Saturday, October 18, 2014

Six Weeks in Shanghai

My summer internship in Shanghai was nothing short of six weeks of enjoyable sensory overload caused by relentless raw exposure to Chinese and European culture, which so frequently intermingle in the world’s largest city. My stay there was both educational and exciting as I regularly switched between hats of studious, professional intern by day, and avid tourist with a voracious appetite for all things cultural on the nights and weekends.
            I arrived in Shanghai two days earlier than recommended by my internship site so I could have some time to freely explore the city – as if such an opportunity would be hard to come by later on. Upon arrival I began sampling and ingesting every cultural aspect of the enormous, bustling metropolitan giant with an insatiable appetite. I went everywhere, saw everything, spoke with everyone – with limited linguistic capabilities – and ate just about anything I could get my hands on – much to the chagrin of my own digestive system. The only minor constraints I had on my unbridled exploration were really a reasonable budget and the need for sleep. It should be noted, however, the latter constraint was really subjective, depending on my willpower, caffeine intake and consuming curiosity.

            Accommodations were fairly basic and quite fitting for a young, twenty-something intern that had little interest in staying inside the confinements of a three-star hotel room for any reason beside sleep – which, again, was basically optional. However, I must say that living inside a hotel with 50 other equally vivacious interns has uncanny benefits for those who wish to live semi-vicariously through the escapades of others. The amount of time you spent roaming the city on weeknights depended entirely on the difficulty and fulfillment of your internship. I, fortunately for my peace of mind, had secured both a rewarding and educational internship and was thus committed solely to mild entertainment during the week.
            I worked as a media-marketing intern for a small, yet rapidly growing, pharmaceutical company. In a matter of weeks, my knowledge and understanding of social media marketing, as well as SEO and other internet-based marketing techniques, exploded. I owe this entirely to the warm and supportive nature of the company staff, and more particularly to the kind didactic nature of my Italian manager and the gold-hearted personality of my American “big boss.” Partially because of this company’s generosity and genuine interest in me as an intern, I will be returning to China in the winter to reconnect and to further professional connections in Shanghai.
            Over the course of my stay I also made several close friends, whom I plan to see again, and met a particularly wonderful Italian woman who still makes my day on a regular basis.

As briefly mentioned before, I received a great deal of exposure to both Chinese and European culture. Because Shanghai is heavily populated with Europeans and other Westerners, the city is fairly used to accommodating them and their “rowdiness,” as some would put it. Congruently, one can find a wide plethora of restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping centers, and family oriented entertainment that seamlessly blends Western and Chinese taste – sometimes more seamlessly than others. Thus my European, American, Chinese cohort and I were easily afforded regular sampling of East and West in Shanghai in the form of cheap yet authentic cuisine from all over the world, a few insane sporting events, as well as a Chinese art gallery or two. I experienced both the wildest World Cup match viewing of my life, had the best Italian food I’d ever eaten, and learned some Norwegian – none of which one typically expects to do in a Chinese city.

Mixed cultural exposure aside I was able to catch a few breathtaking views from atop Shanghai skyscrapers as well as traverse some of rural surroundings. I navigated the ancient water city of Suzhou and also climbed a 7-story pagoda. I hiked a 6-kilometer, near-vertical trek up the side of the Huangshan Yellow Mountains. (Unfortunately the summit turned out to be both underwhelming and hardly rewarding. On the plus side, it was a great calorie burner and the views on the way up made for a nice photo op as I was conveniently wearing a UNC Charlotte T-Shirt.) 

Overall my six short, yet full, weeks in China were extremely rewarding from a professional, academic and personal perspective. I could not have asked nor dreamed of experiencing something more exciting or eye-opening.

-Written by James Dicus, current senior in the Levine Scholars Program

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