Name: Sophie Comber
Programme details: 3 months, homestay and internship experience
University: University of South Australia
Sophie completed a 3 month internship at a media company, whilst also living with a Chinese family.
“Really for me it’s been amazing. There are a lot of different advatages to it. You can experience Chinese culture first hand because you’re living with locals.”
Interning in China, as well as living with a Chinese family meant that Sophie was able to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.
“I understand that it’s possible to understand China a bit more now. That you can come to China and you can learn about it and you can function there, and you can live and thrive and really enjoy yourself”
– By Charlie Smith and Adelle Offerman
Arrival in Qingdao
We knew we were coming to China four our internship in the middle of winter… And we knew to bring our warmest of clothes… But there’s not much you can do to prepare a group of Australians for the sub-zero temperatures when they step off a plane in Qingdao!
The Qingdao winter breeze was living up to its name, our fingers were beyond numb, and it wasn’t long before we invested in some gloves.
Despite the temperatures, it was a very warm welcome in the city we would call home for the next five weeks.
We were so lucky to have a lot of help from our friends at InternChina. Without any Chinese language skills, we would have been pretty lost – we wouldn’t have known what to eat, how to order or even how to get around!
They passed on a lot of essential local knowledge – like to look for a red light when hailing a taxi, and the fact you can’t really trust the green man when crossing the road. Some other things we learnt the hard way like most public toilets don’t have toilet paper – safe to say, we now always BYO!
The Internship at REDSTAR
We feel we got really lucky with our internship placement at REDSTAR – a Qingdao-based magazine for expats and visitors to the area. We get to see some of the best spots in the city to write reviews and create content for the magazine. So far, we have had the chance to write articles for the upcoming issue learning about Chinese culture and in particular the upcoming Spring Festival.
Our supervisor has not just been there to oversee our writing, but has also been an incredible tour guide to some of the best local lunch spots, including fried dumplings, Chinese savoury pancakes, and lamb soup. We are so grateful to have had him!
Traditional Hot Pot experience !
One thing we weren’t so sure about was the traditional Hot Pot, which we agreed to try for work. Luckily, we weren’t told what the “delicacies” were until after we had tried it… pig’s esophagus, goose intestines and cow penis were just a few. It was a memorable experience to say the least and we would it is a must try when in Qingdao… We are told you can have less scary delicacies when at the hot pot, which we are looking forward to trying at our next InternChina Thursday dinner (a great way to meet up with other interns and the InternChina team every week).
Conclusion of this experience…
Our work has been busy but has been so diverse that it hasn’t felt like work, and our weekends have been even better with the InternChina sightseeing trips.
So far we have snapped the views, walked the pier and enjoyed the coffee street in the Old City, and hiked the incredibly beautiful Fushan Mountain in the heart of the city.
Qingdao is a city that is growing so quickly, and our first two weeks have gone by so quickly too! We looking forward to telling you about the rest of our internship and adventure in Qingdao!
Not many people from the West have heard of Qingdao, but to Chinese people and Westerners living in China, Qingdao is one of the most sought after living destinations in the whole country. The mix of clean air, pristine beaches, a moderate climate, active expat community and its close proximity to Beijing and Shanghai make Qingdao a dream location for ‘foreigners’ living in China. Qingdao is a city with over eight million inhabitants, about 2.5 million of which live in the downtown area, and boasts the third busiest shipping port in Asia. To read more about Qingdao – click here
This month’s featured internship is with a Qingdao expat magazine company called REDSTAR. This magazine company is the number one seller in the City. They are cool, edgy and always the people to turn to to find out what is happening in Qingdao. The English magazine and WeChat account serve as Qingdao’s Official Guide. In addition, they also offer comprehensive contract publishing services (print and web), event services, translation and sourcing. Their office is open plan and they often have live bands playing in the evenings. It is the perfect place for creative people to thrive. This is a great platform for interns to publish and showcase their own writing skills and build up a strong portfolio of professional work. Find out more about REDSTAR from their website.
We have been talking to Sophie Comber about her experience of interning at REDSTAR.
IC team: What is your role at REDSTAR?
Sophie: My roles at the REDSTAR magazine’s open plan office have so far included journalist, social media operator, website operator, and English grammar and style editor.
IC team: What are your main tasks?
Sophie: I have used my journalistic skills for research, carrying out interviews, and writing engaging stories for an expat family audience on timely and relevant matters. My writing has so far taken the forms of feature stories, current world events, upcoming event promotions, restaurant reviews, music promotions, and film reviews.
When the magazine is a few days from completion, I read over its entire content to check the grammar and style. A few weeks ago, I also decided upon a system for how the magazine should refer to Chinese words in regards to pinyin, characters, and tones.
IC team: What have you learnt from your internship?
Sophie: As is usual for China, REDSTAR puts a great deal of emphasis on the Chinese social media app WeChat, which was not an app I had used much before. I have gained skills in the area of social media and online layouts, producing WeChat posts about a great number of topics. Previously, I had little experience in lifestyle writing, my experience mostly being in the area of hard news and current affairs, so I welcomed this widening of my skill set.
IC team: What do you like best about REDSTAR?
Sophie: REDSTAR has an informal, friendly atmosphere with cheerful co-workers. We are all always willing to be supportive and lend a hand to each other—one of my favourite rituals of the day is going out together to buy lunch from one of the many delicious local eateries!
My September homestay family lives in an apartment complex in northern Shinan District. They are kind, hospitable and very friendly, a couple and their ten-year-old son—I am really enjoying my time with them. Living in the building is like living in a beehive—so many apartments—fittingly; the ten-year-old is a fan of honey. We eat breakfast and most dinners together, which I really like, as they are lovely people, and I also hope my Chinese will get better as a result.
Our towering building is built against the base of a mountain, part of Fu Shan Forest Park. In the midst of the complex, there is a garden with a shivering river, pink lotuses floating on its surface. At nightfall, many adults and children come out to the garden. They laugh, chat, play, dance, run around and listen to music, and with handheld coloured lights, they trail luminous patterns and characters on the dark. The windows of buildings glow like jewels, and the moon hangs low, as large as painted in ancient Chinese artworks; full, round, golden, celestial.
There are many reasons why I decided to come to China for three months shortly after graduating university, reasons both professional and language-related. But perhaps none of those reasons would exist, and perhaps nor would my Chinese language skills, if not for stories I loved at a much younger age. So, for my first entry, I will begin with these stories.
When I was a child, one of my favourite books was named Dragonkeeper, which told of a slave girl who lived in ancient China’s Han Dynasty. Complaining all the while, she selflessly rescued an old green dragon from captivity and death in the mountains. Beset by dangers, she and the dragon travelled together on a long, difficult quest. Their twin journeys: his to find the ocean, a safe place for his child to hatch; and hers to find her own name and her own identity.
Every morning from my bedroom window in Qingdao, I look outside and see the craggy peaks rising high above, revealing twisting trails which seem to appear and vanish, intricately carved sculptures of fish and lions, jagged rocks, birds that wheel and hover, and trees that whisper and sway.
When I look upon the light and dark greens and blues and browns of these high peaks, all blending together like the hues of a half-remembered dream, I think of Dragonkeeper—the mountain range before me just as I always imagined in the story. I wonder if the girl and her dragon friend may have made their way, clambering and climbing, tired and footsore, among these mountains. If they came to Qingdao, perhaps they soon found the sea. (But first, I’m sure they took the time for a rest stop at Gaoshan, “High Mountain”— for what a perfect place for a dragon, after having curled up and rested, to take flight!)
On the mountain hike I took with my host family in Fu Shan Forest Park, I could just as easily imagine Sun Wukong, the mischievous Monkey King of the Chinese classic Journey to the West, leaping from peak to peak, treetop to treetop, soaring atop his cloud, spinning his gleaming magic staff, his grinning face coloured brown and gold.
When I was five years old, I read with relish a set of Stories of the Monkey King, coincidentally; the same tales most Chinese people come into contact with at a similar age. They told of the noble Buddhist monk Xuanzang who goes in search of sacred Buddhist sutras, and of his disciples; the food-loving pig-man Zhu Bajie, the stoic soldier Sha Wujing, and the Taoist trickster god, the Monkey King.
The Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin, and the Jade Emperor, sentence the Monkey King to act as bodyguard for the three other travellers, as penance for his past crime in Heaven—he had ruined the heavenly garden of the Peaches of Immortality belonging to the Queen Mother of the West. He is sworn to protect and defend the other travellers against a host of malevolent supernatural beings led by the White Bone Demon, who are determined to kill and eat the holy monk, and destroy the sacred scrolls. The stories were exciting, hair-raising, dramatic, emotional and funny—perfect for children. Tales of bravery, tragedy, redemption, which were all about fighting battles against hordes of demons using magic, weapons, wits and Buddha-esque compassion—what could be better?
Dragonkeeper and Stories of the Monkey King were my first experience with Chinese culture—I adored these stories, and I never forgot them.
Without them, I might not be here today.
It makes me very happy to have come to Qingdao, where I can imagine the stories taking place.
Throughout history, China, or the Middle Kingdom has had a special place in Westerners’ imagination. From the cradle of civilisation in the ancient Xia dynasty to the mighty empire of the Tang dynasty, China has always been a land of mystery for the majority of the Western world. Today, riding on the tides of globalisation, China is closer to the world than ever before. Many claim that just as the 20th century was America’s century, the 21st century will be China’s.
We have been asking our interns about their expectations of doing an internship in China. In an internship, interns look for lots of varied and interesting work. An internship should have at least one big project that interns can put a lot of their energy into and can really make a different to the company. Interns also hope to attain quantifiable goals and skills they can use when they return home.
“The internship is great. I’m learning lots of new things and my workmates are all fantastic. Another plus is that there is unlimited free rice and soup in the canteen!”
Joe Martin, Trade intern
Modern China is a country of many faces. The rapid economic growth over the past 30 years spurred high-tech development across the Eastern coastal cities that puts many Western cities to shame. Many who visit Chinese metropolises marvel at how similar China is to their home country, contrary to their expectations.
“After coming to China I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of cuisine here in Qingdao. Initially I was worried that I might struggle to adapt to Chinese food, but there are so many options to choose from that you will definitely find something that suits your taste. Even if you have special dietary requirements like being vegetarian or only eating halal food, you will still be able to manage!”
Meredith Kern, Marketing intern
Young Chinese are increasingly becoming global citizens that effortlessly keep pace with the latest pop culture hits. Youngsters from around the world are more and more drawn by China’s successes in the world of business. For many, China’s rapidly developing economy is the main reason they choose to come to China. It is now simply the place to be! Understanding Chinese business practice is becoming a necessity for anyone who wishes to embark on an international career in business.
“Learning the nuances of doing business in China and understanding the rituals of ‘guanxi’ have really made my time here that much more valuable.”
Griffin Baxley, Consulting intern
But it is not just the stunning economic development that instils curiosity in the minds of young people across the world. What makes China so enticing is precisely the blend of old and new. One could not hope to understand modern China without also understanding its rich and intricate cultural heritage. After all, the rules that underline modern business practices stem from age-old Chinese traditions and customs.
Some come to China in search of ancient Chinese culture, the way they know it from childhood stories:
“Every morning from my bedroom window in Qingdao, I look outside and see the craggy peaks rising high above, revealing twisting trails which seem to appear and vanish, intricately carved sculptures of fish and lions, jagged rocks, birds that wheel and hover, and trees that whisper and sway. When I look upon the light and dark greens and blues and browns of these high peaks, all blending together like the hues of a half-remembered dream, I think of Dragonkeeper—the mountain range before me just as I always imagined in the story.”
Sophie Comber, Journalism intern
And yet others find satisfaction in immersing themselves in the daily lives of the common people. They are pleasantly surprised when through their internship they get to know Chinese people as a whole better.
“I was taken aback by the hospitality and by how helpful everyone is. My company has been very accommodating to my needs (e.g. praying) and everyone here is really friendly. I’ve got an employee assigned to me and if I need any help all I need is just to ask. Also, the work expectations are not crazy, and I have an hour and a half lunch break!”
Tanvir Ahmed, Sales & Marketing intern
No matter what expectations interns have before coming to China, an internship in China is a great opportunity to show young people from around the world the ‘real China’ and allow them to form an opinion for themselves.