Name: Bradley Sando
University: Cardiff University
Host Company: Univar – Chemical Distribution, Qingdao
'Why are you going to China, bit of an odd choice?' is a question I was faced with multiple times during my application process, from both friends and family. Many of them seemed perplexed that I would choose to participate in a scheme that takes me to quite possibly the most foreign of all foreign countries. The lingual, cultural and political differences make adapting to life in China seem impossible. The western perception of China is one that I believe to be skewed through folklore, thus, I decided that the only way to experience the true China was first hand. I hoped that by interning in China, it would allow me to experience the ways in which business, in the world’s fastest growing economy, is conducted. It would hopefully allow me a very small foothold within China, which hopefully I can use to my advantage in either returning here or conducting business with the Chinese.
The day-to-day life in China is one that I am very much unaccustomed to, having grown up in a small and insignificant village in the Dorset countryside, before moving to Cardiff, a very small capital city. The differences in sheer scale between the three are astounding. Everything is bigger, shopping centres and skyscrapers are a plenty, in fact it’s the first 'skyline' I’ve ever actually witnessed that looked impressive, even the Parisian and London skylines were smaller than that of Qingdao. One of the main shocks is the mannerisms displayed by the Chinese, the British are notoriously well mannered - we developed the infamous queuing system to absolute perfection. The Chinese usually operate in a more ‘smash and grab system’, getting used to this and asserting yourself more in certain situations such as catching the bus/train or buying items at a store is an essential skill if you want to survive in China. That isn’t to say that I found the Chinese to be rude, in fact it seems essential that in such a populous country, being that way is no doubt beneficial.
Quite possibly the hardest thing about coming to China for me was that I have a severe nut allergy. This made what is usually such a mundane task, ordering food, into one that was fraught with danger. However, I managed to get by through learning the language and how to communicate my dietary requirements to people so that they would understand.
With regard to the work I conducted during my internship, I found it to be challenging and interesting. My day-to-day duties included assisting and leading the sourcing of chemical products for our worldwide customer base. This meant sourcing products that had better margins than elsewhere, yet the same quality to places such as Manzanillo and the USA. Working in the chemical capital of China, Shandong province, meant that I really felt at the heart of the Chinese chemical industry. It also made making connections with other businesses that little bit easier, as new suppliers and manufacturers, if necessary, were able to come and meet us in person. This enabled better relationships to be established at a much faster rate, due to the personal touch. The thing I have enjoyed the most about China is the people. You hear stories written about Chinese communist culture and what-not, but the Chinese people are absolutely lovely, they range from the very old fashioned elder gentlemen and women, alongside more open-minded elders to the excitable and mesmerized children that can’t help but try and interact with a foreigner at any opportunity they get. Not to mention my work colleagues, they have been absolutely fantastic to me throughout the whole experience. They’ve been central to my time here, having to get up and work from 9am-5pm every weekday could quite possibly have been the worst experience, yet because of how friendly and accommodating they were I truly felt welcome and a member of the team. Not only do I consider them colleagues from my small time at Univar but friends that I have managed to find similarities with amongst a sea of differences, both have helped us to engage in meaningful conversations about one-another’s culture and lifestyle.
Overall I’m thankful to have had a once in a lifetime opportunity to live, work and experience an entirely different culture and immerse myself within it. It has helped me to appreciate the necessity of foreign relations and enabled me to position myself in a better position if the opportunity to work in China arises later on. When I return back to the UK, I will probably feel a little bit of a reverse culture shock but I will always look back on my memories of China and the internship as one of the best experiences of my life, thus far. I hope to come back again, whether on holiday or as a business or lifestyle choice, there is so much of China that I am yet to discover still.