Tag Archives: internship
Hello again! Now there’s only a month left in the semester and classes are starting to wind down as finals come closer. Normally a student at KU (Katholieke Universiteit) would take 6 classes a semester but my coordinator here at KU set up an opportunity for me to do an internship while I’m here to replace some of those classes. My internship is two-fold: For the first part I intern at a local children’s bookstore. There my main project is creating a way to explain the Christmas tradition of Sinterklaas to the parents of English-speaking families. To do this, I created a poster to be handed out to the parents during an informational event. In the poster I explained Sinterklaas and compared him to Santa Claus. Doing the poster was interesting because I got to research about Belgian holiday traditions and it was really cool to see how they differs from American ones.
The second part of my internship is at the local art museum in Leuven, Museum M. Through this internship I was able to talk to the head of the Public Relations office, and she explained how the museum is trying to create educational activities that use art as a universal language to break language barriers and act as a unifying tool for the whole Leuven community. My main task is to shadow different tours and educational activities to see how children interact with museum and the art in the museum. Though most of the programming is done in Dutch, my contact in the museum wanted me to follow the programming as an outsider and just read the crowd and see how the students react to the museum and the tour guide. As an Anthropology major, I’m used to reading the texts of anthropologists who do fieldwork like this, so it is very exciting to be doing this at a smaller scale, but also in the field that I am trying to pursue in the future.
My favorite thing about my internship is seeing how hard my coordinator at the bookstore and my contact at the museum try to cultivate a community across Leuven- across different cultures and families by using art and literature to bring them together. They are trying to break boundaries and the classist and social stigma surrounding an art museum and literature. They want an inclusive community in Leuven and they are really doing an amazing job at it. Hearing what my contact at the museum says about the power of a museum was really inspiring and has reinforced my passion to pursue museum education in the future. This wasn’t something I was expecting to experience when I came to this internship, but is something that I will always remember.
Throughout this internship I also learned a lot about how to connect different parts of a scattered community to become one cohesive unit and how to try and make a shared culture become the central part the community – one where people from different walks of life can find comfort. People like my coordinators are trying their best to make the marginalized and forgotten community in Leuven feel welcome and also uplifting the positive characteristics of the community.
I’m so happy I was granted the opportunity for this internship and it definitely added a different angle to my time abroad that I would not have otherwise gotten.
Until next time!
Life is like a roller-coaster; the following is a peak-and-trough analysis of the past two weeks. My least favorite moment in Shanghai came when I said goodbye to some good friends I had made throughout the last two months. I am relocating to a second internship in Beijing. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and sure enough, the next high would present itself with the long awaited arrival of my hén hǎo de péngyou, Terry. When I met Terry in Calculus class, I never would have expected that three years later I would be waiting for him at the airport in his native country.
In my previous posts, I talked about the meaning of food and how excited I was to try authentic Chinese cuisine. I did not fully comprehend how dangerous it would be to order my own meals. Most of the time it was hit or miss but more often than not I would regret it later when nature called. Eventually, I learned my lesson and started cooking my own meals, always alternating between McDonald’s and KFC for lunch, much to Terry’s dismay. Over a span of four days, Terry restored my faith in Chinese food as I tasted Shanghai with virgin lips.
Finally, it was time for us to leave for Chongqing where we would meet Terry’s family. Terry’s father and mother were very welcoming and showed incredible hospitality. They arranged superb accommodations and placed reservations at the finest restaurants in Chongqing. China’s economy has seen tremendous growth over the last few decades and as a self-made business man, Terry’s father offered me practical life advice. He asked me to call him shūshu (uncle) and showed me a glimpse of the luxurious life of the Chinese elite.
We toured the city, enjoyed bubble tea drinks at an exotic zoo-themed café and went to the most famous hot pot restaurant in the city. Chongqing is near Sichuan and boasts the spiciest food in the country. Naturally, they thought I couldn’t keep up. Dish after dish came and I proved I had a stomach of steel. At the culmination of the meal, Shūshu’s friend, who is the president of a university, presented a nice gift that featured original postage stamps from all over China.
Later we went to a famous night club and watched a performance from the number one DJ in China. This was one of the most memorable nights of my life. Chinese people are not known for being liberal dancers and I saw this an opportunity to share my culture. I jumped on the empty stage when the DJ started playing hip-hop music and soon I was lost in my own world. I opened my eyes only to be blinded by the spotlight. As I looked across the sea of people, I realized they were all frozen; a thousand eyes fixated on the Egyptian-American dancing wildly before them. At first, I was intimidated, but then I encouraged the spectators to come on stage and dance with me. One by one they came until the stage was filled with Chinese people dancing around Terry and myself.
The next morning, I felt excruciating pain as my stomach fought the side effects of the hot pot. I mustered up the last of my strength to attend the home cooked meal that Shūshu had prepared. Although I could not eat much, the food looked and smelled delicious. Afterward, we enjoyed a scenic view from his company office overlooking the famous Yangtze River. The following morning, they arranged a “goodbye” dinner with an assortment of Shūshu’s acquaintances. I did not know it at the time but I was sitting next to one of the most powerful men in China. We laughed and shared stories using Terry as a translator to overcome the language barrier. At the end of the meal, they poured their drinks into their baijiu wells, which is the highest honor you can give someone.
I was sad to leave but at the same time, I was ecstatic to see my sister, Mel. I arrived in Beijing on my birthday and had dinner with Mel. Afterward, we met Val, my Russian friend, for a night on the town and celebrated my birthday in style. We made many new friends. My new co-workers here in Beijing are very kind and have gone to great lengths to welcome me to their city. I am excited to experience the rich history that Beijing has to offer. From the Great Wall to the Forbidden City, and the terracotta warriors in Xian—I want to see it all. With just under twenty days left in China, I cannot wait for the new adventures that await!
I have never been able to relate to a lot of the people I met growing up unless they came from a similar background as I do. If they did not, a bridge was immediately formed where we stood on opposite ends, speaking still, yet never truly hearing or understanding one another. This was especially true for Asian people (I know how bad that sounds but let me finish). Growing up, I definitely let the media, stereotypes, and Hollywood brainwash my ideas surrounding Chinese people. I always assumed they were very well-off, and super good at math. The fact that the Asians at my schools fit these stereotypes only pushed my prejudices deeper into my conscious. Before studying abroad, I had only met three Asians who did not fit these stereotypes, but still zero I could relate to. Yet still, I have been fascinated with Asia since I was a child, and made it my mission to eventually travel here. This by far one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life.
My first day in Hong Kong was a very humbling experience. It was the first time in my life I saw Chinese people doing regular jobs, like supermarket cashiers, fast food, and plenty of other jobs. I thought wow, these people are just like every other race: diverse. Diverse in every sense of the word, from their fashion, views, and physique. It washed away my idea that Chinese people were people I just couldn’t relate to because we are just so different, but that is so far from the truth. This is the part where I introduce my brilliant co-worker and friend Ariel.
Ariel is like my tiny little sister, even though shes only one year younger me. She is an incredibly hard worker and has taught me so much about Hong Kong culture. We have similar views on most things we discuss, like the governing and policing parties, how life should be more than just working so much, and plenty of other stuff. She is the reason I work overtime practically everyday, her presence is dope. She’s passionate about her people and their freedom, she goes to protests just like us Berkeley folk are known for doing.
Through friendships like Ariel’s and my coursework through the University of Hong Kong, I have learned a lot about myself. I thought I was capable of adapting to any environment, but I discovered my kryptonite: censorship. During my travel to and from Tokyo, I have stopped in Shanghai a couple times. Since Shanghai is a part of mainland China, censorship is very real there. I was blocked from using all my apps, and even e-mail. I firmly believe that no one or governing force should have the power to control the information people can receive. It creates a bubble for that group of people, they become lost in the dark. Knowledge is power, and when access to resources that can provide that knowledge is prohibited, people gain very little power.
Experiencing this censorship was a miserable experience, until I decided to make the most of it. I exchanged my HKDs (Hong Kong’s currency) for RMB (China’s currency) and wandered around Shanghai. I discovered street vendors who were cooking some food that smelled amazing. I was about 3 dollars short, so I gave them the rest of my Hong Kong coins, and they accepted them with intrigue. When I was leaving, one of them asked for a picture with me, and of course I said yes because she had been so kind.
One of my reasons for interning in Hong Kong was because I imagined the work culture here being extremely intense (it is). So I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to force myself to improve as a professional. I can say mission accomplished. Through my internship with the social enterprise Mircoforests, I have written website content, drafted a grant proposal, designed workshop newsletters, and produced press releases. I have gotten used to working 8 hours a day plus the usual hour or hour and a half overtime (keep in mind my internship is unpaid). I can focus on tasks better, I have learned how to write grants, press releases, and effective newsletters. I know the inner-workings of social enterprises which are similar to non-profits, and I plan on starting my own non-profit or social enterprise once I have the means to do so.
I came here under the impression I was open-minded, then discovered I could be very narrow-minded at times. It feels like someone has pried my mind wide open with a crow bar, showing me a beautiful aspect of diversity and human connection. This experience has prompted a conscious metamorphosis.
I don’t think it’s possible that a program abroad for four months wouldn’t touch nearly every facet of your life goals. You go off, leaving your country and you can’t help but expect change in every corner of your life. Admittedly, some is for the good and some is for the bad. But the way that studying abroad affects your academic and career lives is unmistakable. Every moment you’re awake has the potential to be a learning experience and your classroom becomes the entire world around you. Your academic growth is no longer limited to during classes and while doing your homework. From the bus to the market to having lunch with a new local friend, you’re constantly learning. Constantly.
I love how going overseas develops you as a person and as a professional. It’s the truest form of international experience, and it’s priceless when it comes to your personal skill sets and your future career. My professional goals have been irrevocably altered by living in Quito for the past 3 months; I believe I can succeed in so many more things now than I ever did before. I know for a fact that I would love to work on an international scale, and that goal has been solidified here. I’ve always wanted to be among the best with my Spanish knowledge and skills, and this semester has pushed that goal to the max. I know how much I’m capable of now. I think that is such a beautiful part of study abroad for all students who cross its path; they learn they are able to do infinitely more than they ever knew they could, and that expands their goals and sets them on the next level. All your world view lenses change when living overseas for so long – academically, professionally, and personally.