Spanish, Catalan and Business. As part of my BA at Newcastle, our year abroad was spent at a partner university in China in order to improve our language skills. This proved to be a life-changing 12 months for myself and has in fact led me to being here at InternChina today. Living in Shanghai ignited my passion for the way of life in China and was the driving force behind me studying mandarin for a further year after completing my BA.
After returning home in the summer of 2017, I found myself itching to get back to the middle kingdom and was fortunate enough to secure this fantastic opportunity with InternChina which is only just beginning. Although Chengdu is completely different to Shanghai, there have been a few elements that have pleasantly surprised me – Not just the Pandas !. For example, there is an unparalleled emphasis on the slow-paced rhythm of life here with people just seemingly going with the flow and taking a more ‘laid-back’ approach to life. This is definitely a welcomed release from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, and even the UK sometimes.
My First Impressions
I have been overwhelmed by how friendly people have been here which has helped me settle in my short time here. One further aspect of life here so far which I am enjoying is the food, Chengdu has definitely justified being selected as a global gastronomic site by UNESCO. The juxtaposition of 火锅-‘hotpot’ and 串儿 – ‘anything possible on a stick’ is complimented wonderfully by an array of western restaurants for that occasional change of cusine .
My time in Chengdu has already pushed me out of my comfort zone, yet I am more than committed to welcoming the InternChina participants here to China. I feel lucky to be experiencing life in a fantastic part of the world whilst further improving my mandarin. I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold, so all that is left to say is “加油”－Let’s go !
Interested in Changing your life ? – Apply now !
In Chengdu this weekend we took a short trip out the city to explore Qing Cheng Shan. This mountain has 2 different area’s. The front mountain, a more touristy location and the back mountain, for serious hikers! We headed for the back mountain!
After arriving on the train we took a short bus ride to the start of the trail for the back mountain. Upon entering the back mountain area you immediately enter Tai’an Ancient Town. This area is full of old-style buildings serving tea, meals and snacks. The contrast between the old style buildings and bright neon lights was quite a spectacle.
We then crossed a river on a very wobbly bridge and started our ascent. The climb is not for the weak with thousands upon thousands of stairs leading the way to the top of the mountain. The scenery is stunning with waterfalls and rainforest like jungle surrounding the pathway. After about 2 hours of climbing, we reached an impassable lake. Luckily there was a boat to take us across. In similar fashion to a Venetian gondola, we were punted across the water to carry on our climb.
After a further two hours of climbing, we reached the top and the White Cloud Shrine. At the shrine were Buddhist monks offering to engrave your name on a medal to commemorate your ascent. As well as many people burning incense and offerings. We spent an hour here relaxing and enjoying our lunch.
It was at this point we planned our route back down. We looked at the map and chose the red route. Little did we know that red meant treachery and difficulty. This way down was a test. Steep steps. Wobbly wooden planks. A challenge. Our descent was nervy and exhilarating.
After we reached the end of the red path we headed into a jungle-like valley with beautiful waterfalls and scenery. This area featured planked walkways hanging onto the sides of the valley. This area was truly beautiful. The constant sound of waterfalls and the overhanging shrubbery created a peaceful atmosphere.
Upon our return to Tai’an Ancient Town, we enjoyed some tea by the river and a game of cards. Before we knew it it was time to return to the hustle and bustle of Chengdu.
Inspired? Apply Now!