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)!
Over the years, InternChina has amassed an alumni network of thousands of people. Some of our former participants have returned to the UK and secured prestigious graduate jobs. Many have taken up jobs in Asia and others have travelled the world. We love to hear about our alumni and what they are up to. So, naturally we were delighted to recently hear from Abi Prendergast, who has followed her dreams of being a writer internationally after completing an InternChina programme in 2017. Abi has told us all about her experience in Zhuhai, and how it helped her to realise an ambition that she could only once dream of.
Here is her story.I am a former University of Sussex student and completed an internship with InternChina in 2017. I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for the amazing opportunity.
Since graduating, I have set up my own business as a content writer and I am now traveling the world. I work with clients from all different fields. And I have been able to do this thanks to the company I interned with. Amazingly, they allowed me to continue working from them remotely. This helped me get the confidence to approach other companies and by the time I graduated, I already had enough clients to make writing my full time profession.
It has been nearly two years since I left for China. I still do regular work for Delta Bridges remotely, although they are no longer my sole client. I am planning on meeting them soon for dinner in South East China. I can’t wait to see them all again and do some more networking.
It has been my dream to write and to travel since I was in school, however, I never thought it would be possible. Especially not a few months after graduating. The internship has shown me what is possible and has given me the confidence to do what I love and the experience to go with it. I have networked with other companies I met during my internship and have ongoing work from other media outlets in China. So it’s all been very exciting!
So overall, I just wanted to say thank you, because InternChina has changed my life. I am forever grateful to everyone who was involved in making the experience possible for First Generation Scholars at the University of Sussex. I could never have anticipated being where I am now.
– Abi Pendergast: InternChina 2017 Alumni
My internship experience was with a Chinese logistics company. They are responsible for the organisation of shipping hundreds of tons of cargo every year. Work life there is certainly different from the UK way of working.
Every Monday, everyone in the office received a free snack after lunch. One week we got cake, another week a smoothie. A different company would have supplied the food each week. They brought in the food and distributed it in the conference room. My boss told me it was to praise the office for their hard work.
The work hours were 08:30 to 11:30 then a two-hour lunch break, resuming from 13:30 to 17:30. I found myself starting to get a little bored during the lunch break because it was so long. Closer to the end of my stay, I would take the bus to another part of the city or go to the gym during lunch, as I found the lunch break quite long.
On my first day in the office at around 12:45, the office suddenly became very quiet and I looked around and everyone was sleeping! They had brought in small pillows and used these to nap at their desks.
My colleagues were very helpful and mindful of me. If there was anything I didn’t understand, at least three people would appear and rush to help me. When I could not get my laptop charger plug into the socket, a girl two desks away ran over and helped me. And the same when I couldn’t use the kettle (as everything is in Chinese), two people came running over again.
Most employees (male and female) at my company had teddy bears at their desks and would hold them from time to time.
One thing I noticed during my internship is that people in my office audibly, dramatically, loudly and randomly sighed. I had no idea what about though. Also, when I asked my boss why everyone in the office was speaking so loudly on the office phones, he did not know what I was talking about. It seemed like people were very noisy, but it is not seen as impolite.
I was on the 23rd floor of a 26 storey building. Each floor can hold up to 80 people and everyone started around 08:30 in the morning. This means a lot of waiting for the elevators in the morning. There are so many people at this time that the building employs people just for the early morning rush to help load people into the elevators. If you arrived at the wrong time, you could wait up to 15 minutes just to get to your floor.
Culture Outside of Work
In the evenings after my internship, I would often see old retired Chinese folk “people watching”. They liked to hang around outside and would pull up a chair and sit on the footpath watching people passing by. Many also used to meet their friends on street corners to play “Chinese Chess” or gamble.
Older Chinese people are really into socialising and movement. Every morning I used to see a few people in my apartment complex doing Tai Chi or walking around slapping themselves all over their body. Apparently this is to help increase blood flow.
Many people would meet in the evenings to dance, exercise and stretch together. They would usually play traditional Chinese music or modern remixes of old classics. And you can definitely hear them before you see them!
Cultural Norms that Surprised Me
If you haven’t heard by now, spitting is very common in China. You can find people spitting pretty close to your shoes on the streets. Not intentionally, of course.
There is also a phenomenon called the ‘Beijing Bikini’, where middle-aged men roll up their T-shirt to expose their bellies on hot days. It is considered more polite than removing their entire T-shirt. There is no shame, only pride.
I feel China is a very tactile country. Lots of young girls will hold hands or link arms while walking and I have even seen some old men holding hands too.
Sometimes queuing is non-existent in China, and one of the things I will never fully understand as a Brit. Every time someone jumps in front of me, I try to be chill. In the UK, as a child, you learn to contribute to the greater good of the team. In China though, it seems like every man for himself and children are raised not to cooperate but to compete. The only way to a better life is by defeating other people.
One of the other things that surprised me was people taking pictures. I think I had seen at least 10 people taking pictures of me in the streets. They also tend to stare for a while. But it’s great because at least there is an element of cultural exchange there.
Hi, I’m Nicholas Jolly from the University of Otago in New Zealand. I recently spent three months working at Chuanghua Wine Company in Dalian. I also studied Chinese at InternChina’s Partner Language School, Panda Education.
I was lucky enough to be awarded a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia grant by the New Zealand Government. This grant funded my InternChina programme. The purpose of the Scholarship is to increase New Zealand’s ability to engage with key Asian trading partners. Being able to work at Chuanghua Wine Company gave me the opportunity to learn more about the wine industry in China. It also showed me how it is imported, marketed and consumed. Wine is an extremely important product for New Zealand. We exported around $32 Million dollars’ worth of wine to China in 2017 alone and the ability to understand the Chinese market is key to the future success of this industry.
I have also been learning Chinese for 2 hours every day before I go to work. This has given me a basic understanding of the words and some characters. While I have found it a very difficult language to learn I have really enjoyed my lessons. I hope to continue learning Chinese when I return to New Zealand.
Dalian is a great city with amazing people. This was my first time in mainland China and I have really enjoyed getting to learn more about Chinese culture, people and food! The 3 months has absolutely flown by, but I will definitely be returning at some point in the near future!
Experience with InternChina
The team at InternChina has been great. Whenever I have had any problems they have been quick to sort them out and are very helpful. In terms of finding an internship it was very stress free and easy to organise, even from New Zealand.
In Dalian I have kept myself busy by playing football with friends from my company. I also had meals and drinks with Chinese friends and colleagues (Chinese people like to eat out a lot) and exploring with friends. During the time I was here, there weren’t too many exchange students as it was term time for both the northern and southern hemisphere universities. Because of this I often ended up having an apartment to myself, otherwise I was sharing with only one or two other interns.
InternChina organises a weekly Thursday dinner, which is a good way to meet other interns and also try some new food.
I would definitely recommend an internship in China and I am grateful to Education New Zealand for supporting me. I am also grateful to InternChina for making sure I had the support I needed in finding the internship. They helped me in China, so I could focus on my internship and getting to know the local culture.
Funded Internships in China
Generation UK – China was launched by the British Council in 2013. By 2020, it aims to help 80,000 students from the UK boost their employability, enhance their long-term job prospects, and develop a global mind-set through study and work experience opportunities in China.
The programme offers funded internship placements and academic scholarships for UK students to gain international experience in China. By encouraging UK students to engage with China, Generation UK aims to bring young people from both countries closer together, increase mutual understanding, and pave the way to lasting links and partnerships between the UK and China.
The Generation UK – China campaign is supported by all four government administrations in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
Find out more and apply here. Continue reading below about the experience of a 2018 Generation UK participant.
Rebekah’s Internship Experience in Zhuhai
”My name is Rebekah Kane and I’m a Computer Science student at Queen’s University in Belfast, here in Zhuhai for 2 months on a Generation UK programme.
I’m living in an apartment with two other girls who are all on the same program as me but we’re working at different companies.
I work as an IT intern in a Western-based manufacturing company here, in Zhuhai.”
What skills have you developed?
There are so many skills that I have learned over the past 8 weeks, on a personal and a professional level. So, I think for me what I’ve probably grown most in is confidence. You kind of have to be confident, whether you’re used to it or not, to tackle the cultural differences and to be the best person you can be in work and to get all the tasks done on time. Your communication improves, and your interpersonal skills definitely improve and you just become a lot more independent.
Were you worried about coming to China?
Before coming to China, yeah, I think it’s natural. There were definitely things that were playing on my mind. I’d never traveled so far alone before, especially to such a different culture and something that I was so not used to, so that was definitely something that played on my mind. But then as soon as I got off the plane and the InternChina people were waiting for me, it was such a relief. We got a taxi, sorted out my SIM-card and yeah, everyone was so friendly. So, nerves before going, but not so much once I got here.
How are you enjoying the programme so far?
I have definitely enjoyed the programme so far. I didn’t really know what to expect coming over here but everything has been amazing. The people are so good, the food is much nicer than I thought it would be, and I’m a vegetarian, so I didn’t really know what to expect. We have done so much traveling. So, my first weekend we went to Yangshuo and we went to… we did a lot of walking, a lot of hiking. We hiked up Moon Hill which was beautiful, and we saw the most gorgeous mountains. The whole, just atmosphere there, is just really really amazing. And then we did a weekend trip to Wai Ling Ding Island, which is right in between Zhuhai and Hong Kong. We camped on the beach there for a night and that was amazing, so so far it’s just been really really good.
What do you do in your free time?
So far I’ve spent my free time just sort of exploring. There’s so much to do in Zhuhai, especially being beside the sea and beside so many cities. So we’ve done a couple of weekend trips to Guangzhou, and we’re going to Shenzhen this weekend. Also just exploring what Zhuhai has to offer. The food is amazing; it is really really nice. And there’s loads of parks and beaches, and the history of Zhuhai too is really impressive. So yeah, there’s always something to do.
How has the experience improved your employability?
Definitely yes, my internship has without a doubt helped me prepare for my future career. I don’t even know what I want to do whenever I graduate yet, but I do know that the skills that I’ve learned whilst I’m here, both the personal ones and the professional ones they will look amazing, not only on my CV but they will help me in interviews, they will help me to apply it in any job I decide to do. And saying that in your early 20s, you went to somewhere literally right across the world, to work for a couple of months… That’s amazing, that shows that you have drive – so definitely will look great on my CV.
Would you recommend an internship in China?
Without a doubt I would recommend an internship with InternChina to my friends. I think the main reason is because it’s been so much fun. All of us, all the interns that are here at the same time as me, we’ve all learned so much whilst we’re here. And yeah, the support system here is also really really good.
Any advice for future interns?
I think the best advice that I can give is just say yes to everything. There’s so many opportunities over here that there are not back home. Back home you can really get in the way of being like “Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow, or I’ll do it next week” but you don’t always have next week over here So, just say yes, to new opportunities, to meeting new people, and you’ll have a really good time.
Are you interested in applying for a Generation UK funded internship just like Rebekah? Then apply now, before the deadline on 2nd December 2018!
Browse our testimonials from Western Sydney University students and read about their time in Dalian – the destination, homestay experience, internship, cultural differences and support from InternChina.
Their program was funded by The New Colombo Plan.Spending five weeks in Dalian was an extraordinary and eventful experience that I probably would do all over again. Sound crazy? It definitely was – but it was an experience that was challenging in so many cool and fun ways and completely out of the norm compared to back home.
The weekly mandarin classes helped me learn key words and phrases to get me through day to day life. I also got to practice mandarin every day during my internship program.
My internship experience provided me the opportunity to immerse myself and gain an insight into the Chinese business culture through the helpful guidance of my supervisor.
The friends that I made on this trip are people I now call family and ones to last a life time.
I was able to meet with other interns who came from all different countries around the world which made my experience in Dalian so much more thrilling and exciting. We spent countless nights together enjoying the night life of the city in either restaurants, bars,
karaoke or just simply exploring the wonderful streets and markets.
One of my highlights was visiting a city called Dandong which is on the border of North Korea and is also where the Great Wall begins from East of China. That day we toured on a boat in a river which separated China on one side and North Korea on the other. We then
climbed the great wall and took some breath-taking pictures of both China and North Korea.
During the five weeks I was able to learn a new language, explore a beautiful city, make new friends, immerse myself in Chinese business, try new foods (that I will sadly miss), visit other great cities and create long lasting memories that will never be forgotten.
Thank you Dalian and InternChina for the wonderful and unforgettable experience.Unsure of what to expect prior to departure I was naturally nervous about living in a country had never anticipated visiting with a family I had never met, working in a company I knew little about. It took only a couple of days for me to realise how lucky I was and how great the coming weeks would be. My homestay family were extremely hospitable and welcoming showing genuine interest in my life back at home while sharing their own with me. Homecooked meals, ping-pong, meeting relatives and sightseeing where commonly on the agenda keeping me very busy throughout the week as I attended weekly Chinese classes and social events catered by InternChina. The role at my internship left me feeling like a travel blogger as I visited restaurants, parks and sporting events writing about them and interviewing partners to help provide a guided experience of Dalian for foreigners. I was thrown into situations which helped expand my preconceived skill set as our company hosted guided tours of new cities visiting historical landmarks informing our customers as we travelled. Because InternChina attracts students from all over the world it was great to make new friends overseas and connections that will prove useful in the future. The dining, nightlife and KTV across Dalian provided endless entertainment for me and all the friends I made along the way. Months after returning, I am still missing Dalian greatly and cannot wait to visit this beautiful city once more.Before I started my homestay, I was pretty nervous. I’ve never stayed at a homestay before, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. When Jasmine, one of the coordinators for Intern China (who ended up becoming a good friend of mine) told me that I would be staying with a mother and her eight-year-old daughter, “Jia Jia” ( 佳佳 ) I became more excited. I’m a Visual Communication student but I also work part time at an after school care, so I have experience interacting with children.
The first day I met Jennifer and her daughter, I felt nervous. Jennifer was immensely helpful and she helped me carry my luggage to her car. She then took me to a Westernised restaurant where the three of us shared some Italian food. We got to know each other over the dinner and shortly, she introduced me to my room. It was spacious and lovely. I really enjoyed my room as there was plenty of sun light always coming in and had my own desk to work at.
Jennifer was incredibly kind throughout the whole experience. Although she was busy as she is a manager at a European-Chinese company, she would always make an effort to ensure that I was comfortable and enjoyed my stay. Jennifer would often take her daughter and I out to dinner almost every night and I was able to try a variety of different cuisines, particularly “Si Chuan” dinners, which I came to like and now that I am back in Australia, I really miss it as meals were often hot and spicy. She also cooked me “congee” often, which is a traditional Chinese meal made of rice, with a texture similar to porridge. As I had an internship to go to throughout the day and several events during the evenings/nights with other interns, it was sometimes difficult to make time to properly get to know Jennifer. However, going to dinner with Jennifer a few times a week made it easier to connect with her and her daughter. There was a park where they lived. I’m still a child at heart and enjoy the park, so sometimes I would take Jia Jia there and we would play on the swings and horizontal bars.
I was also able to celebrate Jia Jia’s 9th birthday with her, her best friends and Jennifer at a Japanese restaurant at the Pavilion, known as the “柏威年” -a luxurious shopping mall. I also ended up getting really sick with a fever and flu that lasted for about a week. Jennifer took me to see a Chinese doctor two times that week, to get “cupping therapy” and acupuncture. She also gave me Chinese herbal medicine, which I felt really helped. Looking back, I actually do not mind that I became so sick because I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of Chinese medicine. Going through the sickness also allowed me to appreciate how much time Jennifer took out of her schedule to make sure that I was okay and she never complained about it.
Overall, my experience with homestay has been extraordinary and Jennifer and her daughter always have a place in my heart. They said they were planning to come to Australia in the future and I told them I would happily show them around. I am an only child and I’m glad I was able to experience what it was like to have a little sister for a month. Jennifer stuck by me literally through sickness and health. I will never forget Jennifer and her daughter. I’ve also been taking mandarin classes and China was a country I have been wanting to go to for a while. I was able to practice my Mandarin and it has improved significantly and Jennifer was also able to practice her English too. The day before I left Dalian, we had dinner together at one of my favourite restaurants known as “The tree” at the pavilion. Going to China was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I am grateful for all the people I have met including my homestay family, the staff and the other interns from InternChina and that I was able to experience so much in a short amount of time with everyone, including my Australian friends from Western Sydney University. On top of the homestay, I really enjoyed my internship (Honestly, enjoyed is such an understatement. I absolutely loved it!) I am so grateful for my trip and I cannot wait to see more of the world.After 5 weeks in China I’ve learned a lot of things. One of these things is that it is possible to survive the streets, shops and restaurants merely by pointing at pictures and using translators. However, to enrich the experience I’d strongly recommend doing basic Chinese languages just because of how helpful and fun they have been for me. There is also a strangely comforting feeling when you can understand even just a few words of what people passing by are saying. All the Australian interns who arrived in Dalian have been lucky enough to attend language classes at the Youhou Panda Chinese Learning School. Our classes run on Mondays at 9 am for three hours, and have the same extremely friendly and laid back vibe that we Australians love. We get plenty of breaks and can ask questions whenever we want. Our first lesson was purely focused on pronunciation because of the difficulty most people find with just saying basic Chinese words in a way that people can actually understand. Over several lessons, we started to build up small vocabularies by learning the names for foods, countries and numbers among other topics. In the last few lessons we have learned how to construct basic sentences. However, the most important features of these classes are the basic phrases that can be used in real life conversations and scenarios in China. These may seem trivial but just being able to tell your cab driver where you’re from or ask them how their day is going makes the entire trip seem a little more like home. I’ve recently purchased a language book from the school and intend to keep up my learning when I get back!As apart of our internship with InternChina we were invited to attend a business forum hosted by International Entrepreneurship Corridor (IEC) Dalian. This event was designed to give an insight to the support systems are in place in China, namely Dalian, for starting up entrepreneurial businesses as well as providing some case study examples of successful entrepreneurial business models. Following this we had the opportunity to partake in a Q & A panel and network after the session finished. I should disclaimer right now that I have no interest in establishing my own business here in China or anywhere else in the world, I have other career goals in mind, however, I couldn’t help but be totally intrigued, I really wanted to understand the business framework in China compared to my home country Australia.
The first session was presented by Dr Zain Farooq, Co-Founder of IEC, he provided an insight into IEC and the opportunities it provides to foreigners wanting to establish themselves into the Chinese market. He additionally discussed opportunities and some of the challenges that are expected to be faced when entering the Chinese market. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the support that was provided by IEC and how welcoming local districts were at foreigners establishing businesses locally – although it makes sense if it means locals get employed from it.
The next two sessions were the case study examples of current expat entrepreneurs in Dalian, the first of these was by Matthias Kistler. Matthias is the Founder and Managing Director of ECTD Group which basically is a company with multiple ventures within it, such as beer imports, flooring business and consultancy. Prior to him explaining this he took us through his journey, which in my honest opinion I believe was of more value as it gave us an insight into the uphill battle that one may need to push through to be successful. I gained from this that you should never lose sight of your dream goal, regardless to the obstacles along the way, if you work hard at it you can achieve it! It was also refreshing hearing that what might seen like a devastating moment at that point of time, it will become a value lesson for future endeavours. The second case study was a presentation on a innovative newly developed app W@PP – We Are Party People – which is a social media type app connecting people to various nightlife establishments and events. This was co-delivered by Dr Zain Farooq and Freddie Kalongi, they gave us the background behind why it was developed and the timeline to get it from idea to BETA version.
Wrapping up the night was the Q & A Panel and the networking session, this is where I bloomed. My eager questions were setting the scene about the intricate details of businesses starting up and developing in Dalian China.
Such a worthy event to attend, even if it’s just to pique your interest!Before signing up to complete my internship with InternChina, I had no idea about Dalian. You could say I was pretty sheltered from the globalised development of the city and all the western companies establishing themselves in the local Dalian area. However, this changed (perhaps I’m still a little sheltered though) thanks to InternChina. On one of our activity days we were able to explore ‘behind the scenes’ one particular company Eldor Corporation.
For those who are like me, that is, naïve and uncultured in the vast world of global businesses, Eldor is an Italian company that produces ignition systems, electronic control units and systems for hybrid and electric vehicles. They originally established themselves on the market in 1972 developing transformers for TV units, however, in the mid-90s they predicted that these units would be phased out due to technology advancements, so naturally they did what any smart business would, they invested heavily into research and development, which lead to them transitioning out of TV units and into the automotive industry – apparently this is a logical transition, something to do with the coil wrapping skills (I just smiled and nodded, I don’t see the similarity of cars and TVs but hey I’m a business student).
The site tour started with a presentation on the company, giving us background knowledge of Eldor and what they stand for, plus they gave us an amazing insight to their impressive operations, seriously they are a well-oiled machine, they would be a great case study for ‘how to business right’! After this insight we had the opportunity to see upfront and personal the manufacturing plant, in action! From start to finish we were able to witness and have each stage explained to us. Personally, I have been in plant tours before but none where I was able to be so up close to see each moving part of the process.
All my preconceived judgements were totally wiped, operational processes that are in place ensure efficiency, and should there be a ‘cog’ in the production line that drags down the assembly line then it is analysed and rectified. I was equal parts impressed and moved that they depict transparency, accountability, gender equality (yes I am a feminist, I’m all about equality) and they focus on their environmental impact. Furthermore, the staff have all occupational health and safety requirements catered for and they are provided with a gym and a basketball court – legit can I work for them??
They have a 3 pillar approach dream, passion and technology and detailed company mission, vision and values which is obviously more than just for show (unlike a number of other companies, personal opinion of course). It is genuinely impressive when you see a company’s approach not only displayed as words but also through their actions. It is easy to see why they have received so many rewards and have over 50% market share in Europe and 22% globally. Did I mention in 2015 they transition to an industrial model that led to zero defects with their products – kind of reassuring when their products are going into our cars!
Excellence is an art won by training and habitation… We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an art but a habit.
-Aristotle- (a quote that Eldor have in the business framework)Hello from China! A few days ago, on the 25th of June five of us were lucky enough to attend a Chinese calligraphy class. We had finished a big lunch and wondered up to the very top of a beautiful thirty story building. Once we were on the 29th level we entered the school and took a set of stairs even higher to a room that overlooked Dalian’s busy streets. Our teacher proceeded to provide a background on the history and evolution of Chinese characters. Following this, she brought out a cover for the table and laid out a large piece of paper for each of us. We were shown the correct way to hold the brush, vertically between your ring and middle fingers, while also being shown how to turn water into ink with traditional ink sticks. The next part was very fun as we were all given Chinese names. We were taught the names of the various strokes and the importance of writing them in the correct stroke order. Only then were we allowed to put brush to paper! I’m not very much of an artist but I’d like to think that my final attempt didn’t turn out so badly. We then learnt how to say and write I love you, which I got to take a picture of and send to my parents back home. I’m sure the other interns would agree when I say it’s an experience worth having when in Dalian.
By Rosa Spence
On the 28th March, myself and four other representatives from the NGO I am interning with, CDNGO06, organised and accompanied farmers from Yunqiao village on an overnight visit to Mao Xian. A district 5 hours north-west of Chengdu and only 40km away from Wuchuan (the place where the earthquake hit in 2008!).
The aim of this visit was to introduce the local farmers from Yunqiao to local Sichuanese Pepper farmers in Mao Xian. These farmers have previously worked closely with WWF to increase sustainable farming of Sichuan pepper. As a result of this collaboration, their Sichuan pepper crops have become organically certified. The farming community has become a co-operative, having received support from Sichuan Rural Credit Union – an initiative established by the People’s Bank of China to provide credit to rural areas in China.
This, in turn, has led to better access to national and global markets. The NGO hopes that the farmers from Yunqiao will be able to learn and adapt some of the techniques, used by Mao Xian farmers, and apply them to their Luo Bo crops (the main crop of Yunqiao) with the aim of increasing quality and production rates.
We left the sleeping city of Chengdu at six o’clock in the morning and traveled in a minibus to Yunqiao village. Two hours north of the City, to pick up the farmers who were coming with us. As we drove for another three hours from Yunqiao to Mao Xian, I was not prepared for the scenery that I was about to witness.
The concrete jungle of Chengdu disappeared and the skyline was replaced with towering mountains, so tall that the peaks were dusted in snow. The cloudiness of Chengdu’s city sphere also dissipated and we basked in bright sunshine and crystal clear blue sky. I think it’s the first time that I have seen cloudless skies and unobstructed sun since I arrived!
Arrival at Mao Xian
On arrival at Mao Xian, the farmers and NGO Staff were taken on a tour and shown how the pepper was produced. The first station was the warehouse, where the pepper granules were stored; next, we were taken to the building where the raw pepper granules were ground down into refined powder and packaged to be sold in the national market. They weren’t kidding when they said it had a kick to it, I tasted a single granule and my tongue went numb for the next 20 minutes!
This farming co-operative has won numerous awards for their work, all of which were displayed proudly on the wall in the meeting room. The meeting between the two communities lasted for over 2 hours, with the NGO workers and the farmers from Yunqiao taking notes about how the Mao Xian farmers’ model worked. My role as the NGO’s photographer was to document the event. The host farming community were really accommodating, with tea being provided throughout and the meeting came to a close in good spirits and a formal photograph was taken.
After the formalities were completed, there was a chance to explore Mao Xian. We were taken to see some beautiful blossom trees, their delicate petals floating in the warm breeze. I got told that these trees and most of the surrounding area had been rebuilt after the area was flattened by the 2008 earthquake. The experience was also very culturally enriching, as the next day we were given the opportunity to observe a Qiang ceremony –an ethnic minority group, with a population of approximately 200,000, located in North Western Sichuan Province.
The ceremony was enchanting, consisting of singing, chanting, dancing, drumming and role play. We were then given a guided tour around an ethnographic museum, where we were told about Qiang history and also got to observe people going about their daily routines – these people still live very traditional lifestyles, making their own clothes and tools. We were fortunate enough to witness two Qiang men forging an iron blade, using two hammers and an anvil, the precision of the technique was mesmerising – clearly, a skill which has been refined over generations!
It has been a fantastic experience, I feel very fortunate to be so included in the work that the NGO is doing for local communities, they are truly committed to helping to create change at a local scale.
Inspired by Rosa’s Experience? Apply Now!
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.