Pagoda Projects – Beyond Work Experience

Internships Advice, Learn about China, Mexico, Understanding Chinese culture, Vietnamese Culture

Pagoda Projects Reading List

Love to read? Hoping to get that little bit of business motivation? Want to find out more about our destinations? Check out our list of some of our favourite incredible fiction and non-fiction books!

We hope our reading list will bring you some fantastic recommendations to get stuck into!


by Cal Newport (Goodreads)

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. In this book, it shares cultural criticism and actionable advice for anyone seeking focused success in a distracted Graham Allcott (Goodreads)

In the age of information overload, traditional time management techniques simply don’t cut it anymore when it comes to overflowing inboxes, ever-expanding to-do lists and endless, pointless meetings. Thankfully there is a better way, and this is a practical guide to staying calm and collected, getting more done, and learning to love your work Yuval Noah Harari (Goodreads)

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us – homo sapiens. In his book, Dr Yuval Noah Harari covers the span of human history, drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology, and economics to explore how history has shaped human Dale Carnegie (Goodreads)

Since its release in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies. It is a timeless bestseller with enduring principles that will help you achieve your greatest potential in our complex and competitive modern age. by Howard Schultz & Dori Jones Yang (Goodreads)

The success of Starbucks Coffee Company is one of the most amazing business stories in decades. What started as a single store on Seattle’s waterfront has grown into a company with over sixteen hundred stores worldwide. In this book, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shares the principles and wisdom he has gained from creating this enduring Phil Knight (Goodreads)

This candid and riveting memoir from the founder and CEO of Nike explores the inside story of the company’s early days as a start-up, and its eventual evolution into one of the world’s most iconic shoe Verne Harnish (Goodreads)

The author shares practical tools and techniques for building a successful business, using approaches that have been honed from over three decades of advising tens of thousands of CEOs and executives. By helping front-line and executive employees navigate the increasing complexities that come with scaling up a venture, this book is written so everyone can align themselves to contribute to a successful David Clark (Goodreads)

Similar to the Tao te Ching, David Clark has collected and interpreted the wonderful words of wisdom from Charlie Munger – Warren Buffet’s longtime business partner, and the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Charlie’s investment tips, business philosophy, and rules for living are unique, intelligent, and Eric Ries (Goodreads)

A startup is defined as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. The Lean Startup approach provides tips to help companies leverage human creativity more effectively, become capital-efficient, shift directions with agility, and test their vision W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne (Goodreads)

This international bestseller challenges everything you thought you knew about strategic business success. The authors argue that cutthroat competition does not lead to lasting success, but rather, success comes from creating “blue oceans” of untapped market space ripe for growth. Such strategic “value innovation” moves often render rivals obsolete for more than a decade. This landmark work upends traditional thinking about strategy and charts a bold new path to winning the Simon Sinek (Goodreads)

Why do you do what you do? Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? When leaders start with their WHY, they inspire those around them to achieve remarkable results. People who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others and find their Rutger Bregman (Goodreads)

We can construct a society with visionary ideas that are implementable. The author explores how every major milestone of civilization was once considered a utopian fantasy. Now, new utopian ideas such as universal basic income and a fifteen-hour work week can become reality in our lifetime. This inspirational book explores solutions to how we can achieve these goals as a Angela Duckworth (Goodreads)

Professor and psychologist Angela Duckworth believes the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but a focused persistence called grit. Identifying our passions and following through on our commitments is the key to success.


by Peter Hessler (Goodreads)

River Town is an unforgettable portrait of a city that, much like China itself, is seeking to understand both what it was and what it someday will be. Told through the eyes of Peter Hessler, a Peace Corps volunteer who moved to Fuling in 1996 as the first American resident in more than half a century, he offers vivid descriptions of the people he meets, giving voice to their Evan Osnos (Goodreads)

As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain Kerry Brown (Goodreads)

This book is a must-read for the Western world to understand the hidden story of the rise of Xi Jinping – otherwise known as the “Chinese Godfather.”by Jung Chang (Goodreads)

This bestselling classic has sold more than 10 million copies around the world in 30 different languages. It is the story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of a memoir and the panoramic scope of eyewitness Peter Hessler (Goodreads)

From the bestselling author of River Town comes this book on the human side of the economic revolution in China. In the summer of 2001, Hessler acquired a Chinese driver’s license and travelled the country by car for the next seven years, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were rapidly transforming Peter Hessler (Goodreads)

The acclaimed author of River Town and Country Driving presents this rare portrait of twenty-first-century China as it opens its doors to the outside world. Hessler illuminates the past and places a human face on the history that he uncovers in a narrative that gracefully moves between the ancient past and the present Leslie T. Chang (Goodreads)

At the time of writing, China had more than 114 million migrant workers – the driving force behind China’s growing economy. However, very little is known about their day-to-day lives or the sociological impact of their massive migration. Chang tells the real story through the eyes of two young women who she follows over the course of three Pearl S. Buck (Goodreads)

This book tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. He nurtures the land and soil as it nurtures him and his family, whereas the nearby nobles consider themselves above the land and its Kazuo Ishiguro (Goodreads)

This masterful tale tells the story of an English boy born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai who suddenly becomes an orphan at age nine when his parents mysteriously disappear. He is then sent to live in England and becomes a renowned detective. More than twenty years later, he returns to Shanghai in an attempt to solve his greatest Dai Sijie (Goodreads)

This enchanting tale about the magic of reading explores the story of two city boys who are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. They discover a hidden stash of Western classic novels translated into Chinese and escape their grim reality through the realm of J.G. Ballard (Goodreads)

This classic, award-winning novel tells the story of a young boy’s struggle to survive in China during World War II. Separated from his parents, he endures imprisonment in a Japanese concentration camp, starvation, and death marches. This coming-of-age tale of survival highlights a world thrown out of Madeleine Thien (Goodreads)

Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations—those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the centre of this epic story are two young women.


by Octavio Paz (Goodreads)

Long acknowledged as Mexico’s foremost writer and critic, Paz has written one of the most enduring and powerful works ever created on Mexico. It is a beautifully written and deeply-felt discourse on Mexico’s quest for Alfredo Corchado (Goodreads)

Award-winning journalist and immigration expert Alfredo Corchado highlights the sweeping story of the great Mexican migration. His book merges the political and the personal in telling the story through the eyes of four friends at a time when the Mexican population in the United States swelled from 700,000 people during the 1970s to more than 35 million people today. It is essential reading to understand the role of Mexicans in shaping America’s history. by Laura Esquivel (Goodreads)

This number one bestseller is a romantic, charming tale that takes place in turn-of-the-century Mexico. It shares the story of the all-female De La Garza family and a love triangle between John Kenneth Turner (Goodreads)

From 1908-1911, author John Kenneth Turner posed as an American investor seeking to buy a tobacco plantation and was involved in the revolutionary movement in Mexico. His book exposes and criticizes the brutal labour system and corruption in Mexico at the time.

by Jeffrey M. Pilcher (Goodreads)

This book asks the question, “What is authentic Mexican food?” Many foods typically associated with Mexico such as burritos and taco shells were actually created in the United States. In fact, Mexican food was the product of globalization from the beginning due to the Spanish conquest. Ultimately, Planet Taco seeks to recover the history of people who have been ignored in the struggle to define authentic Mexican Martha Menchaca (Goodreads)

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a majority of the Mexican immigrant population in the United States resided in Texas. As a result, this state became the focus of debates over whether to deny naturalization rights. This book provides an in-depth understanding of the realities and rhetoric that have led to present-day immigration Mariano Azuela (Goodreads)

Widely regarded as the greatest novel about the Mexican Revolution, The Underdogs tells the story of a poor, illiterate Indian who must join the rebels to save his family. His courage and charisma lead to his generalship in Pancho Villa’s army before discouragement and disillusionment settle Carlos Fuentes (Goodreads)

Described as the authors “most important novel in several decades”, The Years with Laura Diaz chronicles a migration from Veracruz to Mexico City during the Revolution. Told through the eyes of a woman who is also a political artist, wife, mother, and complicated Juan Pablo Villalobos (Goodreads)

Tochtli is the child of a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and what he wants more than anything in the world is a new pet for his private zoo. A pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia, to be exact. This masterful and darkly comic novel has created quite a buzz in the Spanish-speaking world and Joe Tuckman (Goodreads)

Jo Tuckman reports on the world of Mexico’s drug wars, government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. While Mexico faces complex challenges, Tuckman concludes that the vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.


by Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns (Goodreads)

Drawing on dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam, this book aims to highlight the perspectives of all those who were involved in the Vietnam War. From U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families to high-level officials, antiwar protestors, POW’s, and many more. This book plunges the reader into the chaos and intensity of combat without taking sides, but rather seeking to understand why the war happened the way it Graham Greene (Goodreads)

This novel takes place in Vietnam in 1955 during the French-Indochina War. The narrator, a cynical British journalist, is living an idyllic life with his Vietnamese mistress until he meets the naive, anti-communist, and quiet American Alden Pyle. The two become friends, however, a complicated love triangle soon forms between them and the Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (Goodreads)

Originally written in Vietnamese by a famous poet, this novel is a sweeping multigenerational story of Tran Dieu Lan and her family from the 1920s to the present day. During the communist land reforms, Tran’s family was forced to migrate from the North to Hanoi. “Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.”by Andrew X. Pham (Goodreads)

Catfish and Mandala is the story of a young Vietnamese-American man who went on a solo bicycle journey in pursuit of greater understanding and connection to both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland. A vibrant memoir that is an unforgettable tale of one man’s search for cultural identity and Graham Holliday (Goodreads)

This offbeat travel memoir takes readers on a colourful and spicy gastronomic tour through Vietnam, with a foreword by Anthony Bourdain. Journalist and blogger Graham Holliday grew up in a small town in northern England and eventually moved to Vietnam after seeing a picture of Hanoi in his early twenties that sparked his curiosity. This memoir will inspire armchair travellers, those with curious palates, and anyone who is itching for a taste of Duong Van Mai Elliott (Goodreads)

A Pulitzer Prize finalist, this novel illuminates recent Vietnamese history by weaving together the stories of the lives of four generations of the author’s family. Based on family papers, dozens of interviews, and a wealth of other research, this is not only a memorable family saga but a record of how the Vietnamese themselves have experienced their recent Camilla Gibb (Goodreads)

The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a keenly observed and skillfully wrought novel about the reverberation of conflict through generations, the enduring legacy of art, and the redemption, and renewal, of long-lost love.

Cultural, Food

Pagoda Recipe Challenge

We have collected a few of our favourite recipes from some of our destinations around the world for you to enjoy.
Whether you are cooking to earn points for the leaderboard, for fun, or just because you are hungry, we are sure you’re going to love these recipes!




Bánh xèo – also known as crispy Vietnamese pancake, crepe or sizzling cake – is a famous street food which is widely believed to originate from France during its occupation of Vietnam. The word xèo depicts the sizzling sound when pouring the rice batter into the hot skillet

Where to try this food? Banh Xeo Nga (251 Nguyễn Thiện Thuật, Phường 1, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh)


  • Rice flour
  • Salt
  • Ground turmeric
  • Water
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Chopped scallions
  • Tiny shrimp
  • Pork chop
  • Coconut oil


  1. Mix rice flour, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and turmeric together in a large bowl. Beat in coconut milk to make a thick batter. Slowly beat in water until batter is the consistency of a thin crepe batter.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic; cook and stir until fragrant but not browning, 1 to 2 minutes. Add shrimp; saute until cooked through and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with fish sauce/soy sauce and salt. Transfer filling to a bowl.
  3. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).
  4. Wipe out skillet and reheat over medium heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon oil. Stir crepe batter and pour 1/2 cup into the hot skillet, swirling to coat the bottom. Lay 3 or 4 of the cooked shrimp on the bottom half of the crepe. Top with a small handful of bean sprouts.
  5. Cook until batter looks set and edges start to brown, about 1 minute. Fold crepe over and slide onto an oven-safe plate.



These spring rolls are a refreshing change from the usual fried variety and have become a family favourite. They are great as a cool summertime appetizer, and are delicious dipped in one or both of the sauces.


  • 2 ounces rice vermicelli
  • 8 rice wrappers (8.5-inch diameter)
  • 8 large cooked shrimp – peeled, deveined and cut in half < Could replace with thinly sliced pork, beef or chicken if you don’t like shrimp
  • 1 ⅓ tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 leaves lettuce, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons fish sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic chilli sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped peanuts


  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Boil rice vermicelli for 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.
  2. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the hot water for 1 second to soften. Lay wrapper flat. In a row across the centre, place 2 shrimp halves, a handful of vermicelli, basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, beginning at the end with the lettuce. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, sugar and chilli sauce.
  4. In another small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce and peanuts.
  5. Serve rolled spring rolls with the fish sauce and hoisin sauce mixtures.




Try an authentic version of this classic Chinese takeaway dish, with natural sweetness and a warm chilli flavour to spice things up!


  • Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
  • 100ml soda water, chilled
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • Spring onions, finely shredded, to serve

For the sauce:

  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into chunks
  • 3 red chillies, 1 cut into chunks, 2 halved and deseeded
  • 425g can pineapple chunks, drained and juice reserved
  • 4 star anise
  • 50g tamarind paste
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar or Chinese vinegar


  1. For the sauce, put the red pepper, chunks of chilli and pineapple juice in a pan and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 10 mins, then purée in a food processor. Return to the pan with the pineapple chunks, chilli halves, star anise, tamarind, sugar and vinegar. Gently simmer for 20-30 mins until reduced and sticky. Keep warm, or reheat to serve.
  2. Fill a large pan 1cm deep with oil and heat until shimmering. Whisk the soda water and 100ml cold water into the self-raising flour with a little salt. Tip the cornflour onto a plate, line a tray with kitchen paper and turn on the oven to low.
  3. Stir the batter well. Dust the chicken with cornflour, then dip into the batter. One at a time, lower into the hot oil (about 5-6 every batch). Turn up the heat to keep the chicken frying, if needed, and cook for 5-6 mins, turning once. When cooked, drain on the tray, and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Stack onto a plate with the warm sauce on the side, and scatter with shredded spring onions.



Use both types of peppercorns for our salt & pepper tofu if you can, for a tongue-tingling kick and a spicy warmth. The dish is great for a Chinese banquet!


  • 396g pack firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp Sichuan or black peppercorns (or a mixture of the two), ground to a powder
  • 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • ¼ broccoli head, cut into very small florets
  • 100g bean sprouts
  • 2 tsp low-salt soy sauce
  • Sesame oil, for drizzling
  • A handful of coriander leaves picked


  1. Drain the tofu, wrap loosely in kitchen paper and put on a plate. Rest a chopping board on top. If you’re using a light chopping board, weigh it down with a couple of cans – a heavier chopping board will be sufficient on its own. Leave for 10-20 mins until the cloth feels wet from the excess liquid. Pressing the tofu like this helps to give it a firmer texture once cooked.
  2. Cut the tofu in half down the centre like a book. Cut each piece into four triangles, as you would a piece of toast, then in half again to give you 16 pieces in total. Mix the cornflour, ground pepper and 1 tsp flaky sea salt on a plate. Gently turn each piece of tofu in the cornflour mix to coat.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok. Stir-fry the peppers and broccoli for a few minutes, to soften a little. Add the bean sprouts and soy sauce. Cook for another 1-2 mins, making sure the veg still has a nice crunch. Drizzle with a little sesame oil.
  4. Heat the remaining sunflower oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the coated tofu for 5 mins on each side until crisp. Serve on top of the vegetables, scattered with the coriander.




Enchiladas originated in Mexico. Even back in Mayan times, the people of that time would roll other foods into tortillas. It’s been a practice in that part of the world for many centuries. The first types of enchiladas ever created were most likely corn tortillas with fish inside them. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they kept detailed records of everything the locals were eating. They talked a lot about enchiladas, and how it was made almost everywhere. Enchiladas were featured in one of the first-ever Mexican cookbooks in the early 1800s.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 serrano peppers
  • 2 ¼ pounds small green tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil for frying
  • 9 corn tortillas
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
  • ½ store-bought rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded
  • ¼ head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 (8 ounces) container sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cotija cheese, or any other cheese


  1. Cover a large griddle with aluminium foil and preheat to medium-high.
  2. Cook the garlic, serrano peppers, and tomatillos on the hot griddle until toasted and blackened, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes for the garlic, 10 minutes for the peppers, and 15 minutes for the tomatillos. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool.
  3. Heat oil in a small, deep skillet to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Using kitchen tongs, fry the tortillas individually, turning them once. They shouldn’t be in the hot oil for more than 5 seconds per side. Remove excess oil with paper towels and keep warm. Remember that the hotter the oil, the less that the tortillas will absorb.
  4. Place the toasted garlic, serrano peppers, tomatillos, and the water in a blender and blend until smooth; pour into a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Dissolve the chicken bouillon into the mixture, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook at a simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. The sauce shouldn’t be too thick.
  5. Soak three tortillas in the sauce, one at a time, for a few seconds, fill them with shredded chicken, sprinkle the meat with some of the sauce, roll them and place them seam side down on a pasta bowl. Spoon a generous amount of sauce over them and top them with lettuce, cilantro, crema, and cotija cheese. Pour a little more sauce over the whole thing if desired. Repeat the procedure twice more. Serve immediately.



It is a delicious, white, creamy, sweet drink that can be drunk chilled at any meal in Mexico!

It’s fresh, refreshing and very thirst-quenching! You can drink this drink simply to quench your thirst, to start the day on the right foot, or to accompany a spicy Mexican meal.


  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 1 cup sugar adjust depending on how sweet you want – 2/3 cup of sugar if you want it less sweet.
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 Can 12-ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ cup of milk or almond milk
  • 1 Liter of water
  • Ice


  1. Start by soaking the rice, cinnamon, and almonds in a bowl of water all night, or at least for 5 hours so that the rice softens slightly.
  2. Strain the water from the cinnamon, rice, and almond mixture that were soaking, disposing of water.
  3. Blend the cinnamon, rice, and almond mixture with evaporated milk until a smoother mix is formed and the grains of rice are completely ground.
  4. Strain the resulting liquid into a pitcher, and add the sugar, vanilla, and milk. Mix well until everything is well combined. Add a litre of water, and serve with ice. Enjoy!




This quintessential British sweet is named after Queen Victoria! It is a simple two-layer sponge cake that is filled with a layer of jam and whipped cream and often served at teatime. The cake was named after the Queen because it was one of her favourite tea party treats. So be sure to enjoy it with some tea!


  • 160g softened unsalted butter
  • 160g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100ml double cream
  • 125g strawberry jam
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease and line two 8-inch springform cake tins with nonstick baking paper.
  2. With a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Slowly add the beaten egg while mixing, until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
  3. Fold the flour into the mixture using a large spoon, and transfer evenly into the two cake tins.
  4. Bake for 25-30 mins until the texture is springy, and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the centre. Then, remove the cake tins from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing them from the tins and peeling away the paper.
  5. As the cakes cool, whip the cream to soft peaks. Then, evenly spread the bottom half of the cake with the cream. Next, spread the strawberry jam evenly on top of the cream layer. Place the other half of the cake on top and dust with the icing sugar.



These savoury pork sausage rolls wrapped in flaky puff pastry are a staple of British and Irish cuisine. They’re buttery, crisp, flaky, and baked to golden perfection with a hearty filling of sausage and egg. English Sausage Rolls make an excellent light meal or snack that can be enjoyed hot or cold!


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds pork sausage meat
  • 3 eggs
  • 25 oz puff pastry, or shortcrust pastry
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp flour, for rolling dough


  1. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add chopped onion. Cook until lightly browned.
  2. In a large bowl, add the sausage, cooked onion, 2 eggs, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly flour a clean surface to roll out the pastry into two 8×10 inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two long strips and cool in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. Once cooled, place pastry on 2 greased baking sheets. Place the sausage mixture along the centre of each pastry strip. Beat the last egg in a small bowl and brush along the outer edges of the pastry.
  5. Fold the pastry over the meat to form long rolls. Turn the roll over so the seam is on the bottom, and lightly brush the top with the egg. Cut the rolls into small pieces.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Internships Advice, Practical Advice

Managing Stress, Isolation, and Mental Health in the Remote Workplace

According to a Buffer survey, around 21% of remote workers stated that loneliness was their biggest struggle with working remotely.

Remote work certainly has its benefits. Many employees and interns enjoy the freedom, autonomy and flexibility of remote work, as well as the time saved each day that might have been spent on a commute to the office. Even just one extra hour a day can make a huge positive impact on our well-being!

In addition, the peaceful and quiet environment of working from home can boost our creativity and productivity. Without the endless distractions of the office, remote workers are often more productive.

However, when the world suddenly shifted to remote work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies and individuals were not ready for such a massive change. The reality is that despite numerous benefits like an enhanced work-life balance, working remotely is completely different from working in an office and thus presents its own unique challenges.

The end result can be increased difficulty in connecting to colleagues, often resulting in a sense of isolation, loneliness, and stress. Coupled with the physical distance, another issue is the cultural distance that can arise when working for an overseas company. Every country has its own unique work culture, which means that culture shock can still be an issue even as a remote intern or employee!

Keep this in mind as you complete your remote internship or search for remote work, and keep reading for our tips on managing isolation, loneliness and stress!

How to Manage Isolation and Loneliness

According to a Buffer survey, around 21% of remote workers stated that loneliness was their biggest struggle with working remotely. However, 90% of the same group also admitted that they intend to work remotely for the rest of their lives. Again, the benefits of remote work have been shown here to outweigh the potential negatives. However, 21% is not an insignificant number, and employers should ensure that isolation is addressed within their organization.

What are the differences, if any, between isolation and loneliness, and how can they be managed in the remote workplace? 

To put it simply: isolation is structural, and loneliness is emotional.

Reducing stress and taking care of our mental health is the most important priority right now more than ever.

Reducing isolation is the responsibility of the employer since it relates to a lack of access to the materials or information that employees need to perform their job. When workers’ development or achievements are ignored, they will begin to feel isolated from the business. Managers must address isolation by integrating remote workers deeper into their organization and involving them in strategic meetings. In addition, if remote workers are unable to access the tools and resources they need, managers should find a solution.

On the other hand, loneliness is the emotional response to a lack of personal connection with colleagues. Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not only affect remote workers but also plagues in-person offices. Managers can address this by creating low-stakes opportunities for meaningful connections within the virtual workspace. Individuals can combat loneliness by following these simple tips:

Change Up Your Workspace
  • Although working in a quiet room by yourself can be wonderful for your productivity (especially when engaging in creative work) the simple act of changing up your remote workspace can do wonders if you’re feeling lonely! If it’s safe and possible to do so, consider working remotely from a coffee shop, library, bookstore, or co-working space. This way you can be around other people while you work, even though they may not be your colleagues!
Go For a Walk
  • We know, this is probably the most basic and standard advice that you’ve heard time and time again. But that’s because it works! Next time you’re feeling lonely or emotionally overwhelmed at work, that means it’s time for a break. Take 10 minutes to walk outside and get some sun and fresh air. Not only will the physical movement help reduce stress levels, but you might see some friendly faces outside as well!
Keep Water Cooler Talk Alive
  • If your remote company is not already using an instant message platform like Skype or Slack during work hours, encourage them to start! Icebreakers, work-related discussions, and updates that take place in real-time can help everyone to feel connected. This form of communication is more casual than email and can improve collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
Turn Camera’s On
  • During formal and casual online meetings, keep your camera on! In the remote workplace, this is the closest we can get to face-to-face interaction. While it may feel alien or more intimidating than an in-person chat, seeing your colleagues will help you feel more connected.
  • Social networks like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook can be great tools to get to know your colleagues or other people in your industry. Don’t underestimate the impact of using these tools to stay connected!
Have a pet be your “coworker”
  • This tip may not be achievable for everyone, but if you already have a pet or have the resources and capacity to adopt a furry (or scaly/feathered) friend – do it! When all else fails, having a pet around while you work can be very calming. Pet coworkers are the best emotional support, and you’re never truly alone when they are around!
Ask For Help
  • If you’re still struggling with feelings of loneliness, we recommend speaking to a trusted friend, family member, mentor, or even colleague. When that’s not possible, there are also countless online resources available at the end of this blog for support by trained volunteer counsellors. Reaching out to others for help is often the best solution.

Tips to Reduce Stress & Boost Mental Well-Being

The world has collectively lived through some of the most stressful times in recent history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the end is in sight, we haven’t yet reached the return to “normalcy” that we all desire. Reducing stress and taking care of our mental health is the most important priority right now more than ever. 

While one could write an entire series of novels on how to reduce stress and boost mental well-being, here are a few of our tips to consider.

Limit Media Exposure
  • Can you relate to the feeling of constantly checking the news to learn all about the pandemic? While it helps to stay informed, try to reduce how often you check the news to once per day – or better yet, once per week! The ideal number will vary for everyone, but your stress levels will thank you for not dwelling on the situation.
Stay Connected
  • Not only do our remote work loneliness tips apply here, but staying connected to your friends, family and loved ones as much as possible is vital for reducing stress! Social support is so important for building resilience during stressful times. Think about ways you can stay connected to your loved ones, and set aside the time to reach out!
Move Your Body
  • You’ve probably heard that movement is closely tied to mental well-being. But how and why? Well, it has to do with our “fight or flight” stress response, as well as our modern lifestyle. In the past, when our ancestors encountered a stressful situation such as a dangerous predator, they had two options: fight the predator, or run away from it. Both responses involve strenuous physical activity, which is the body’s way of regulating excess cortisol (the stress hormone). 
  • Nowadays, stress is often triggered by work, school, and other non-physical stressors, leaving us to deal with the repercussions of excess cortisol. This is why exercise and movement are so important for stress relief. Studies show that regular exercise helps reduce how much cortisol is released due to stress. So stay active – but do something you love so you can stick with it for the long term!
Get Enough Sleep
  • Stress and sleep have a symbiotic relationship with each other. When we’re stressed, it can affect our sleep quality. And when we’re not sleeping enough, it can increase our stress levels. The typical advice is that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night – but 8 or 9 hours can be even better depending on the individual. 
  • Some simple techniques to help improve the quality of your sleep include: exercising for at least 30 minutes each day, reducing exposure to stressful news or other triggers around bedtime, stopping caffeine intake at least 6 hours before bedtime, and creating a nightly routine like turning off your electronics, reading a book, and drinking chamomile tea.
Practice Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness refers to the ability to be fully present in the moment, without attaching strongly to worries about the past or future. This ability can help us reduce stress, increase gratitude, and practice self-acceptance.
  • Some techniques to practice mindfulness include meditation, taking mindful breaks, gratitude journaling, creating art, and engaging in physical activities that induce “flow state” consciousness (ie. mindfulness) – many surfers, skateboarders, and runners frequently experience this!
Seek Balance
  • Are you overwhelmed with juggling school deadlines, internships, part-time jobs, and all your other responsibilities? Researchers at the University College London found that people who work more than 55 hours a week have a 13% greater risk of heart attack and 33% higher risk of stroke than those who work only 35-40 hours per week. Humans aren’t meant to constantly work!
  • As difficult as it may be, try to find ways to balance your schedule and devote more time to self-care, socialization, and fun. Burnout is a devastating result of ‘hustle culture’, so resist the narrative, and take care of yourself first!

Need Extra Support? Resources Here!

At the end of the day, our mental health and well-being is our most precious asset. We hope that this blog has given you some helpful tips and advice that you can implement right away. 

However, we’re certainly not the experts, and there are countless resources available to help you manage stress, isolation, and mental health in the remote workplace and life in general. Some of our favourite resources are listed below, including links to free and instant chats with trained volunteers who can provide support right away. Take a look and be well!

  1. Student mental health: Depressed and living in a bubble of one – BBC News
  2. How To Prevent Burnout While Working From Home – A Day in Time
  3. Self Care Video Playlist – The School of Life
  4. Pagoda Projects Mindfulness Webinar (with Meditation Session)
  5. 5 TED Talks to help you manage stress
  1. Information & Support –
  2. Tips for Managing Isolation
  3. COVID-19: Managing Stress in This Anxious Time
  4. My whole self: supporting your mental health while working from home
  5. What are the 5 stages of burnout?
  6. Self-help and Self-care Resources – LifeLink
  1. Free Audio Resources for Mindfulness Meditation
  2. Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises 
  3. Headspace App
  4. Calm App
  5. Insight Timer App
  6. Wake Up / Wind Down Short Podcast  – Spotify
  1. MindOut LGBTQ Mental Health Service
  2. Workplace Mental Health for LGBTQ+ Professionals
  3. Rest for Resistance
  1. Mental Health Fact Sheet with Resources –
  2. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students’ mental health support –
  3. Free Subsidised Services – BAATN The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network
  4. Free Mental Health Services  – Black Minds Matter
  5. TherapyforBlackGirls
Instant Support
  1. Student Space (UK): Free text message, webchat, phone, and email support for students from trained volunteers
  2. Together We Are Strong: International helplines
  3. Time to Change (UK): Several mental health help and support service lines
  4. Crisis Text Line (UK, Ireland, Canada, USA): Free text message support from trained crisis counsellors 
  5. Beyond Blue (AUS): Free instant 24/7 chat and phone support by trained counsellors 
  6. MindSpot Clinic (AUS): Digital mental health clinic for Australians with free mental health assessments for anxiety, stress, depression, etc.
  7. Eheadspace (AUS): Free online and telephone support and counselling to young people aged 12-25
  8. Lifeline Australia: Free online text and phone support for emotional distress
  9. Togetherall (NZ, UK): An online community where members can support each other
  10. Empower Work (USA): Free text support for Americans who need help with work-related issues


  1. How to Manage the Loneliness and Isolation of Remote Workers
  2. How to Combat Loneliness and Disconnection as a Remote Worker
  3. Water Cooler Talk: 6 Benefits For Your Remote Team
  4. Does Running Help Reduce Cortisol?
  5. How Simply Moving Benefits Your Mental Health
  6. How Much Sleep Do I Need?
  7. How Does Stress Affect Sleep
  8. The ‘Rise and Grind’ of Hustle Culture
  9. Only the overworked die young
Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Alice O’Donnell, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Easter Skills Programme. This is Pagoda participant Alice O’Donnell, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Alice improved her cultural awareness and intercultural communication skills, gained digital fluency, and learned some valuable insights about China through conversations with her cultural mentor!

I am Alice O’Donnell, a third-year Fashion Design student studying at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I decided to join the virtual Easter Programme as I believed that it would help me to gain a better understanding of cultures, and also provide me with important and knowledgeable information to prepare me as a graduate.

Throughout the past three weeks, I have enjoyed completing all four courses that Pagoda had to offer, each course providing me with different information. The first course that I took was called ‘Cultural Fluency’. I particularly enjoyed this course as it taught me all about intercultural communication which is a really valued skill. I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own. This course made me more aware of communication differences which will benefit me in the future, as I can avoid misunderstandings when communicating with overseas clients in a potential fashion design role in the near future. I then found it particularly interesting to learn about the culture of Greater China, Mexico and Vietnam, specifically their cuisines as I am one to try new tasty foods.

I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own.

The next three courses that I took were more focused on employability skills and digital communication, therefore setting me up for the workplace after graduation. These courses were educational, in particular the digital competency course. This is because a lot of the fashion industry is promoted through imagery and so understanding the best times to post on certain platforms and how long a caption should be on certain platforms was very useful.

I have also been in contact with my Chinese mentor, Aubree, over the past three weeks. The conversations with Aubree have been insightful and it has been lovely spending time on the weekends to communicate with her. We have discussed the topic ‘communication’ and how it differs between our cultures. I found it interesting that in China a manager may ask “have you eaten” as a way of greeting their employees. Aubree explained that this is because in China they like to make sure that everyone is well-fed. She also explained that in China they have an app called ‘Wechat’ which is used as a central hub for communication between friends, lecturers and colleagues. In England, we do not have an equivalent to this app, and we spread ourselves across multiple platforms such as Snapchat for friends, Microsoft Teams for education, and communication via email for colleagues.

This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.

We have also discussed the environment and a lot of the issues that arose were mutual across both of our cultures. Single-use plastic is a big issue in both of our home countries, and I explained that there has been a new law introduced where you now must purchase a plastic bag at the supermarket for 5p. I was surprised to hear that in fact, China has also introduced this law too.

We both discussed how canvas bags are popular, particularly among teenagers, and Aubree mentioned that canvas bags are also used as school bags in China. We then had a very interesting chat about how we can reduce buying cheaper goods that break easily, and instead buy items and clothing with longevity. The issue that we both concluded here was that cheaper goods are more accessible, resulting in a never-ending cycle as items with longevity are often more expensive and therefore less accessible to many.

I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed.

The final topic that Aubree and I discussed was the arts. This topic was interesting to talk about as I am a creative individual and we both agreed that the arts deserve more credit. Aubree discussed that in her family art is very important, and they have a sentimental vase that has been passed down through the family which they really value. We also agreed that we are both individuals that are confident when around friends, but lack some confidence talking and performing in front of people that we do not know.

I had a lot more in common with Aubree than I had originally thought. I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed. The interaction on the app was really useful for me to keep track of weekly discussion points, and I also interacted with some of the games and events that were held. This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.

Internships Advice

Pagoda Competencies

Throughout a Pagoda Projects programme, we hope that you develop your understanding of the following eight Pagoda Competencies.

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
Digital Fluency
Intercultural Fluency
Teamwork & Collaboration
Career Development

Week to week, we encourage you to think about how you may be demonstrating these skills and building on your foundations in these areas, reflecting with the Pagoda team in your check-ins.

– Did you complete a Pagoda skills course that focuses on one of these areas?
– Have you spoken with your cultural mentor or international colleagues?
– Has a chat with a colleague made your path clearer?

If you submit for a competency achievement on your check-in, with sufficient rationale, not only will the Pagoda team award you the badge to climb the Pagoda Leaderboard, but you can also confidently head into future job applications knowing how to clearly outline that you have these key attributes to your potential employer.

Have a read through the linked articles below where you can read more about each competency, why they are important for your career, how you can improve your skills in these areas, and find even more related resources.

Being a good communicator means having the ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly- in verbal, non-verbal, and written forms. This includes having public speaking or digital presentation skills, recognizing body language, and being able to express ideas to others.

Communicating even a single, clear message can be affected by a huge range of things. The complexity is why good communication skills are considered so desirable by employers: accurate, effective and unambiguous communication is not always easy. Effective communication defines organizational goals and helps coworkers and team members collaborate. Read more…Leadership skills are skills you use when organizing other people to reach a shared goal. Effective leaders use their empathetic and interpersonal skills to guide and motivate, organize, prioritize, and delegate work.

Good leaders practice active listening, empathy, strategic thinking, and effective communication with their teams. Students demonstrate leadership skills when they care about and listen to the thoughts and concerns of others in their group.

Leadership is an important professional skill because it empowers others, and encourages teams to reach their highest potential. Read more…Critical thinking and problem-solving is a core skill that teaches students to question or reflect on their own knowledge and information presented to them. This is an essential skill for students working on assignments or conducting research. It is the ability to actively use reason to analyze issues, make decisions, and ultimately overcome problems.

Critical thinking skills in the workplace is important because it helps students, interns, and employees more effectively diagnose problems and identify possible solutions that aren’t entirely obvious at first. It encourages curiosity and is one of the most valuable skills when it comes to working on a team. Read more…Digitally fluent students are able to use the technologies and platforms available to them to achieve their goal, whether that is networking, marketing, or communicating.

Students building digital literacy skills understand the basics of cyber and internet safety, such as creating strong passwords and navigating personal as well as business-related privacy settings.

Why is it important? In the 21st century, having digital fluency is becoming a skill as essential as traditional print literacy has been. Modern jobs across various industries require the use of digital tools. Achieving digital fluency is not only about the technology- it has to do with the ability to effectively and ethically interpret information, create content, and communicate in an increasingly digitally connected world. Read more…Cultural fluency is the set of skills that allow people to live, work and interact effectively in a multicultural environment. Students and employees that work on building their CQ (Cultural Intelligence) demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people from different areas of the world.

When it comes to the professional world, there are many reasons why intercultural fluency is important. For employers, these include higher levels of collaboration, innovation, and ultimately greater profits. For employees, these include increasing opportunities for personal or professional growth.

Cultural fluency allows organization leaders to fully leverage the talent of team members from different geographies, driving creativity and overall performance. Read more…Life is a team sport, and the professional world is no different. Teamwork is all about effective collaboration with others, usually to come up with new ideas or make decisions together to complete a goal.

Good team players have achieved a mix of interpersonal, problem-solving, and communication skills. They are able to work, negotiate, and manage conflict within a team structure.

Teamwork and collaboration skills are important in the workplace because teamwork solves problems- by working together, teams build morale and help organizations operate more efficiently. Read more…Career development refers to the ability to identify and articulate one’s skills, strengths, and experiences relevant to personal career goals.

Students and employees with career development skills should be able to independently navigate and explore job options, as well as self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.

Individuals that have these skills are more likely to move into roles where their skills are most suited and their aspirations are best met. Employers also invest in career development because it prevents employee turnover within organizations, and lead to higher engagement and productivity.  Read more…Professionalism is the conduct, behaviour, and attitude of someone in a work or business environment.

Having high professionalism in your workplace means demonstrating personal accountability, time management skills, and acting responsibly with the interest of the larger community in mind. Other aspects of demonstrating high professionalism include interacting with others appropriately and respectfully, communicating clearly and directly and having good interpersonal skills.

Professionalism leads to workplace success, a strong professional reputation and a high level of work ethic and excellence. Everyone has a role to fill in any organization, and professional behaviour helps separate business from the personal. Read more…

Internships Advice


What Exactly is Professionalism?

“Professional: A person willing to play the game with every intention to win and willing to accept defeat.” – Chinmai Swamy

Professionalism is the conduct, behaviour, and attitude of someone in a work or business environment. It is defined by a certain set of rules that you must abide by to be considered professional.

Having high professionalism in your workplace means demonstrating personal accountability, time management skills, and acting responsibly with the larger community’s interest in mind. Other aspects of demonstrating high professionalism include interacting with others appropriately and respectfully, communicating clearly and directly, and having good interpersonal skills.

Professionalism leads to workplace success, a strong professional reputation, and a high level of work ethic and excellence. Everyone has a role to fill in any organization, and professional behaviour helps separate business from the personal.

Another counterpart of Professionalism, intimately linked with this notion, is leadership. The success of one very much affects the success of the other. Professionalism entails acting in a manner that’s in the best interest of the project: being efficient, keeping a focus on business, and separating your personal life from your working life. Acting as a leader means taking and accepting charge and control of the project, as well as making sure that your team members are fulfilling the tasks they’ve been given. It is very difficult to be an efficient leader if you are lacking in professionalism, and vice versa.

How to Demonstrate Professionalism in Your Internship

We’ve covered that professionalism doesn’t just concern how you look. It’s mostly about how you speak, how you behave and even how you think – these are all undeniable variables to a successful and professional workplace. And, needless to say, there is great payoff and gratification in maintaining a professional workplace.

Therefore, to demonstrate some professionalism, start by showcasing your understanding of workplace rules and expectations. You will of course have a hierarchical superior to supervise you, but you will demonstrate initiative and self-management skills. An employer expects you to work independently so they can focus on their own work, on their end.

This leads to responsibility in the workplace – you need to own it! Personal responsibility is critical to your success in the workplace. Your personal responsibility represents the level of commitment you have in identifying and achieving your goals. Another way to put it, your responsibility means being responsible for your actions, words and, ultimately, your performance at work. You’ll have to take credit for your successes, the easy part, and ownership of your failures, the harder part.

And responsibility itself leads to workplace ethics. It is as important to be ethical in day-to-day life as it is mandatory to be ethical in the workplace. Ethics correspond to moral principles that guide you when deciding between right or wrong. Ethics are tacit rules you refer to during any decision-making process. Exercise ethics in the workplace to assert your professionalism skill!

Last but not least: Mind. Your. Language. 

There is a reason your mother kept telling you when you were growing up to be polite and address people the proper way. Language is the single most important notion of communication – whether you are conversing with a colleague or with a client. Exercise using language that is proper for the workplace in your day-to-day discussions – this way, you get into the habit of sounding professional. Note that many people are denied a job because of their language level, written or oral!

Our 7 Tips for Achieving Professionalism

There are many ways to demonstrate professionalism in your working life. We’ve put together this list of seven ways that you can achieve this goal in your internship and future career!

1. Show Respect
  • Showing respect to others is one of the ultimate ways to show professionalism. Respect should be offered to everyone – your superiors, your co-workers, and those who work below you. You also need to show respect for the people you serve, they are your harshest critics, after yourself!
2. Communicate Effectively
  • Most disagreements, misunderstandings and arguments have a root problem: lack of communication. Good communication takes practice, but can, and will, save you from misunderstandings. Your ability to communicate effectively must be on par for you to keep operations fluid and running smoothly.
3. Be Proactive
  • Being proactive means anticipating needs, issues or changes before they arise. This is a great trait of professionals. Rather than reacting to events and getting flustered, you can try to anticipate what will happen and be prepared in advance. Professionalism is very much so linked with proactivity, and you can only be considered professional by also being proactive.
4. Be Positive
  • All jobs have their advantages and disadvantages. Try your utter best to limit or get rid of your complaints. Very few people want to work with someone who complains all the time. Rather than complaining, be a problem-solver who comes up with solutions for matters that are frustrating. If you need help with this, check out our Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving blog!
5. Remember Your Manners
  • A simple “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” go a long way to showing that you are a professional and human being. Being polite is the best antidote to rudeness and will set a perfect tone for teammates around you to follow. By taking the time to think of others – holding a door open or offering a hand – can earn you a great amount of respect and appreciation.
6. Keep Learning
  • Learning never stops, don’t forget that! Most career paths are continuously evolving and shifting. There are always new things to learn about in your field, as new discoveries are made. If you are well informed about your field of work, you can become a valued go-to person for your team members.
7. Forget About Your Screens
  • People get so sucked in and absorbed by their mobile devices that they forget to interact with other people, even when they are right in front of them. Demonstrate your professionalism skills by resisting that temptation. Of course, you can check your texts and email, but only a few times a day and during the appropriate moments. Remain present in the moment and provide your teammates with your full attention – it goes a long way.

Online Courses to Improve Your Professionalism Skills

Employability Skills

This course aims to improve employability skills through self-awareness, skills awareness, and enhancing career readiness. This course will equip the individual with the tools to identify their current skill set, understand those that need development, and transfer their skills to different job specifications using personal examples to showcase these. The aim of this course is to build confidence when applying for the next career step as well as provide a broader set of skills and attributes to ensure success throughout their working life.

By completing this course, students will be working towards the following key competencies: #Professionalism #CareerDevelopment and #Leadership!

Digital Competency

This course introduces the fundamentals of digital networking, digital marketing, and digital presentation skills. This course will introduce LinkedIn features and making the most of the LinkedIn profile, key differences and benefits between a variety of social media platforms, basic knowledge of SEO and SEM and techniques, and improving public speaking skills in a digital context.

By completing this course, students will be working towards the following key competencies: #Professionalism #CareerDevelopment #Teamwork&Collaboration and #DigitalFluency!

Additional Sources & Resources

  1. TEDx Talk: Professionalism, start small! – Dr Kyi Kyi Thinn
  2. TEDx Talk: Being a Professional – Dale Atkins
  3. TEDx Talk: Bring Your Whole Self to Work – Mike Robbins
  4. TEDx Talk: Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Determine Your Success – Louise Evans
  5. What Does Professionalism Look Like?
  6. The Limits of Professional Behavior
  7. 3 Traits of a Strong Professional Relationship
  8. Professionalism and Leadership: Be the PM That Has Both Skills
  9. Professionalism: Tips for Being Your Best on the Job



Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Jessica Herbert, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Easter Skills Programme. This is Pagoda participant Jessica Herbert, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Jessica worked on her self-development, gained new skills, and formed connections with a cultural mentor from Taipei, Taiwan!

About Me

My Name is Jessica Herbert. I am a second-year student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, studying Business and Management (Law). During my course, I am required to do a work experience module. Originally, when I applied for my degree course with Cardiff Met, one of the main things that interested me was the opportunity to study abroad and learn about different cultures and ways of life. However, due to Covid-19 and the global pandemic, this opportunity began to slip away. When a tutor introduced us to Pagoda Projects and the programmes/opportunities they had, I was not going to let this one pass me by.

After doing some of my own research about Pagoda Projects and reading some of the testimonials of other students, I thought this would be the perfect way to use the work experience module to my advantage and use the time for some self-development. I applied to the Easter Programme, secured a place, and was so excited to get started and be paired with my Cultural Mentor.

Pagoda couldn’t have matched me with a better mentor, and I am so pleased to have met Meredith and believe I have made a friend for life.

Beginning My Programme

Before I knew it, it was time to start the programme. The team at Pagoda were helpful when it came to starting. We had a meeting on the first Monday about how the course will work, what’s really involved, and how they can help us. When I applied, I wasn’t quite aware of all the courses that were available to me. It was interesting to see just how much was available, and it’s amazing having access to these courses even after the 3-week programme is finished, meaning there is no pressure to feel like you need to complete them all as soon as possible. It was also nice to see all the events the Pagoda team have set up during the programme such as movie night and a cook along, bringing a social aspect to the course.

On starting the programme, we had access to the Pagoda App, which we were then paired up with our cultural mentor, with an option to chat online and join groups with other individuals on the programme. I began speaking to my cultural mentor ‘Meredith’ via the app platform, where we arranged our first video call via Zoom.

Cultural Mentor

My Cultural Mentor was a girl called Meredith. She lives in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and this was her first time being a mentor in the programme. We were both quite nervous when we first video called, but it only took a couple of minutes and a discussion about dumplings to get us on the right track. The hardest part of the cultural mentor experience for me was the time difference factor. The time difference for Meredith and me is about 8 hours, so it was easy to miss that perfect time for both of us.

During our first video chat, we exchanged Instagram accounts to make it easier to speak and keep each other updated with photos about our day/week during the programme duration. We arranged to have another call at the same time the following week, but without meaning to we started talking more over social media, getting to know each other better. It has almost become second nature to speak to Meredith every day, and it feels as though we have known each other for a long time. Pagoda couldn’t have matched me with a better mentor, and I am so pleased to have met Meredith and believe I have made a friend for life. We are even discussing a visit at some point next year, which would be amazing.

Finishing My Experience

The three-week programme has flown by. This experience has been amazing, I would 100% recommend it to other students and I will definitely be looking into other Pagoda Project programmes. The programme couldn’t have come at a better time for me, alongside my University work, it has given me time to reflect on my self-development and pick up some new interests. I am looking forward to finishing the courses I have access to and developing my knowledge and skills. I would like to thank Pagoda for matching me with a great mentor and thanks to them I have a new friend for life.

Internships Advice, Practical Advice

Guide to Getting Your First Job

“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.” – Babe Ruth

We’ve all heard that the stereotypical path to career success follows these steps: 1) go to college, 2) graduate, and 3) get a job. But the reality is that the job application process after college is not always so straightforward. In fact, obtaining employment is often difficult for various reasons that may be out of the applicants’ control.

For example, many employers these days demand more skills from their employees and are less invested in training those skills. This means that young adults are largely responsible for acquiring those skills on their own, and they are often not taught these skills in college as higher education struggles to meet the rapidly changing demands of the market. Cost-cutting has also resulted in Fortune 500 companies abandoning their “rotational training programs” that allowed new hires to learn about different departments and jobs within the company.

“We’re asking 23-year-old new graduates to act like 35-year-old experienced workers.” – Phil Gardner, Director of the Michigan State Employment Center.

In addition, approximately 60% of all jobs are now found through networking, or what is referred to as the “hidden job market.” Gone are the days our parents enjoyed when they could apply to a dozen newspaper job advertisements, land several interviews, and receive a few job offers. In the sea of thousands of online applicants and over-educated yet under-experienced college graduates, it is now possible to apply to a hundred jobs and receive exactly zero interview offers.

Job Search Statistics & Recommendations

While it’s not all gloom and doom, it helps to be aware of the current state of the employment market for job-seekers. Awareness can help you realize the best course of action in order to land that first job.

  • 60% of jobs are found through networking: So we recommend growing your network as quickly and authentically as possible.
  • 75% of resumes are rejected by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) before they even reach the hiring manager: Take the time to read through a job description and the terminology used, then put those words into your resume! Steer away from confusing resume formats or designs, although this may not apply if you are in the creative industries. Simpler is generally better in order to comply with ATS.
  • 77% of recruiters rely on LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn profile, and learn how to optimize and tailor it for recruiters.
  • 54% of employers have rejected candidates based on their social media profilesKeep it professional! It might be a good idea to Google yourself to see which information is out there for employers to see.
  • Professionally written resumes can boost your earning potential by up to 7%: Consider reaching out to your school’s Career Center for help with writing a professional resume.
  • Only about 2% of applicants actually get an interviewDon’t take it personally when you apply for a job and don’t get an interview. Only about 5 out of every 250 applicants actually get the interview, so keep applying, and remember to tailor your application!

How to Get Your First Job After Graduation

Graduating from college is an exciting time. By this point, you’ve gained an officially recognized education, started to build your network, and perhaps even gained some job experience in an entry-level position or internship. These experiences will certainly help you when transitioning into your first job within your career field. If you’re not sure where to start, we have a few tips to share!

Start Networking

We can’t stress this point enough: networking is vital! Remember the hidden job market that exists. Many jobs never make it online but are rather spread through networks. There are many methods to start networking, starting with creating a LinkedIn page. Here, you can add any previous classmates, mentors, volunteer contacts, internship supervisors, etc. Contact professionals in your chosen field that you look up to, and ask for advice or information. Alumni networks and events can also be a great opportunity to network, as can professional organizations and networking events. Get creative! But remember to be respectful and not overly pushy.

Polish Your Resume/CV and Cover Letter

Your resume and cover letter are the first impressions you get to make on a potential employer. There are countless blogs, websites, and guides on the internet dedicated to this topic alone! It can be overwhelming to sift through all the advice about resumes and cover letters, but we recommend doing some research to learn about the best resume tips. Your college’s Career Center is another great resource! Generally, if you tailor and target your resume to the job description, you will get the best results. And although it takes some time, avoid sending generic cover letters. Instead, take the time to write a cover letter targeted to the specific role you are applying for.

Consider an Internship

Remember that employers value experience and skills. Think about their perspective – if they receive hundreds of applications for one position, it is in their best interest to hire someone whose skills most closely match the job requirements. Education alone simply won’t cut it anymore. Although there are plenty of service-industry employers eager to hire students, and the soft skills gained from those roles are 100% valuable and transferable in any field, an internship is still the best opportunity to build the specific hard skills that most employers want. Talk to the Career Center at your school to see which internship opportunities are available to you, and consider a remote internship to expand your reach!

What Else Can I Do?

These are just a few suggestions out of dozens of potential tips to help you land that first professional job right out of college. If you’re still feeling lost and want the advice of experts, you’re in luck! Pagoda Projects is teaming up with Elite Career Direction (ECD) this week on June 3rd, 2021 at 10 am (UK) to offer a FREE Public Webinar on How to Apply For Your First Job!

The experienced career coaches of ECD have worked with hundreds of international students and clients to help them land their dream jobs. They understand the recruitment process inside and out and have extensive knowledge of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies.

So don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to learn, network, ask questions, and receive guidance on how to apply for your first job from the experts themselves!

Register for the FREE webinar here



Internships Advice

Career Development

What is Career Development?

“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.” – Diana Ross  

Career development refers to identifying and articulating one’s skills, strengths, and experiences relevant to personal career goals.

Students and employees with career development skills should be able to independently navigate and explore job options, as well as self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.

Individuals that have these skills are more likely to move into roles where their skills are most suited and their aspirations are best met. Employers also invest in career development because it prevents employee turnover within organizations, and leads to higher engagement and productivity. 

Career development can also be defined as a process that spans the entire lifetime of an individual. From early childhood through retirement, our career aspirations and identity are constantly evolving.

Why is it Important? 

On the individual level, career development is a significant factor in developing a successful career. By focusing on opportunities for growth, learning, and progression, individuals are more likely to meet their individual career goals. Without a focus on career development, it is more likely that employees may become stuck in roles that offer little advancement, leading to higher employee burnout and dissatisfaction. 

Career development is quickly becoming important for organizations as well. This is because organizations are now aware that career development initiatives benefit their needs as well as the needs of their employees. 

Here are some more reasons why career development is so important!

Identifying and Resolving Business Needs
  • With career development, organizations can plan more effectively with regular audits that highlight any potential need for internal restructuring. These company forecasts allow organizations to identify which skills are lacking in their operations and subsequently offer additional training to up-skill their employees.
Ensures a Steady Supply of Qualified Talent
  • Quite often, the most qualified and aspirational job seekers tend to apply to companies that are known for their career development and progression programs. Thus, when organizations prioritize career development, they will inevitably attract some of the best candidates.
Guaranteeing a Good Fit Between Employer & Employee
  • Different careers require different skillsets. To advance in their career and perform the job well, employees must pursue their own career development. This will ensure the best fit between the company and the employee.
Enhanced Job Satisfaction & Productivity
  • When organizations prioritize and encourage career development, employees will feel more supported and motivated. They will often stay with a company longer since there are opportunities for growth and career progression. This stability and upward mobility can lead to higher rates of overall job satisfaction and productivity.
Promotes Equity in the Workplace
  • Career development programs in the workplace provide equal opportunities to employees to improve their skillsets and advance their careers.

The Career Development Process

There are many different stages and steps in the career development process, and knowing these stages can help you to ultimately be successful in reaching your goals.

  1. Self-Assessment: Before the career development process can even begin, we must first develop and identify our personality and self-concept. This stage commonly spans from childhood through young adulthood and is a time when we explore our interests, career values, skills, abilities, limitations, and work styles. By assessing these qualities, we can develop an understanding of which occupations match our unique preferences.
  2. Career Awareness: This stage involves learning about the career paths that are available to us. Each career requires a certain set of skills and knowledge that can be gained through experience, education, and qualifications. We must learn about the opportunities that are available to us, as well as which next steps to take.
  3. Goal Setting: Once we have sufficient background knowledge of ourselves and our chosen career, then we can begin to set specific goals. Consider developing a career action plan with an outline of the steps you must take to achieve your short and long-term goals. In addition, a vision statement can help you articulate your overall purpose and mission.
  4. Skill Development: Now for the fun part! Developing your skills is an ongoing process that begins before employment starts and should continue throughout your entire career. UC Berkeley suggests a 70-20-10 rule for skills development:
    1. 70% should come from on-the-job direct experience
    2. 20% should come from interactions with others (such as with a mentor)
    3. 10% should come from training, classes, conferences, etc.
  5. Career Management: As your career progresses, it is important to build relationships and create a network. In addition, continuous career planning and goal setting are common as priorities change. The career development process is not always on a straight upward trajectory, and in fact, that is quite rare! Career development is typically a lifelong journey with many unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Career Development Tips

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

You probably have a better understanding now of the career development process and why career development is so important for both individuals and organizations. As a student, graduate, intern, or employee, there are so many different ways to develop your career and advance yourself professionally. Here are some of our top tips for your career development:

Make a Plan, and Write it Down
  • We recommend setting aside some time to think about your career goals for the next 5 years, as well as the steps you must take to achieve them. The most important thing is to write down your plan! You will remember your goals and priorities much better if you take the time to put pen to paper.
Become More Self-Aware
  • Self-awareness is one of the most important aspects of your career development. There are many different ways to cultivate self-awareness, but the first step is introspection. Set aside time to be alone with no distractions – perhaps by taking a walk outside, doing some stream-of-consciousness journaling, or mindfulness meditation. The goal is to objectively understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can set the right intentions moving forward. Personality tests and asking for honest feedback from someone you trust can also be helpful. But don’t solely rely on these methods, as introspection is still the most important tactic for developing self-awareness.
Expand Your Network
  • Consider joining a professional association relevant to your chosen career field. Attend conferences and events to meet your peers and stay up to date with the industry. 
Find a Mentor
  • Your mentor can be a current or past manager, co-worker, or someone within your professional network whom you look up to. They can provide you with the experienced perspective that will help you define your career goals. Monthly meetings can focus on sharing accomplishments and establishing career milestones.  
Pursue Opportunities to Develop Your Skills
  • Look for opportunities both within and outside of your company. There are a variety of online courses and certificates that can be useful to your career development if you aren’t sure where to start. For example, Pagoda Projects offers our Employability and Digital Competency Skills courses!
Take Advantage of Career Centers
  • If you are a university student, chances are that your campus has a career centre that can assist you with career development planning, resumes, mock interviews, job applications, and more. Take advantage of these resources if they are available to you!

Overall, career development is a lifelong process that requires intention, vision, and purpose. While your goals may adapt and evolve throughout the course of your lifetime, understanding the fundamentals of career development will aid you in every professional endeavour.

Additional Sources & Resources

  1. What is Career Development?
  2. 5 Tips to Improve Your Career Development
  3. Self Awareness: How to Be More Self-Aware
  4. Five Career Development Tips: Be Your Own Best Advocate
  5. TEDxTalk: How to Find the Person Who Can Help You Get Ahead at Work – Carla Harris
  6. TEDxTalk: The Secrets of People Who Love Their Jobs – Shane Lopez
  7. TEDxTalk: Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling – Emilie Wapnick
Internships Advice


Leadership Explained

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell

Leadership skills are the skills you use when organizing other people to reach a shared goal. Effective leaders use their empathetic and interpersonal skills to guide and motivate, organize, prioritize, and inspire others to become their best selves. Leadership is an important professional skill because it empowers others, and encourages teams to reach their highest potential. 

Good leaders practice active listening, empathy, strategic thinking, and effective communication with their teams. Students demonstrate leadership skills when they care about and listen to the thoughts and concerns of others in their group.

What is often misunderstood about leadership is that you don’t even have to be a CEO, director, manager, team lead, or mentor to demonstrate leadership qualities. While we often hear and use phrases like “…he/she is a natural-born leader…”, the reality is that leadership is not some magical innate quality that you’re either born with or aren’t. True leadership is a set of skills that can be learned and a mindset that anyone can acquire. However, it takes commitment to develop and master these skills, and developing leadership skills is a lifelong learning process. The best leaders remember to “exercise” their leadership muscles daily, and receptive skills like listening and learning are an integral part of this process.

Important Leadership Qualities

What exactly are the qualities that make someone an effective leader? Knowing how to be a good leader starts with discovering the specific skills and qualities that you need to develop. It is important to remember that there is a difference between leading and managing others. While the best managers surely possess leadership qualities, many more are lacking in their leadership skills. Effective leadership is more difficult and time-consuming to cultivate than simple management of others. However, the payoffs are richer and can lead to happier, more effective teams.

Being a People Person
  • The best leaders are people-oriented and take the time to get to know their team
  • Leaders take a genuine interest in their colleague’s needs and overall mood, knowing that relationship-building is a vital component of success
Making Difficult Decisions
  • An effective leader can help offer guidance when faced with difficult choices and inspires trust in their team by taking charge and determining the best course of action
  • Being able to handle complex issues under pressure, whilst utilizing creative problem-solving
Inspiring Confidence
  • The best leaders remain positive, optimistic, and confident about their team’s efforts
  • Leaders must facilitate confidence in their team and can do so by publicly celebrating milestones and successes, while privately discussing potential criticisms and areas for growth
Visionary Thinking
  • Leaders must have a vision and purpose to inspire their teams
  • Through a clear mission and vision, leaders can develop strategic thinking that allows them to stay focused on their future goals
  • Mission and purpose will imbue leaders with the strength to overcome obstacles and challenges
Leading by Example
  • The best way to lead others is to set an example that they can follow, and leaders who are looking for a specific quality within their team would do best to exhibit that quality through their actions
  • Effective leaders also realize that training and education are paramount to achieving their vision, whether that means by pursuing additional knowledge themselves that can later be shared, or by facilitating collaborative learning opportunities for the wider team
Growth Mindset
  • One of the most important indicators of whether a business will scale and succeed is the mindset of its leaders
  • A growth mindset is different from a fixed mindset because it focuses more on the process and progress of a company than solely on the outcome
  • Leading with a growth mindset creates a healthy atmosphere where colleagues are allowed to develop their talents, abilities, and skills in a supportive environment
  • A fixed mindset hurts organizations by creating a culture of fear that stifles creativity and innovative risk-taking
Effective Communication
  • Leaders must be effective communicators who speak clearly and correctly, with no issues getting straight to the point
  • An important aspect to effective communication as a leader is also knowing how to listen and ask for feedback from their team

How to Demonstrate Leadership

Now that you understand the basics of leadership and the qualities needed in an effective leader, let’s review the ways that you can develop and demonstrate leadership skills in the workplace.

First and foremost, the will and desire to take on more leadership roles and responsibilities is the number one prerequisite to developing your leadership qualities. It is possible to be an effective leader without a strong desire to lead, but this can be an incredibly difficult and draining task. That is not to say that it is impossible. As Joelle Charbonneau states, “…sometimes the best leaders are the ones who have no interest in leading. Those are often the ones who are most interested in doing what is right, not what is popular.” Ultimately, the desire to make a difference will generate the most fruitful leader. Remember, being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you are directly responsible for managing a team.

  1. Think Positively and Be Solution-Oriented: When something goes wrong or miscommunication occurs, leaders don’t dwell on the negatives or assign blame. Demonstrate your leadership capabilities by creating a positive atmosphere at work or in your internship host company, as well as thinking up solutions to any potential problems.
  2. Listen and Learn: Great leaders listen to others and understand that collaboration and teamwork yield the best overall results. Remain open to new ideas and listen to your coworkers, boss, peers, and customers to understand the bigger picture. 
  3. Find a Mentor: Think about your career goals and find a mentor in your company or industry who can share professional knowledge and insights with you. Many successful leaders started with a trusted mentor. For example, Bill Gates, the world’s richest billionaire, credits his success to the guidance of his mentor, Warren Buffet.
  4. Master Your Work: Focus on your duties and constantly find ways to improve your efficiency and output. The best leaders lead by example!
  5. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses: Self-awareness is key to developing your leadership abilities. Spend time reading books and articles about self-development topics that interest you, set aside time to journal or meditate, ask for feedback from others, or take a personality assessment or two. Myers-Briggs’ 16 personalities is a great free resource to start with! Gallup’s StrengthsFinder is another popular test, although there is a small fee.

Another great resource you can use to develop leadership skills is by taking one of Pagoda’s online Skills Courses! Our Employability Skills course is a great place to start and is full of relevant activities, examples, videos, and additional resources that will aid you in developing and improving your employability, career development, professionalism, and leadership skills.

Why Are Leadership Skills Important?

“Leadership listens, inspires, motivates, and gives a direction, a common goal to aspire to.” – Jerome Taillard

Leadership matters because when more individuals take initiative, show interest, and pursue their personal mission to serve a greater purpose, society can benefit from solving its most complex problems. Good leadership benefits the individual as well as the collective. With the many different problems facing humankind today, we need more leaders who are motivated to make a positive impact.

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. How to Be an Outstanding Leader
  2. 8 Qualities and Skills to Develop for Effective Leaders
  3. Growth Mindset: Why It’s Needed for Successful Leadership
  4. 18 Best Ways to Improve Leadership Skills in the Workplace
  5. Three Famous Billionaire Entrepreneurs and Their Mentors
  6. 10 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership at Work
  7. Why is Leadership Important?
  8. TEDxTalk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek
  9. TEDxTalk: Listen, Learn…Then Lead – Stanley McChrystal
  10. TEDxTalk: A Life of Purpose – Rick Warren