Reflection: An Ending that I Did Not Plan For or Hope For

My internship experience was cut short by 2 weeks due to a medical issue that occurred during my sixth week in Shanghai. It was a sad ending that I did not want, and it resulted in me scrambling around at the last minute to wrap things up at my internship and buy gifts that I planned on buying during the rest of my time in Shanghai. My last full day in Shanghai was an unforgettable one. From being able to go to the Muslim market and try lamb skewers and highly addictive cake (I don’t know what it was made from, but it was really good). I also bought gifts, and I even bargained a little at Tian Zi Fang. My last dinner in Shanghai was full of laughter. We ate Dim Sum, and we all ordered tea and got our own tea pots. We stayed for a while to finish up our tea, and then an employee came around and took away our tea pots. We all thought he was taking them away because we were done, but a minute later our tea pots were back and filled with water. We then proceeded to drink that tea pot while laughing at the fact that we might end up staying the whole night in the restaurant because they kept refilling our tea pots. 

The front of the ACME Biopharmaceutical company building

The addictive cake from the Muslim market. The cake in the back was the best one











My never ending tea pot from the Dim Sum restaurant. I had Jasmine tea.












Although my experience was cut short by an unforeseen event, it was an extremely interesting and fantastic summer experience. I learned a lot about working in a laboratory and it helped me realize that I might want to work in a lab in the future. I also gained confidence in the laboratory. I felt myself improve my skills every day, and I perfected the skills that I already had. I made a lot of memories and I got to travel to Hangzhou and Suzhou. I also met people walking around the city and I realized that people in China are very nice and the reason they stand far away and stare is because they are afraid and shy of foreigners. They would stare at me, but if I stared back and smiled then they would either quickly look away with a shy expression on their face or they would smile right back. Once they knew that I had basic Chinese skills they would try to have conversations with me. I left in a rush on Saturday. I was packing up my apartment and getting my things together when one of my co-workers stopped by to say goodbye. She was not my mentor, but she worked in my lab and her English was by far the best of the group. We talked more together than anyone and I helped her with her pronunciation. We had a long conversation and she also said that after I left she would not have anyone else to practice English with, so I suggested that we keep in contact using Wechat to continue to practice her English and my Chinese. I gained a lot of confidence while abroad and the memories, people, and things that I saw I will never forget.

Window in a building on the island of Three Pools Mirroring the moon in Hangzhou. The “three pools” are not actual pools, but pedestals in the Lake.

Temple of Soul Retreat in Hangzhou has carved statues in cliffs near the temple



Food Stall in Zhujiaojiao. Zhujiajiao is called the Venice of Shanghai. It is about 30 minutes outside of Shanghai by metro.

Soft Serve waffle from Qibao. Another water city in Shanghai.

The Bund in Shanghai.

Bronze knife heads on display in the Shanghai Museum. The knife heads are over 3,000 years old.






ACME Biopharamaceutical Internship

I was super nervous the first day, I found out that the people I was assigned to work with did not speak English. My mentor was not there the first day, so I shadowed the head of our group, I just nodded my head and followed him around that day. The following day, I was introduced to my mentor and lab mates. I really like my lab group and our small research group as well. They are very fun to talk to and they are very casual. They do not wear business clothing.  They wear jeans and sweatpants, and they also wear t-shirts with funny English words that they do not know. They joke around and play on there phones when they are on break. For the first four weeks, I mainly observed my mentor and helped out with smaller tasks like, getting dry ice and ice, holding things, taking TLC plates out, and running errands for her. Every day I got to try a new skill that she would try her best to explain to me by repeating herself and motioning with her hands. I usually failed to completely understand her instructions, and I relied on observing her doing the same skill before to perform the skill myself.  I am understanding Mandarin a bit more here and there, and they help me with my speaking and tones when we have breaks. These past two weeks, I have started my own experiments. I set up the reaction, monitor the reaction, perform a work-up, and finally purify to the final product. Although I am doing my own reactions, my mentor usually does most of the set up and some other things during the experiment. This is because my Chinese language listening skills are rather slow, so whenever she asks me to do anything it would take me a few seconds to respond, and she would eventually get annoyed that I was not doing it fast enough and she would take over for me. My response time is slowly getting better and my mentor has been gradually letting me do more of the experimental set-up, but there is still a language gap that prevents me from fully understanding what she wants me to do. The internship experience, so far, has been incredible. I work Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5 PM (usually 5:30 PM because no one is ever done on time). I live within walking distance of my internship, so I walk back with my lab mates and have dinner and relax before heading to sleep. The weeks are long and the A/C in the lab does not really work that well (temperatures are high 80s and in the 90s), but I have learned a lot, and I have improved my Chinese listening skills. There have also been downs. Since I am a bit slow responding to commands and I have a difficult time understanding commands, I am often spoke down to and they like to make jokes, but after the day is done they still laugh with me and talk with me just the same. 

My mentor,  Lu Wei Li (鲁伟丽) (right) and I (left) in our lab

Jason Zhang, president of the company (left) and I (right) standing in front of the front desk at the company












Last Friday was the company’s anniversary in Shanghai, and we all stopped our work to decorate a cake and make cookies (top left). I also had dinner at one of my lab mate’s house with people from the company (top right). We ate dinner and chatted for 4 hours, and I talked about my life and family, which they were very curious about. At the company, we get lunch every day provide to us. We get to choose four dishes from the many that are available. I try to avoid the fish because I dislike spitting out the bones onto my tray in front of other people, and I am also very slow at eating the fish as well. Every Thursday we have a dessert. The dessert changes every week, but they are not that sweet to me, but to my co-workers they are very sweet (bottom). 

Birthday cake that people made. I helped put the marshmallows on the cake. It had Oreos and mangos on the inside. It was a vanilla cake with whipped cream topping.

The meal with my coworkers. There is stir fried tomates and egg (top right), leafy vegetable (top left), pork ribs (middle), okra (bottom left) and fresh fish that was caught that day (bottom right). Also a packet of milk, which I though was interesting












Dessert at my company’s lunch. This is a bun filled with egg custard and decorated to look like a pig.

First Couple of Days in Shanghai

This is my first time out of the country by myself and also living by myself, which was a terrifying prospect. The flight was long and mostly smooth sailing for 13 hours except for 5 minutes of death when we were over Japan and the plane hit severe turbulence. After landing, I began to freak out about the next two months. What was I going to do? How was I going to get around? My internship was outside of the city and there wasn’t a metro line near where I was staying, so I was going to have to learn how to use the bus system, which are notoriously confusing. The company where I was interning had someone pick me up her name is Gao Xiao (高晓). She does not speak English, and that is when I realized that my language skills that I learned in Chinese class were inadequate to have a conversation with her and we ended up using our phone to translate back and forth. I found it difficult because she used phrases and words  that I did not know, but I learned a different way to say it. We managed to eat hot pot after my flight and go shopping all while dragging my suitcase around. Because I just flew 13 hours and I don’t know very many Chinese characters my first meal consisted of chicken gizzards and cow intestines and some vegetables. They had an interesting rubbery texture. It was not the worst tasting food that I have eaten, but I would not order it again. We then dragged my suitcase through the street to the grocery store to buy a few daily necessities. The company had sheets and blankets already ready for me. After dinner and the short shopping trip we arrived at my apartment. My room was on the fifth floor, which is the top floor, and we both managed to drag my suitcase up the stairs because the complex does not have an elevator. After that Gao Xiao left and I immediately fell asleep. 

My apartment consists of a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. The kitchen only has a sink and a refrigerator and freezer, so I plan on eating out a lot. The bathroom has a washing machine, a sink, a toilet, and a shower, but the entire bathroom is used to take a shower. When I took a shower for the first time, I was not exactly sure how to position the shower head and ended up getting water everywhere in the bathroom. The apartment has A/C, but it took a while to get it to work because I did not have the remote and I had to ask my boss at work to come with me to pick it up from the apartment office.


Bathroom in my apartment.











On my first full day in Shanghai, I woke up at 2 AM because of the time difference, and I went on a walk at 5 AM around the community that I am living in. There were only a few people up and it was rather cold in the morning as I walked around to find the company’s building. Below are pictures of my apartment complex. The top left picture is a garden where they are growing food between buildings and is one of many around the complex. Many of the people living in the apartment complex were farmers, and I learned from one of my co-workers that if there is an open space they will make it into a garden. I also learned that the gardens are not allowed, but because there are so many of them and the residents just keep making them the apartment management does not do anything about it.  The top right picture is of a street inside the complex. The bottom picture is the street in front of my building. My apartment building is the building on the left. 

One of the many mini gardens in my apartment complex.

A street in my apartment complex with gardens on the left and right.











My apartment building is on the left












I am outside of the city by quite a bit. I am about 40 minutes away by car and about 1 hour away by public transportation. There are no metro stations near me and I have to take buses to get to the nearest grocery store and nearest metro station, which I figured out how to use with the help of Gao Xiao who helped me get to the grocery store. Because if I went by myself I would have been very confused. Before my colleague helped me to the grocery store, I tried to find a grocery store by myself and I wandered around trying to find one, but with no luck. I did get to see another neighborhood and had more chances for people to stare at me. Below are photos of my adventure.

Canal near my apartment

Exercise equipment in a neighborhood near my apartment complex