Interned at Shenzhen Social Organization Headquarters Base (Futian District) 深圳社会组织总部基地(福田)


Internship Preparation and Search Process

I chose Shenzhen as my target internship destination since I knew I wanted to intern outside of Nanjing and I also knew I wanted to be close to Hong Kong. After speaking with a couple of people and my roommate, they recommended me to go to Shenzhen since it seemed like a match for my personality and expectations. I sent roughly 10+ resumes to various NGOs in Shenzhen, and only one replied to me, therefore I hopped on a plane and went for an interview and got the position. In retrospect, I wish I had tried harder in my search and had more choices. I did have an option to intern in Zhengzhou, however, that internship violated several rules employed by Flagship involving teaching English.

In short, I was not prepared for my internship at all, for various reasons: one, I interned at a NGO that was involved in the business side of social work and public welfare, this internship was interesting in the respect that I admire and appreciated the work that this NGO was devoted to, yet as an intern, I didn’t get to do the fun stuff such as doing consulting, interviewing government offices, etc since these endeavours required language proficiency and specialised knowledge; second, my college degree and background was irrelevant to my internship; and third, I feel that the Nanjing Flagship program failed to prepare and provide students for professional Chinese.

My advice for future participants of this program is to streamline everything for the internship, this is to say, even prior to participating in the Capstone program, students should unremittingly apply self-introspection and seriously seek out what type of career or work they would like to do in the future, hence, use this insight to plan for the Capstone internship as much as possible. This would include choosing the classes that would most compliment and prepare you for work; spending more time doing self-study in the field(s) that interest you and aligns with your career goals in Chinese, etc. Ultimately, unless your career plan is to be in academia, you should always be thinking of how you can leverage the knowledge and skills learned in classes for your selected career path, respectively, and find a correlation in how you can apply your Chinese language skills to supplement and correspond with your goals.

(NGO park promotion early-August 2015)

Staff Support

In all honestly, I don’t know how the staff can provide any useful assistance than the ones presently being provided, the reason being, all the students are scattered in different cities and all are engaged in different types of internships. The staff could possibly require the students to strongly consider preparing for a contingency plan for an alternative internship, I knew several students who wanted to switch internships (including myself), many were able to switch, but this trend indicates that one internship does not suffice for the demands or needs of the students, and this is mainly due to the lack of exciting work provided at a given internship or other reasons. My regret is not leaving my internship for another internship. But bygones are bygones.

Another issue to consider would be the ridiculous requirement to buy the departure and return flight in order to apply for Capstone. I knew a lot of student from other programs who avoided this requirement and as a result, they are not bound down by a specific date, I truly envy the freedom and flexibility that this alternative offers. The counter argument that Flagship might offer is that you can reschedule afterwards, but lets be honest, this alternative forces students to take on un-needed expenditure. In short, its just not practical.

(one of our several events)

 Language Application and Development 

In respects to language development, long exposure in the target language is ideal, however, at much as this is a crucial factor in accelerating your language learning, nevertheless, I would argue that despite the conventional mentality that being surrounded in the target language environment is necessary for proficient language acquisition, nevertheless, this condition is far from sufficient. According to my understanding, the aforementioned circumstance merely qualifies as passive or stagnate learning, admittedly, one can propose that active learning can be utilised when engaging in listening and reading comprehension situations, yet this only goals so far since the learner still remains solely in a passive state of absorbing content.

Hence, during my internship, in conjunction with developing my passive language skills-predominately listening and reading comprehension [listening to formal debates, talk shows, listening to live lectures, etc]- I forced myself to produce my own content via articulating my own point of view, composing a formal article, debating with a coworker, etc. This hypothesis presumably yields to be true, that passive contents or information will quickly fade and be forgotten if not actively used or applied, thus, the old saying truly is a reliable maxim: “If you don’t use it, you lose it” This is why the proactive aspect of language learning is equally important, and arguably, the most important factor in language mastery. Undoubtedly, this was easier said than done.

The challenges faced with this, for me at least, was the stress failure and looking like a fool. It was more of a psychological issue rather than a technical issue. In general, despite the discomfort of speaking a language contrary to your mother tongue, you just got to get over it and just do it. Positive reinforcement helps to motivate you to overcoming your bottlenecks, this may involve external motives, which catalysts the will for you to speak more creatively, professionally, and formally, all for the sake of impressing your significant other, etc. The internal motivation that stirred me on was ethnical pride, that is to say, since I am an ABC and my Chinese heritage flows through my veins and radiates out onto my skin (literally), therefore, I should know how to speak my supposed native tongue.

Overall, with the combination of the appropriate conditions for learning a language-language environment and the opportunity to regurgitate what one has learned- and the proper stimulus for language learning-external and internal motives- and lastly, the proper tools for language acquisition-dictionaries, books, classes, etc- all aided in producing substantial language proficiency results. However, there is still so much more to learn and grow in.

Lastly, my learning experience would be more optimised, if the Spoken Chinese Development training module for the Capstone internship phase were modeled more after the ICLP language training program from Taiwan University. Their program essentially trains the students in repeatedly using prepared formal sentence structures, this proved to be extremely helpful for me because the repetition allowed me to recall those respective sentence structures during situations where I could use them to confidently express my thoughts. The ratio for student-speaking versus teacher-speaking would be 70-30, whereas the Nanjing Spoken Language module lacked the aforementioned qualities of ICLP, and it yield the opposite of ratio of ICLP where the teacher does most or all the talking.

(colleagues: 王黎,曾颖,邓老师,肖明,李小惠,王立雪. Pictures taken around August 2015)

Cultural Exposure

Another important mindset needed for optimised language learning is to expand your cultural and linguistic adaptive limitations. This would involve relentlessly interacting with the natives and curiously exploring their worlds. For instance, to fulfil this, I traveled to visit a friend I made in Nanjing to his hometown in Duchang, Jiangxi province. During this type, the difficulty presented itself in having to listen and interpret local dialects, but this difficulty was short-lived. The second difficulty would be dealing with village living accommodations, of course I am not looking down on my friends origins, but this experience was invaluable for me in the sense that it helped me assess who I am as a person and my value system. Essentially, this is what traveling does for you. Traveling is like a window to another world and at the same time it acts like a mirror for your life. Maybe since I am like a vagabond in nature, a lost soul seeking for purpose and meaning in this world, which compelled me to traveling to 25+ cities in China. In each adventure, I learned more about the world around and more about the universe that is within.

“深圳社会组织总部基地(福田)职场和场地 NGO Office Space"

Work Experience

The hard skills I learned during my internship were the formal writing, research, and translation skills involved in composing short-articles. Soft skills would involve doing light human resource work in the front desk; dealing with office politics and scuffles in a respectful manner; light photography skills; light simultaneous translation and interpretation; instructing clients on how to operate my NGOs equipment; and light consulting work, etc. The work that was beneficial for my language learning, obviously, were composing short-articles, albeit, it was extremely dull and colorless most of the time. The most exciting work was doing light consulting work and on-the-spot translation and interpretation work when I had to mediate a discussion between an American organisation and Shenzhen education NGO or when I had to explain the operations and purpose of my NGO at the 2015 4th Charity Fair using both Mandarin and English.

My advice to future students would be to be as proactive as possible, this would involve being very strategic about how you spend your time in your intern destination and during work. During work, if I were mainly in the office, I would passively listen to Chinese podcasts or shows that used formal or advance register of speech while doing my work. On the weekends or after work, I would either plan for the next travel excursion or go to a local bookstore and just read or hangout with my coworkers. All in all, the connections you make in your internship is more valuable than what you do since your connections can present you with greater opportunities in the future and for the very sake of having those relationships.

All in all, the professional knowledge I acquired during this program resulted from self-study, via going to the bookstore or online research on topics pertaining to marketing, financial literacy, photography, etc; or through various trials and errors when testing my own linguistic limits, for instance, conversing with individuals from various social stratums; conducting informational conversations/interviews with local peers in my NGO. The quintessential concepts and mentality that operates in the background in the acquisition of professional skills and knowledge boils down to this: survival of the fittest.

Be mindful of how you spend your time and resource since there is an opportunity cost to your every decision, and as a result, you are might inadvertently waste precious time that could be used to contribute to your human capital, for me this meant, participating in free workshops, such as Tencent APP Development Seminar, or going to some exhibitions fairs, like Charity Fair 2015 and China Hi Tech Fair 2015 (above picture). No, I am not advocating the position that relaxation and rest are for the weak, rather balance is needed, long-term vision is essential, continuous self-introspection and awareness of one’s goals is a must, and the leisure and relaxation time is a necessary element in aiding and enhancing the effectiveness of the aforementioned concepts.

20151129_095907

11/29/15 为爱挑战嘉年华公益挑战活动 Social Work: To Love a Challenge

Cost of Living-Shenzhen

My mentality in terms of my budget for Capstone boils down to this: people invested money into me, therefore, I need to be wise and conscientious about how I use it. In short, I tried to live way belong my means, this would involve, sticking to buying meals bellow 20rmb or even 15rmb and not dropping huge bills on lavish dinners, etc. My philosophy is I would rather spend money that would have been used on food to buy the equivalent amount on a train ticket to a nearby city. I value experience that can be cherished in the years to come over immediate gratification. Of course I do make a budget for eating out in a comparatively high-end restaurant, but that normally would involve eating out with my native friends in hopes to deepen our friendship. I would say 50% of my scholarship money went into traveling and engaging with native friends, 45% went into living accommodations, registration and booking visa fees, etc, and the remaining 10-15% was plenty for other purchases like work clothes, food, transportation, miscellaneous expenses, etc. To illustrate, my total cash amount after purchasing round-way tickets (for 2 people) to Guilin (25th city in China) was 700RMB [this amount is a culmination of a portion of scholarship money and 3 months worth of internship stipends] Luckily, my last internship stipend will come a week after my Guilin trip, furthermore, I will retrieve (hopefully) the majority of my apartment deposit, hence, my total remaining monetary amount would be closer to 4000RMB (humble approximation) In summary, you really can do a lot with your USD in China only if you plan out what you exactly want and budget accordingly. Perhaps, some individuals value fine diner over excursions and trips. That is fine also and it can be done well.

2015 ACCOMPLISHED GOALS

Traveling

Prior to China, I embarked on personal travels to 5 different countries; traveled to 25 cities in China before approaching the completion of Capstone; photographed and recorded my travel impressions on my blog.

*Initially, my baseline goal while in Nanjing was to travel to 7 cities, then I expanded that goal to 14, 21, etc.

Internship

Composed a combination of translated and researched-base of approximately 30+ short-papers on Social Work, Social Entrepreneurship, Charity Fairs, etc; published 10+ articles on my NGO’s WeChat page and subsequently uploaded them to personal blog which serves as my e-portfolio to tally my accomplishments.

*Originally, I was planning to plan and execute 3 events before the end of my internship, however, that plan flew through the roof, therefore, I focused on getting the research and papers I had written in the office published so that I can use them to somewhat tangibly document my accomplishments. Towards the end of the internship, I asked for an informal extension (Until I leave Shenzhen on 12/19/15) to compile a few event ideas.

Networking

Interacted and established personal and professional connections with individuals in the respective NGO on the same work-floor, predominately via WeChat, in hopes of exploring future career possibilities; exchanged contacts with a visiting NGO; offered interpretation and translation services with an Advisor for Beltway International Advisors and exchanged contacts (10/14/15).

*Initial goals were to have a Chinese NGO or company sponsor my work-visa for future employment in China.

Final Thoughts

The whole Chinese Flagship Capstone experience is truly worth it, however, a noteworthy disclaimer is that you have put in effort to make this experience have value for you.

Official Internship Completion: November 27, 2015 


*These experiences were made possible by the Gilman Scholarship