Jon Millican – Green Technology
Jon graduated from the University of York in the UK with a degree in Chemistry. Through his degree he gained an interest in the Green Technology sector and chose to find an internship in the industry in China. With the help of Internships China , Jon was successful in obtaining an internship in a leading renewable energy management firm in Shanghai. He also completed 1 month of intensive Chinese lessons before starting his internship, so that he could learn more about Chinese culture and would be able to communicate better with his colleagues.
Why did you choose to do an internship in China?
After graduating, I decided I wanted to do something different to just looking for a job. I wanted to travel to a new culture, get some work experience and learn new skills all at the same time.
My interest in renewable energy development made visiting China an attractive option because of the fast growing clean technology sector there. The package offered by Internships China tied all of these factors together and was just what I was looking for.
Why did you want to work in Green Technology?
My degree is in chemistry and I have ambitions to work in the clean technology or renewable energy sector in the future. China is one of the countries at the forefront of innovation in solar technologies and it is a fascinating field to work in.
What are the main duties of your internship?
My duties include helping to develop a web-based monitoring system for the company’s products, proofreading translations of technical documents and preparing a stall to display at the International PV Power Expo being hosted in Shanghai in May.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on ensuring that the English language instruction manuals are correct for the new line of products the company is bringing out, so that the instructions match the actual products after translation.
What is it like working with a Chinese team?
It has been tough at times being the only non-Chinese speaking employee, but I am gradually getting used to the work culture and getting lots of chances to practice my Chinese speaking skills. The attitude towards work here is friendly but hard-working. As with much of China, lunch is the most important time of the day, good for socializing, I particularly enjoy the chances to play ping pong during breaks!
What is the most valuable lesson you will take from this experience?
Aside from the language skills I learned in my one-month intensive Chinese course; I would say developing confidence to step out of my comfort zone and try something completely different. It is a situation that has arisen quite often here, and in lots of different scenarios: from food, to talking to someone in an unfamiliar language in the workplace. While I have not always been successful, it has largely been rewarding and people have always been friendly.
What do you think of Shanghai and the area you work in? How does it differ from the rest of Shanghai?
I work in Pudong, the ultra-modern and fast growing district to the East of the Huangpu River, often pictured for its impressive skyline. My company is situated a few kilometers away from the shiny financial buildings in a ‘high-tech park’, which is greener and quieter than the buzz of Puxi (downtown Shanghai).
The city centre to the east of the river is unique due to its collision of east and west, old and new. On the same Metro line you can find European architecture, modern skyscrapers and some preserved areas of typical Chinese buildings. I enjoy the contrast between the quieter business district and the bustling commercial centre where the Internships China accommodation is situated.
What are the main differences between Shanghai and your home town?
Shanghai is about as far removed as you can get from the sleepy English countryside village that I grew up in. It is always busy wherever you go, you’re never short of something to do or somewhere to eat, and the public transport is cheap and frequent. Despite the manic traffic and varying pollution, the city is one of the most interesting and exciting I have visited.
Describe your experience with Internships China so far?
Busy! I started off with one month of intensive Mandarin lessons which, as a complete beginner, I found very challenging, but also fun and rewarding. I feel like I learnt a lot, though I still have a long way to go! The small group teaching is friendly and conversational, and going in with a positive attitude and sense of humor helps. I would definitely recommend the language and internship course to any beginners at Mandarin (as I was).
The cultural activities provided as part of the internship package have all been interesting and enjoyable, and day trips on the weekend mean I feel like I have really got a feel for the culture. They also allow you to get to know the other interns better; I have really enjoyed the social side of my time here and made some really good friends.
I am now coming towards the end of my two month internship, which is enjoyable and tiring, I can’t believe the time has gone so fast.
How has Internships China helped you during your internship?
The Internships China advisors were professional and helpful throughout the application process; which was important when travelling so far from home. In the first few days in Shanghai they really helped to ease the new interns into the new culture and pace of life, with an introduction, a tour and a (delicious) welcome banquet in the first weekend to allow us to meet the current interns. Since then they’ve been in regular contact to make sure things are going well.
What is one of the biggest difficulties you’ve faced during your internship or time in Shanghai?
Communicating with my workmates when starting work was difficult, with only a few of my colleagues speaking English, and my Mandarin skills still in their infancy; it was tough to get involved at first. I have tried to avoid getting isolated and, having been here a few weeks, I now feel more comfortable talking with my colleagues and feel much more like a member of the team.
What were your preconceived notions about Internships China and how has that perception changed? What surprised you about us?
It was hard to know what to expect as I didn’t know anyone who’d done something like this before, and I couldn’t find many reviews. The main thing that surprised me was that because of the limited amount of interns taken on each month, the service can be very personal. All of the Shanghai staff know me personally, and any issues or questions that I may have are answered quickly.
In the following weeks, what are you most looking forward to?
At the end of May I have the opportunity to help represent my company at the International PV Power Expo in Shanghai. I’m looking forward to being part of what promises to be a big event! I’m also looking forward to finding a little time to travel to see some of the famous sights in China, which I hope to do soon.
What are you plans when you get back home? Do you think you’ll come back to China in the future?
After my internship finishes I plan to return to the UK to start a PhD course in polymer chemistry. I have no doubt that this internship will have helped me prepare for that. When I’m back there I also hope to continue learning Mandarin. I’ve made some good friends here, and I’m definitely planning to return, whether it’s for work, study or travel (or even all three!).