Final Thoughts

The night before leaving for Beijing, my final destination in China, I met an Austrian traveler walking around the city-wall of Xi’an. It was a rainy evening, but we quickly got caught up in a conversation about our life-paths up until this point. After hearing my story, the guy suggested that after I finish my internship I should take a day/night to reflect on my summer while camping on the Great Wall of China. He shared his experience, and before he even finished, I was sold.

A few locals that agreed to help

There was no specific plan, just a bit of research on the outdated/banned Google. A few days later, I got onto a public bus towards a village near the Great Wall. Initially, the ride there, with all the transfers, was supposed to take about 5 hours. Yet, since nothing really went according to the plan this summer, I got very-very lost at least 3 times. Thinking back on it, for some reason I never doubted reaching the destination. Somehow, after initiating conversations, there was always someone willing to help or at least point me in the right direction. The sun was long set when I finally reached the desired location. Throughout the night, I had plenty of time to reflect on my summer experience. I woke up with the sunrise and spent another 5 hours in peaceful solitude walking along the Great Wall.

5 hour long hike along the Great Wall

 

This summer was incredible for many reasons. First and foremost, the Davidson in East Asia program provided me with an opportunity to explore the world. I have had a chance to travel a little before coming to Davidson, however, after spending 3 years in exploration of different perspectives through various disciplines, the travel aspect of this summer was especially rewarding. Furthermore, because of my pursuit for a double major, I was unable to go through the popular study abroad experience. While finding an internship in a completely foreign environment was a challenge, I am grateful for this opportunity and the assistance I received throughout the process. It is one thing to go half across the world just to explore, but it is a whole different adventure when you are able to immerse yourself through work experience. All in all, this was an experience of a lifetime, and I would like to thank everyone who was a part of this experience with me!

Internship Experience

My internship search began right after I submitted the grant application. Given my entrepreneurial background, I was on the lookout for a non-traditional internship experience. After many months of research and networking I found exactly what I wanted with an international music company. To put it short – my task was to organize a master-class tour across East Asia for an American choreographer. I was super excited because every part of this project would require me not only answering questions, but coming up with those very questions to begin with.

I started the research a few months before I was planning to leave the U.S. After mapping out the potential locations, I ended up reaching out to the appropriate dance studios. Some got back to me relatively quickly, some never responded. This type of reaching out, or in other words cold calling, was not as easy as it first appeared. I quickly realized that I was missing a lot of information in my business model. But after a few dozens chats and Skype calls, I had meetings aligned along the initial route.

On my way to a meeting in Singapore

 

Meeting with a contact in Shanghai

Physically arriving in Singapore, the first country from the list, brought many questions into my head. What was I doing here? What will be the result of this trip? But only time and willingness to make something out of arising opportunities would provide some answers. The meeting in Singapore was the first on the list, but turned out to be the best of all. The opportunity went beyond a simple planning of a master-class. After the exchange of expectations with the representatives of the dance studio, I quickly realized that their reach continued all the way to the local radio and TV channels. We discussed a potential TV project in order to maximize the audience outreach. Looking back, it is because of moments like this, I can say with full confidence that my internship was a success.

 

Throughout the summer, regardless of the location, each interaction would teach me many lessons.  I finally had a chance to wear the entrepreneur hat. To be fully honest, at times it was quite difficult, and even frightening. But every day I would wake up with a passion to knock on doors to see what is behind them. This internship also allowed me to get a sense of the culture of every place I would visit. The rather flexible schedule and new connections  allowed me to get the non-tourist feel of each country. Looking back at my internship journey, this was one of the most productive and inspiring summers.

Arriving in Shanghai, China

Although the internship required me to visit multiple countries in East Asia, the arrival in Shanghai, China was definitely a memorable experience. Shanghai was my first stop in China. While I had already spent the prior week in Hong Kong and a few more in other East Asian countries, Shanghai’s reality was quick to adjust all of my prior expectations. Recalling some Chinese stories from my textbook, I decided to take the overnight train from Hong Kong to Shanghai. I figured that being in a room with at least three other travelers or locals for about 17 hours wouldn’t be that bad. Besides, the textbook highly advertised this option of getting around as a great way to explore Chinese culture and practice language skills. The reality, however, was me sleeping for all 17 hours in the room all by myself. As I later found out, unless around the holidays, in modern China people prefer flying rather than sleeping overnight in a room full of strangers. Although I was a bit disappointed, I was also very glad to catch up on some sleep.

Getting onto the train in Hong Kong

A look inside the room on the train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About half an hour before the arrival in Shanghai, the attendant lady knocked on the door. She said something that sounded like a question, but since I had not come across that phrase in my previous four semesters of studying the language, I mumbled something along the lines of “Sounds good” and started to get ready. My plan was quite simple: arrive at the train station, exchange some money, eat some breakfast, book a room to stay, and enjoy the high-paced, 23-million-populated city while getting all that done. Well, things did not really go as planed.

First view of Shanghai

After arriving at the station, I headed straight for the exit into the city. I was a bit confused on my exact whereabouts on the map, and was very glad to see a McDonald’s sign not too far away once I stepped into the street. My first wrong move was betting on the public WiFi. In order to use it anywhere in China, you have to first purchase a Chinese phone number/sim-card for authorization purposes. Even at a McDonald’s. After countless attempts to get online by using phone numbers of strangers around me, I decided to postpone the whole internet problem and grab a quick bite to eat. I was not trying to practice my Chinese with the sales person right that moment, so I opted for the machine to take my order. After clicking around and selecting what I wanted, I finally got to the payment options. Among them there even was Face Recognition, but the only one I knew how to use was Apple Pay. It was only after several failed attempts that I remembered that normal card providers do not work in China. As I found out shortly, it was also not that logical to have a bank around the train station, as I might have expected. So far it has been about an hour in Shanghai, and so far the knot of issues just kept on getting tighter.

I’m not kidding about the Face Recognition option

How did I manage to untie it you might wonder? Well, I ended up finding a random lady on the street that quickly agreed to exchange some dollars for me. The rate was awful, but I figured this was the simplest, if not the only option I had at that moment. After a long conversation with a clerk at some restaurant, he helped me finally get online. To my surprise I had zero problems booking myself a room in a very nice area of Shanghai, and in a bit over an hour, I was already unpacking my clothes.

 

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