It has been only two weeks since my return from China and for every day spent back here, in London, I have been missing China. I really miss having dumplings in the morning or Beijing style crispy wraps from someone that we interns started calling “The Pancake Man”. Although our Mandarin is not good enough to converse, we managed to build a relationship with these sellers as we would be greeted with familiarity and they would know exactly what we what. It was a wonderful way to start one’s mornings.
Afterwards, I would go to the metro (which is great by the way!) to work. People usually associate trains in China as crowded, while some are being forcibly pushed in, however, this is not something that I experienced. My journey was unbelievably pleasant, especially as I walked for 10 minutes through green and quiet streets to work.
My workplace consisted of the two top floors of a 25 storey building. As the lift would make its way to the top floor and stop at other floors for some to get off, I would get a glimpse of other people’s work- which varied greatly in their interior decorations. Working on the top floor meant that I was always the last one to get off. I would usually arrive early, so most of my co-workers wouldn’t be around, except for my boss. My boss couldn’t speak English, however, we still managed to talk a lot. In the morning I liked to surprise him now and then with various greetings, my favourite one being “Chi le ma?”- that one really surprised him as I used to say very casually. If you want to surprise any of your colleagues, I’m sure that “Chi le ma?” would definitely help you achieve it.
Most of the time I would work on my own, researching. I was given one task which lasted for the whole two months that I spent there and it was to research into how countries, such as Britain, encourage children’s motivation to read. Initially I assumed it to be an easy task, but a few weeks into it and I realised how intensive it was. Nonetheless, I am happy to say that I managed to finish my research and present it to my colleagues in one of the beautiful meeting rooms, while another colleague worked as my translator.
During work, I used all of the research skills that I had developed at university and even improved them. I am now a pro at Google-ing and have developed the independence that a researcher needs. This was a great change from university style essays where most of the materials are provided. I was given absolute freedom to provide useful information to make a change in Chinese society and through this I gained the skill to be completely independent and confident as a researcher.
Our main form of communication, at work, would be through QQ- which is unbelievably common in China. Although one of my close colleagues would be in the cubicle in front of me, we would chat on QQ, discussing either work-related issues or something completely irrelevant, such as “Lunch time!” We even had a Wechat group (this is another chatting app that a person living in China has to have) where my colleagues would share work related ideas or news (which would be about children and reading) out of working hours. Our team was small, but they were all very passionate about the cause that they’re working for, which made me happier about my placement.
Towards the end of my internship, I was allowed to take the last week off for travelling. The internship provided a great excuse to do some travelling and explore the rest of China. It was a wonderful internship and holiday in that way. Just before leaving, my boss invited our team for dinner at his home and he had cooked dishes from around China. We had a very enjoyable dinner and his very amiable dogs brought laughter to us with their amusing actions. It was a sad point in my long journey to China, having to say goodbye, however, my boss hoped that in the future we can keep in contact and meet again. And, of course, I would truly love to go back there and wake up to dumplings every morning.