Ibiene Obunge – NGO & Volunteer
Describe your internship and host company
I chose the three months Internship and Extensive Chinese Language program.
I worked for a small to medium sized local NGO. They work with mentally disabled persons, using art as a way for the mentally disabled to express themselves. The students’ drawings are engraved on products which are then sold to raise funds which are divided between the student whose art was on the product and the company (to buy more products).
I was a researcher for a local NGO and added Canadian and Nigerian cultural information to the syllabus to help the students learn different cultures that can helpfully inspire them to draw.
I was also a Fundraising Assistant and looked for events where the Organization could sell some products. I volunteered at some of the fundraising events. My most worked on project was researching Canadian and Nigerian culture to inspire the students. It was tougher than I expected but it was fun. At a presentation, some students were able to draw linking Nigerian and Chinese cultures, they were beautiful.
I would classify the office as small to medium because they had different branches in different cities in China. I worked at the headquarters in Shanghai which was small. I enjoyed working with my co-workers; they were so much fun to work with. All but one was and spoke Shanghainese so I learned a few local phrases and I ate so many traditional snacks! It was a very comfortable and relaxed environment. They were very passionate about the work they did and wanted me to understand what they did.
Why did you choose to do an internship in China?
Honestly, it was a spur-at-the-moment decision to apply. I study Global Development at my University and had recently begun to take an interest in the Chinese culture. I had some friends who came from China and when they spoke about home I had this picture in my head. I loved the culture (what I knew so far) and was interested in learning the language, plus I really wanted a job experience! When I found Internships China I decided to give it a try and let’s say; the rest is history!
What was it like working with Chinese colleagues?
I really did not notice a difference. Everything was overall the same and, although they spoke in a different language, it seemed really normal. I sometimes forgot that we had not known each other till recently. I loved working with them.
What was the highlight of your time in China?
Just one? That’s hard. From the charity visits at the immigrant school to my interaction with students at my organization; every event is highlighted in my diary and in my China experience. I however, will say getting used to the stares, touching and cameras, took a while.
What did you think of Internships China ’s services?
Where to start? From the initial inquiry response time to payment issues to change of work place to my earlier departure, Internships China was fast, reliable, hands on and patient. I got to know the workers and they are so sweet (I am really not being “nice”, they are!) One of them even helped provide textbooks for me to learn Mandarin; thank you!
Also, their outing options are fun. My favorite was the Hotpot outing; good food!
What did you think of your Chinese lessons?
It’s hard to believe I started learning Chinese two months ago. I have definitely improved. It’s different settling back into the English speaking atmosphere because I have made mistakes talking with my friends where I speak Mandarin to them then have to translate and apologise. Then again, they expected this.
Do you have any advice for other interns coming to China?
Honestly, when you’re coming, come with a curious mind and not an eagerly high-expecting one because then you do not learn so much and might get disappointed (might, just might).
Don’t judge at first glance, rather observe and learn. Also, don’t get too upset because you might become a tourist attraction to some.
Be careful of scammers! If people come asking you to take a picture with them and show an extreme interest in your life, country of origin and invite you to work together and meet somewhere you are not sure about, say “thank you” and leave! Trust me; you just saved yourself some bucks!
Don’t rush things and immerse yourself in the lifestyle. Go for yoga classes, jogging groups, etc, a good number of them are free if you want to find them (Cityweekend and Smartshanghai). I learned of this late.
Don’t think of yourself as an outsider when you’re there because they already do and it will make you more self-conscious than you already are. Just breathe, relax, smile and speak. I was scared to speak Mandarin but I did learn to relax. I tried going to local stores and restaurants to immerse myself.
Would you recommend Internships China ?