Kaisa Kamarik – Shenzhen, China
Duration of project: 8 months
Type of Exchange: Management internship
Before my graduation from the university I already had the chances to volunteer in Guatemala and work in France for a while, so when I was facing end of my bachelor studies in Genetic Engineering, I had to make a choice. My professor encouraged me to continue with my studies until I finish my PhD and then the whole world would be open to me, but that did not satisfy me and I wanted to see this world now. So I looked up of different ways for working in foreign countries. Best solution for me was an AIESEC internship and so it started.
I made a decision, that I haven’t been to any Asian countries and I want to have a try, comparing the locations salary, living cost, climate and development, I chose South China. I applied to 3 different jobs and one of them was very excited to have me, after one hour from the interview they sent me a message, that they love my smile and would like to hire me for their Management Internship at a 5 star hotel Royal Suites & Towers in Shenzhen.
My internship was not related to my studies, but in a way, I wanted to be surrounded by people and different cultures, instead of lab cultures, and experience the world like that. I believe in building a strong foundation for myself with different skill sets and experiences. I took commitment of 8 months for this project and it seemed to be enough time to get away from the cold winter back at home. But what I did not imagine is while I am writing this piece I am still in China and it has already been 4 years here.
During my internship in the hotel I started working as the Restaurant Service Manager, where my main duties were to communicate with foreign customers, teach the staff western service standards and English language. Though while the company’s expectation was to improve the staffs’ English level, then the reality was that I learned to speak Chinese instead.
This chance to work in China has given me so much. I have learned to speak the language, understand the culture and even have started to think like them so I understand them much more in so many ways. Of course there are still things that seem unacceptable for me and I will stick with what I am brought up with.
A lot of the things go around Chinese medicine here, so when in the beginning I always drank ice water out of the habit, then now I have learned to drink hot water during cold season or when I am sick. When you are in a Chinese restaurant, after a while you get so accustomed that spitting out part of the foods that cannot be eaten, is completely normal, as after you leave they will wrap up all the rubbish and dirty dishes in the table cloth to clean the table for the next customers. Eating with chopsticks becomes so normal, that you even start using them while cooking as it feels so convenient.
It has been an amazing experience to do something so different from others my age and add this to my CV. I would recommend everyone to find this time in your life for yourself and travel or work abroad for a year. No matter how is the experience, you will grow and learn from it so much.