Anyone who knows me, knows I am a people-person. I love interacting with and forming meaningful relationships with people – those similar to and different than myself. Something I was looking forward to most about China was the opportunity to meet unique individuals with diverse backgrounds and expeeriences. I have been lucky enough to become a part of a company that employs some of the best people I have ever encountered.
My supervisor Kay is from Britain, and taught herself Chinese. She is an expatriate who loves a fun time and has a brave and kind heart. She has valuable knowledge about sales and the international beer industry, and is gracious enough to share her experiences. We have bonded over our love of running outdoors and historic architecture, and got to spend time together outside of the office at one of our Belgian bars for a company outing. My coworker “Dylan” is from a region of China to the East of Beijing, and just graduated from college last week. He also works under Kay doing food and beer sales, and has become my closest friend here. We to go lunch together every day, which is always an adventure because he knows the best places for all the great food China has to offer. Dylan is the ultimate Chinese foodie. He can finish a large noodle bowl in the time it takes me to eat two bites and has the world’s highest spice tolerance. He has bragged me to that Chinese people can eat everything, “We eat all of the flying things except airplanes and all of the swimming things except boats!” I once asked his favorite food and he simply replied, “Bugs.” One day, he ran down the street frantically while I went inside a Starbucks. He came back to me a few minutes later with green ice pops in his hand. It turned out to be ice cream made with green peas. He said he knew how much I like vegetables and sweets, and that I just had to try the “pea pop”. That is the Chinese spirit of kindness that I love. Dylan gives me a glimpse into Chinese culture and shares stories about his life. He is currently trying to find a full-time job, being a recent college graduate, but will continue working with Vandergeeten until something with a higher pay comes along. He referred to it as, “looking for a horse while you are riding a donkey.” These two relationships, with Kay and Dylan, have continued to grow over the past weeks and I know it will be hard saying goodbye to them in a month. I am still developing relationships with my other non-English speaking coworkers. One of the older salesmen, who I met at the company bar outing, comes to my desk to greet me every day. He gives me a huge smile and yells “AL-ICKS!” His friendliness and high energy make my day every morning.
The best and most challenging features of my internship are ironically the same – the people. Challenging, because there is a language barrier, even with an English speaker. Directions can be perceived differently and are given in a more relaxed manner. Nothing is specific, which is the complete opposite of what I am used to. Although it proves a challenge, I really enjoy the freedom and opportunity to contribute my skills and interpret tasks how I choose. They respect my ideas and see me as an equal. This is something very rare with American internships. Regardless of the language barrier, the people are still the greatest part of my day. I laugh and smile more here than I have at any job in the states, and half of the time I don’t even understand what I am laughing and smiling at. China is absolute joy and simplicity. My experiences have allowed me to focus on the happy and fun more, and forget all stress and worry. This is the way the Chinese live their lives, and it is something I have struggled with my entire life. I find it inspiring that someone like the old man who calls me Al-icks and speaks no English at all or Dylan with his pea pops and bugs were the ones who have been able to change my mindset.