I have currently been living, studying, and working in Shanghai, China for about a month. The city is amazing, and I have met great people, and have learned a good bit about the culture in China. Looking back in hindsight, China is very similar to a city like New York in the US. It is a fast moving, big city that has a lot of activities that are going on every day, and millions of people who are going through their day as well. Before I set forth in China, my expectations were to go to China, complete my last core class, along with gain real world experience with the internship that is provided, that would ultimately differentiate myself when going into the workforce this fall. Also visit some of the surrounding cities, landmarks, and experience the nightlife as well. These experiences so far have had positive and negative connotations attached.
I have to say for the most part China has been nothing, but an absolute amazing experience that has been filled with new and fun experiences. Initially China took some getting used to. There are some aspects that are very different to the United States, for one you can’t drink the tap water because of poor filtration, also payment in China revolves around e-commerce specially a communication application called “Wechat” along with another application called “Alipay”. The problem also is if you don’t have a Chinese bank account (which since I’m only in China for 1 in a half months, I am not allowed to set one up) you cannot set up an account with either of these applications, and the government does not allow for international credit/debit cards to be linked. Also most shops, or restaurants don’t accept credit/debit cards, which can be frustrating, especially since I went out of my way to get a credit that had zero percent international transaction fees.
Other frustrating problems were with my obtaining of an internship. I initially had an internship that was with a third party Logistics Company called: Kaiyuan Shipping Co. unfortunately China requires you and your company to provide a bevy of documentation that is very tedious to say the least. This requirement I suspect is why Kaiyuan eventually didn’t want to have me on board, as they did have enough work to balance the amount of work that was required to bring me into the company. Now luckily I was granted an internship with a company called Soapnut Republic which produces and distributes high quality health and wellness products. The thing is my program required 120 hours of work experience for me to fulfill my internship, and since it took two extra weeks for me to land an internship, I have to work 30 hours a week now, and trying balance that with two classes, and the needs of living can be difficult.
Now overall the experience has definitely been more positive than negative. The city has amazing food, great culture, and my living quarters are very comfortable. Also very importantly the class that I’m taking: Managing Global Supply Chains is an extremely informative, and my professor Brian Schwartz is very experienced in the topic, and structures his class very efficiently, mostly talking about topics that are conducive to the real world. It was initially an easy transition because my professor is from the United States, so there is no language barrier, making the learning process very efficient. He also encourages participation, which is very effective for retaining the information that is taught in class. Now compared to Pitt the class structure overall structured similar, but there is less emphasis on using software like excel (mostly because it is a six week class) and since we are in a different country he doesn’t want us to stress out on assignments. My internship has been a solid experience so far. Kim Gilliland who is the CEO and my supervisor, and because of how small of a company it is, I have been tasked to manage their LinkedIn company profile, along with write articles that relate the products to their mission. I have also been tasked to input financial data into their cloud based accounting system “Unleashed”. I’m hoping that my efforts can help Soapnut gain more exposure in the Shanghai area. Transitioning into the internship was very smooth. Prior to coming to China, I had taken many classes where we used cloud-based information systems, and even though Unleashed isn’t completely the same, the interface system is very similar to those that I used in my classes, and I was able to pick-up on it quickly. Also I have taken many writing classes throughout my time in school, and I have been taking a non-fiction literature class before and during my time in China, so writing for Soapnut hasn’t been too much of a challenge. To only real challenge about my internship was getting used to the metro system, but since I had received mine later than the other people in my program, I had already been used to the metro system, I had just needed to memorize my route to work, which only took a couple trips back-and-forth. Lastly anyone who is transitioning into an international internship, I think the best advice to give is like any other internship, be open to learning, figure out an efficient route to work, and be willing to help out as much as you can. This way the business will improve, and you will have the best possible learning experience, and you might even have a future job opportunity. Something important to realize as well is you must be patient with the process (especially in China) certain cultures don’t move as quickly as the United States. If the people you are trying to get in contact with the same day don’t get back to you, don’t worry this is normal, it may be frustrating, but this is just a fact of life in that country. Lastly I would really recommend trying to make friends, and travel the surrounding areas, and experience the nightlife. I went to Nanjing which used to be the former capital of China, along with Suzhou. Both of these areas were beautiful, and had much to offer overall. In Nanjing I visited the famous “Purple Mountain”, which displayed a captivating view of the city, and along with the “Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum” the resting place of the first provisional president of the Republic of China. Suzhou was little smaller, but I took a boat trip through its canals, and visited the various shops which was very cool. I plan to visit Chongqing (southwest of Shanghai) in the last week of my time in China, as I am fortunate to have a friend that lives in the area. Shanghai has a great nightlife, but clubs and bars littered throughout the city. After a week of studying and working it is really nice to grab a drink at one of these attractions and have a fun in the town! Some of the cool clubs around Shanghai are Fusion club, Hollywood, and ASL, along with James Bar near my university which has a great atmosphere along with great prices.
In the grand scheme of things there hasn’t been really anything that has made me realize I’m not in the U.S. There some little things that are different (compared to the U.S), but after getting used to where everything is I haven’t really found anything that is very distressful about Shanghai. If you are willing to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, and experience a new culture, Shanghai is a great city to do so, and I look forward to the second half of my trip!