Business Development internship in Turkey

Inga Raudsepp – Bursa, Turkey

Duration of project:  8 months

Type of Exchange:  Business Development internship

 

I did my internship in Bursa (About 3 mln population; clean, safe, near the mountains, an industrial hub), Turkey. The company was Laspar Sealing Solutions Ltd. They offer tailored rubber and silicon sealing solutions for an extremely wide variety of products e.g. water boilers, washing machines, helicopters, military machinery, ships etc.

The reason I chose Turkey as my internship country was simple. I specifically wanted to learn more about Turkey. I realized that I knew almost nothing about the country and I wanted to change that. I also needed to get away for a while. I wanted to take a break and put things into perspective in my personal life.

In the office

I had studied law and business studies, but my internship was in an entirely different field. I wanted to have a teaching experience so I was hoping to teach English to the company’s employees through AIESEC educational trainee-ship program. It was supposed to last about 8 months. What actually happened is that they put me straight into their sales department from the first day. Apparently their plans had changed but I was given no notification of the changes before my arrival.

Instead of quitting, I learned to accept the volatility of the business world. But I felt sad over not being able to teach English. However, I chose to stay in that company and deal with it. I even started teaching some of my colleagues on my own initiative. I believe that an Estonian company would have immediately notified me of such change in plans before my arrival. I experienced that the Turkish company culture is more hierarchical than, for example, in Estonia or in Finland. The owners and the managers are treated with more respect. Sometimes even with a certain degree of humility.

At work

The hardest thing i had to deal with was firstly my boss. Apparently he had problems with almost everybody in the company. He was the owner’s son, so he felt like he needed to please his father. That must have been stressful for him. Secondly, I had to pay more rent than initially agreed. I felt that I could no longer trust my landlords, so I moved to a new apartment with the help of most WONDERFUL ladies from work. The Turkish kindness is not a myth. It does exist.

I was in the office from 7.30 AM to 6 PM. Home at 6.30 PM. So most of my time in Turkey was spent in the office. I did not experience as much I would have loved to.

I was taken to work by the company’s bus every morning. It is very common in Turkey. The bus stopped near my house. They had different buses for their office workers and factory workers. Even car owners used these company buses. It is convenient not having to deal with the busy morning traffic. At work, were were served tea many times a day by the wonderful tea lady. Of course, we were still allowed to go to the kitchenette to take more tea or coffee. What bothered me about the work place was the lack of a convenient place to take breaks. My office chair and desk were the only resting places. It became a little claustrophobic as I grew really tired of seeing my desk for almost 12 hours a day. I believe that a good relaxing work environment helps with the creativity and keeps people healthy and happy.

I became friends with almost all the ladies in the office. They were the ones who helped me to find a new apartment when I needed to move. I also visited their homes and went to eat out with them. Once I got lost looking for a bank and the local police drove me straight to the bank doors. That was neat.

When I needed to escape the intensity of my everyday life in Bursa, I took a break and went for a coffee in Starbucks. It offered me some cozy downtime in a more familiar environment. My brain needed a break to „digest“ all these cultural experiences I had had. It was especially nice to visit Starbucks during December because they had „normal“ Christmas decorations there. Namely, Turkey does not celebrate Christmas (Although Ikea had Western Christmas decorations.). Turkish people have their own Muslim holiday Byram the date of which varies each year. When I was in Turkey, it was celebrated in November. This holiday centers around family, food and relaxing. And the shops are filled with holiday candies. A bit like our Christmas.  I am not going to describe the religious meaning of the holiday as I am not an expert in that field.

Adventures

What i remember most is the kindness and warmth of the people I met. The beauty of the nearby snow-covered mountain tops. The tea. The beautiful golden autumn weather in Bursa. The weekend walks in the beautiful city center. The delicious and cheap roasted chestnuts sold in many street corners. The curiosity of local people towards foreigners (Because it is not a tourist city.). The homes I visited. The sunlight. The Turkish pop music. They have some great local artists. I always assumed I would not like Turkish music based on some of their performances at the Eurovision song contest. However, I was wrong. Those interested in what I am talking about, can look up songs (and videos!): „Bos Yere“ by Sila, „Zaferlerim“ by Demir Demirkan, „Bir Çaresi Bulunur“ by Sertab Erener (Tears falling every time I watch the video.), „Anason“ by Zakkum. I was very pleasantly surprised how beautiful Turkish language sounds in songs and how nice and touching some of the music videos are.

Discovering the city of Bursa

And I will always remember the hard-working ladies at work. They had extremely long work days but still managed to raise a family. However, the Turkish family connections are much stronger than in Estonia. Therefore, the grandparents help the young. And sisters help each other. For example, one day a colleague of mine (She has degree in material sciences) came to work, looking quite tired. She told me that she had helped her sister with ironing till late at night. Her sister had just recently got married and had a lot of house work to do.

From this experience I learned a lot. I learned that I am stronger than I think. I became more confident. People are usually pleasantly surprised when they hear about my experience. I recommend this experience to students whole heartedly. There are so many reasons why people should spend some time in a foreign country. For example, it teaches you tolerance. At the same time, it makes you appreciate your home country. But it is also helping you to find new solutions to the problems back home. Go ahead and book your flights. Good luck!


Teaching English in South Korea

Riin Ahlberg – Byeolbang, South Korea

Duration of project: A year

Type of Exchange:  Teaching Internship

 

South Korea is no doubt one of my favourite countries in the world.
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View from the top of the mountain at my village.

Doing an internship in South Korea had been my first choice from the moment I started looking at the internship options with AIESEC. Although my first adventure led me to Guangzhou in China, I did not give up on my dream of teaching again somewhere in South Korea. As it happened, a few months before my time was over in China, I was offered a spot at a children’s centre in a small village in North Chungcheong province. I was to start teaching in Byeolbang from March 2013.

I had been to Korea a couple of times before, so I was already familiar with the culture,their language and their food. This was partly the reason I wanted to go back. Korea has an amazing landscape with lots of mountains, beautiful rivers and valleys, lovely temples, palaces and modern cities. And most of all, amazing people.

I was teaching English at two children’s centres in a very small village with only one school with about 30-40 students. The centre was part of a bigger chain of children’s centres in Korea. The two centres actually functioned as one – there were two floors, where the centre for elementary students operated on the ground floor and the middle school students were on the first floor. I gave classes to all of the students that attended the centre. There were 3 different levels among the elementary students and 2 different levels to teach on the upper floor. I had 2 classes with each of the groups. I mostly concentrated on teaching them vocabulary (as this was what my boss wanted). I really enjoyed teaching pronunciation and new expressions to the very young ones and I was very happy I had previously done my internship in China, which actually helped me out of many sticky situations.

One of which was the occasion where the centre was visited by a broadcasting company. They were doing a story of the centre (I believe it had been awarded some kind of an excellence award) and wanted to film a clip of an outdoors English class. We were in the process of filming while taking walk with the kids outside when the interviewer asked me to give some kind of a class. I think I would have panicked, had I not had this kind of an experience before. Fortunately, I still remembered a song about weather from my English Journey times and I gave a short class on teaching that song.

My experience in Korea was also a little bit special because I was interviewed by three different broadcasting companies in the course of about one month. They were all very different experiences. One, which I described above, another a short interview on my experience in Byeolbang (given after only a couple of weeks in Byeolbang!!) and a third one, where the filming crew was at the centre for about a week, filming everything we did. I took the next image while they were shooting the last scene for their show, where the kids were supposed to say some final words all together.

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My experience in Korea was also very different from my experience in China, because I had less children to teach. This meant that I had to come up with a lot more activities that would make my classes more varied and stimulating. I struggled with the middle school students, because I had no previous knowledge or experience in teaching by book (teaching reading, listening skills and such). As I was the only English teacher present, I had nobody to consult with either. After 8 months in Byeolbang I was sure that I needed some kind of training in this before I go into teaching more students.

Those eight months were also very rewarding for me, since I got to practice my Korean language skills. I enjoyed spending time with my co-workers or the students chatting in Korean. I think this is what made my experience easier as well. Because I knew the language, my boss also felt more comfortable with me and she was happy that she could communicate with me, which would have otherwise been quite challenging for her. SAM_3433

One of my favourite things about Korea and Koreans. I love their food and they love it when you eat their food.

Overall, I had a great experience in Byeolbang. The people there treated me like family. I got to travel a lot. I could take a bus to the nearest city, which was Jecheon, and spend my Saturday shopping there. I took a trip to Guinsa – one of the Buddhist temples near Danyang – only an hour away from my village. I went along with the kids to their trips to Japan and Jeju Island. These two trips were certainly part of the highlights of my stay. I got to see how other children’s centres work around Korea, when my boss took me with her on her business trip and also got to roast my own batch of coffee beans during our trip to the East sea. I met a couple of AIESECers on one of my trips to Seoul, where we hiked in Namsan and ate delicious pig feet. I also made a friend on the Seoul subway and went to the awesome fireworks festival with her.

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My lovely students.

One of the experiences dearest to my heart happened towards the very end of my stay. When going to work I always passed a house where a grandma was usually working on her small field. I greeted her and her husband every time I saw them. One day she invited me in. They sat me down in their small courtyard, brought out some grapes and asked me lots of questions about me and my family. They were very sweet and curious. This little conversation made me all warm and fuzzy. I felt welcomed in this country. At the same time I was extremely happy that I had managed to learn enough Korean to make that conversation happen.

In august we organised a summer camp for kids at the centre and some kids from Seoul. It was a two week camp where we invited some volunteers to teach as well. During that time I was their mentor and in charge of all the classes. This was also a rewarding experience as I my job was to give them support both emotionally and professionally.

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Here we took a trip to Seoul (picture taken at Gyeongbokgung) with the volunteers from China, Poland and Indonesia.

I met a lot of amazing people, who have influenced me in a positive way. This experience also helped me realise what I want and who I want to be. Since I had such a great experience working there, I cannot wait for the time I can go back again.

Teaching English for a year in China

Riin Ahlberg – Guangzhou, China

Duration of project: A year

Type of Exchange:  Teaching Internship

 

A  year in China. How do I even start?Picture1

The Kaiping Diaolou

Everything started when in July 2011 I came back to Estonia from a volunteering trip in South Korea. I had just spent the best 3 months of my life as a volunteer English teacher at a children’s centre in Uiryeong. I was positively sure that I would go back to Korea. I immediately started to look for opportunities to fulfil my goal.

I discovered that AIESEC operated in Korea as well, and just then were looking for people to take an internship abroad. A week later I had passed the interview and was able to start looking for the perfect place for me.

However, China had a lot more to offer for an English teacher at the time and so I packed my bags and ended up in Southern China. In February 2012 I found myself in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China.

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Guangzhou from the top of Baiyun mountain

I worked as an English teacher at a private school called English Journey. My students were 5-13 year old fun Chinese kids. For the first half of the year my colleagues were a Russian and two Latvian girls. What a familiar company! From the second half of my year the school had started to expand and there were new additions to our staff (from Greece, Mexico,England, and Romania). Since it was a private school, all the lessons took place in the evenings and most of them on the weekends. There were about 4-12 students in a group and one lesson was 1,5 h long. At first it was quite weird to work on the weekends when all other people are taking a rest. But people get used to everything.

My job was to teach the kids vocabulary through different fun songs. We used flashcards to introduce the vocabulary and conduct various games through which they would learn the set. The hardest part for me was to memorise all of the words and songs. To make 10 kids to sing a silly song out loud is quite demanding – you have to know the song well and the kids have to know the vocabulary for it. For it to be fun for everyone the teacher should be confident and inspiring and energetic. It took about half a year until I felt like I am actually doing it right. It is an awesome feeling when you forget that you look silly whatever you are doing at the moment and start to enjoy it. I saw how the kids started to enjoy this as well as they started to loudly sing along in addition to them running and dancing around. It was a good feeling to see them develop and start using English to communicate with me and the other teachers.

The best part of everything was to see the 5-6-year-olds have conversations with each other after a few months of lessons. It is especially rewarding when a shy and quiet student is finally brave enough to say a few words out loud and is not afraid to talk to you because you look foreign. The best feeling in the world is when ten 8-year-olds almost scream after you: “I like vegetables! I like vegetables!”

We had a summer course in July-August when we had to work 6 days a week. This photo is taken in one of the last lessons of the summer course:

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This year in China gave me tools to manage the classroom and a few tricks how to teach a language. I have learnt that I do not panic when electronics stops working, I have a couple of English songs always ready to be used, I am confident in front of an audience and I am not afraid to challenge myself. I know that I will always pull through.
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What do I remember from China until this day? Of course the first thing that comes to mind is the climate. The humidity in spring, when you would slip on the wooden stairs because of the water film on it. And then the extremely hot summer, when it was advisable to always have a water bottle with you. And an unbelievably cold winter. Nobody will believe me, but +13C can feel like -25. It is a lot different when the cold creeps up to your bones and you feel cold all the time and everywhere. Fortunately the cold period was a short one. Other things that come to mind are “stinky” tofu, which tastes amazing by the way, all kinds of fruits at the street market, taking rides on motorcycle taxis, bargaining in Cantonese, arguing and chatting with the taxi drivers, singing at the ktv (karaoke) rooms with the colleagues, and a chicken’s head in a hot pot.

We did not find a lot of time to travel in China considering our schedules. However, we did find time to look around in Guangzhou, have a picnic with hordes of Chinese at a park during the Moon Cake festival and have a vacation in Hong Kong. One of the most memorable moments was our trip to Sanshui, to see the sleeping Big Buddha.

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The Buddha itself was a funny sight to see – a pile of stone and metal in the middle of nowhere. It started to get exciting on our way back. After having bought the bus tickets back to Guangzhou we were denied to board the right bus. We could read the sign on the bus and it clearly said Guangzhou on it. Instead, we were directed towards a different bus. The lady was quite firm and even scary, so we couldn’t argue with her. The Chinese ladies are often quite scary, I don’t know how they do that. Anyways, in the end, we were forced to board the other bus. The locals gave us weird looks and we started to doubt in our destination. As the bus rode on, even in the darkness we could see that the mountains were suspiciously on the wrong side of the road.. When we got off at the last stop we found ourselves in Zhaoqing – two hours away from Guangzhou. What would you do if you found yourself in a small bus stop in a strange city late in the evening? Of course, go to the lady at the booth and ask where in the world are we? The lady was very helpful and we attracted other people, who actually knew how to speak English to help us as well. After a bit of confusion we figured out where we are and where we had to go to get to Guangzhou. Fortunately, there was another bus station in the city where we could take a bus home. All’s well that ends well.

Another thing to get used to in China is that everybody takes pictures of you, either in secret or they ask you permission to take one with you. After a while you stop noticing people staring at you or taking pictures of you.

But the most valuable thing I took with me was the friends I made and the amazing experiences.

2 months of interning in Germany

Birgit Hänilane  – Germany, Flensburg

Duration of project: 3rd of July – 29th of August

Type of Exchange: Agricultural production and marketing internship 

I did my internship in Germany in the city of Flensburg in the company of P. H. Petersen Saatzucht Lundsgaard GmbH. The internship was through the project Business Contact, which was fully organised internship by the Junior Chamber and AIESEC Bremen for Easter European and Western Asian students. The participating companies were located in Northern Germany cities like Kiel, Flensburg, Hamburg, Bremen and others.

My internship began at the 3rd of July and last to the 29th of August. The weekends during these two months was organized by AIESEC Bremen or Junior Chamber and were completely full of events in different locations around Northern Germany (for example in Kiel, Schwerin, Berlin, Hamburg etc).

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My main tasks in the company were seed preparation, sowing of trials, evaluation of plots, documentation and harvesting of trials, cultivation of plants in the greenhouse, testing techniques of resistance against beet cyst nematodes, testing mustard and oil seed radish growth within a wheat in Germany and Denmark. Working with crops like white and brown mustard, oil seed radish, phacelia, grasses, forage rye.

I went there after my bachelors studies and the internship was as a good opportunity to put my gained knowledge of the university into practice. I studied Agricultural production and marketing and the internship was in the same field.

One of the difference which I noticed was that in Germany there is more bureaucracy than in Estonia. I was also in this time when you had to have work permit to work in Germany.5420_117462823436_3336075_n

Because it was my first time living abroad, then at the beginning I felt a little bit homesick, but after some weeks, when I met new friends, it disappeared. With some of the new friends I am still in contact.

The two months in Germany were full of events. During the week I lived and worked in Lundsgaard, but during weekends I travelled around in Northern Germany with other trainees. All the weekends were organized by AIESEC Bremen and Junior Chamber. Every weekend we had different kind of activity, one of my favorite was weekend in Berlin. Also with the trainees, who worked in Flensburg, we organized ourselves a weekend in Copenhagen and for a coincidence we got for travelling a car from a company were one of the trainee was doing her internship. I am still really good friends with them and we meet occasionally, one of the thing which we have in common – we all went back to Germany after the internship. I went to study in the university of Berlin.

I will always remember the people who I met there and the weekends full of events.30313_130462260297341_253385_n

For professionally I am not working in the field, but the experience gave me more in personally, – new friends, I got very good overview of Germany, I also realised that I want to go back. After two years from the internship I went to study in German university.

I decided to go, because in this time I was a member of AIESEC and when I heard about this project I wanted to apply, because I have always been interested in Germany as a country. Also this project sounded like a good opportunity to obtain new knowledge after my bachelors studies. The internship experience was organised by AIESEC and i didn’t have to worry about my living arrangements, working permits and all the other documents.

I would definitely recommend similar experiences to other students.  I think this was a great opportunity to obtain  professional working experience and then come back to Estonia with new expertise.