Translating in Shaoxing, China

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This summer I traveled to Shaoxing, China for a two-month internship with a biotech start-up company. While I was there I translated marketing material and stayed with a host family. As soon as I arrived, I was immersed in an environment that was so unfamiliar to me – this experience was an eye-opening introduction to Chinese culture and Chinese business.

I worked for a small biotech start-up company that focuses on research and development of coagulation devices to improve in-vitro diagnostics. The company is just three years old but is looking to expand internationally. While I was there, I was the only native English speaker and translated marketing material from Chinese to English. This internship was both a challenging and inspiring insight into how I may use my degree in the future.

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From the company retreat to the Shengsi Islands

The idea of an immersive experience felt very daunting to me. As I was the only foreigner at the company, I was most concerned with connecting with those around me. However many of the employees were young scientists from the local area and although our lives intersected mainly in the way of music and an interest in traveling to Beijing someday, we also shared a fascination for each other`s culture that connected us deeply.

Despite being in Shaoxing during its hottest months of the year, I found the area quite beautiful. The streets were lined with ancient canals and the houses sat between family crops. Staying with a host family was such a great experience for me as I gained insight into family dynamics as well as the value of family connectedness. While the family spoke little English and often communicated in their local dialect, they were extremely welcoming to me. The entire family was split between three multistory houses; and they quickly integrated me into their daily lives – we would often eat together, go on evening walks and travel on the weekends.

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Admittedly, when I first arrived I felt quite lost because of how unfamiliar the language, culture and surroundings were to me. Yet this experience allowed me to confront the apprehensions that I have in my Chinese learning and allowed me to see progress through my struggle. I can now view these hurdles as tangible goals – and that is empowering to me. With humility and patience, I have begun facing these challenges and building a foundation for how I will spend this next year in China. Although I know I will continue to face further challenges navigating China, I know that I can only improve upon my understanding. This was a great experience for me and I would like to thank Push-kang Biotech Company and the Go Abroad Fund for continual support!

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Engineering in Bulgaria

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For my summer 2017 I chose Bulgaria for my destination. I decided to spend my time working for an electronics company where I could deepen my knowledge in PCB design, Micro controller unit (MCU) architecture, programming, etc. In the beginning of my stay I went through an introductory course along with the other interns. We studied in more details how a microprocessor works and what is inside the computer. The more we learned the more we wanted to know. The leading engineer in the company went through all the history of computing machinery in his lectures. Being able to comprehend how my field of study developed through the years is going to greatly benefit me in my future development as an engineer.

After I was introduced in the working environment I was initially given the task of repairing and diagnosing some broken electronic devices and computers. Some of them were more difficult than others. Sometimes I struggled for hours, sometimes the problem was obvious but at the end of the day I found a solution for all.

After being introduced in more detail in the field of microcontrollers I was given an MCU and a programmer for it and was able to write my own codes for different tasks. Having some experience in programming from my software engineering classes this was not a very difficult task for me. With the time passing I was able to write more and more complex codes which performed advanced algorithms.

After the introductory part I was able to take more engineering responsibility. The electronics field I have the most interest in is printed circuit board (PCB) design. I was introduced to PCB design software which was used in the company. At first I was given an easy task in order to understand the features of the program. I designed a small PCB and was advised what to do and what not to do in the development of a printed circuit board. After completing my “Course” in PCB design I was given the task of making a controller based on a powerful MCU. It took me quite some time but I managed to make it and was able to test it.

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Since one of the main fields of the company is meteorological and hydrological stations the interns were led on field trips to see how these stations work and how are they serviced in practice. We saw how the data from them is being gathered and what happens when some of them need service.

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The other aspect of the company is making industrial controlling cabinets for managing tasks at different factories. We saw how one of these cabinets is being made and how it is installed in practice.

My 2017 summer was a great experience and something I will never forget. For those of you who wonder where to go – Bulgaria is a great destination!

A month in New York City

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Principal’s Go Abroad fund gave me the chance to spend one month in New York during this summer. I was about to complete my masters degree in Film, Exhibition & Curation. More specifically, I was working on my dissertation which was about experimental film and ways of film exhibitions in alternative spaces, such as galleries. Being fascinated with cinema, I knew that New York was the right place for me. As a result, after doing a long research on potential internships in New York, I managed to secure my place as an intern in Microscope Gallery: a gallery that specialises on experimental film screenings. Living in New York as a local and not as tourist has always been a personal dream of mine. As I got to know New York through cinema, I used to consider it as an illusory cinematic city. When I arrived in New York I was astonished to realize that this city does exist. However, the awkward feeling of ‘’being like playing in a movie’’ was always there.

Getting used to live and travel in a chaotic city was probably one of my main concerns before leaving for New York. I was expecting that I it would be hard to get familiar with using the means of transportation, so I was worried about being on time at work. However, I learned fast how to use the underground and I didn’t have any major problems. I was also expecting to get lost several times. Indeed there were a few times that it I was ending up at the wrong places but that’s part of the magic of exploring a big metropolis.

From this experience I made a very useful observation about questions relative to film exhibition in galleries and therefore I used this knowledge for writing my dissertation. I was working in a prestigious gallery in Brooklyn so I had the chance to get a lot of insight about the way art circulates within the artistic micro-societies of New York. I was also very lucky to meet important people who work with experimental cinema.

Regarding my daily life in New York, I was able to realize that it’s a really big city with its pros and cons. I wouldn’t consider myself as suitable to speak about the negative side of New York as I stayed there only for one month. However, I noticed that the cost of living is extremely high and most of the locals that I met used to admit that this was the biggest problem. Having two or three jobs is very common. In addition, the big distances and fast rhythms of the everyday life lead people to be more isolated. However, I personally found life in New York exciting. I felt that it is indeed ‘’the city that never sleeps’’: a city with a unique vibrant energy. It promises a life full of surprises and interesting things to do and see.

New_York_7th avenue

 

MOMAmuseum

 

microscopegallery

 

LongIsland

Interning at an Educational NGO

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Having spent time volunteering in rural China before university I always knew that I wanted to come back to China. I also knew that I wanted to spend the summer before my last year of university gaining professional experience. Therefore, when I came across an internship programme in China I immediately knew it was something that I was interested in. Once I realised that there was third sector internships available I decided this was something I definitely wanted to pursue.

From the internship I wanted to gain professional experience in the third sector. As I would like to work in the third sector, in the field of education, I felt that interning in this field would allow me to improve my skills for future employment. My internship involved writing curriculum for a small educational NGO. I focused on writing lessons on leadership and innovative thinking for elementary students. While I’m very interested in the provision of education, this was the first time I had had to write curriculum on such a large scale in a professional environment. Therefore, the feedback I received from my supervisor was invaluable and I learned a great deal about what goes into education planning. I think the eight week internship has definitely been beneficial to my professional development in the field of education and I learned so much about it.

I have previously spent one year living in rural China so I was worried about how I would find living in a big city, especially one with such poor air quality. However, I found that I settled into Chinese city daily life very well. I initially found it very surprising how easy it was to live in a big Chinese city. In comparison to the sleepy Chinese village I previously resided in, Beijing had a much more Western feel to it than I was expecting. Finding Western goods so readily available in my local supermarket was definitely a shock (but a good one!). The air quality worry didn’t really improve, especially when I developed a pollution cough so I was glad when I could explore other Chinese cities and see a blue sky at the same time!

Despite living in China previously my Chinese language skills were still at a low level so I set myself the challenge of improving my level significantly. I hired a private tutor straight away and practised with people every chance I got. It was pretty challenging initially, as I realised how much my language level had fallen since I was last in China, but once I got back into the swing of it I found it incredibly rewarding to be able to interact with local people in Chinese. It was amazing once I was able to start understanding conversations and join in using Chinese. I would say that Chinese language skills were a key thing that I learned while I was away.

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My Colleagues

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Another Interns last day

The Student Engineering Olympics

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This blog is about my trip to Los Angeles, California in the United States of America to attend the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition II (which I am kindly calling ‘The Student Engineering Olympics’). The competition is about designing, building and, if all goes well, racing vehicles for the futuristic mode of transportation called ‘hyperloop’. This involves vehicles (referred to as ‘pods’) that levitate in a tunnel that had all of its air pumped out, so that there is essentially a vacuum. The job was to design and build the fastest and most realistic pod. Our university was selected as one of only 24 teams worldwide (and only 4 in Europe – we were the only British team) to attend the final stage of this competition, taking place in SpaceX headquarters in LA. We travelled to the US in smaller groups – when I arrived, there were 16 of us; on my last day, there were roughly 24 of us.

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The team on a tour of SpaceX, looking at the first ever rocket to return from space

I have personally not travelled to US before, so I was a bit anxious of accidentally upsetting people, but I believe American television had prepared me reasonably well. The main things I was worried about were getting around and, of course, the competition itself. Getting around was annoying, but manageable – we rented cars in smaller groups and used Google Maps to get from point to point. We drove over 950 miles in just one week and just in the LA surroundings! The annoying bit was driving between our workshop (where all our tools were) and SpaceX, which was a 40 mile drive each way that we had to undergo sometimes several times a day.

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The team on the final day of the competition with the finished pod and the vacuum tunnel

The competition itself and SpaceX in general were absolutely amazing! I have never seen so much cutting-edge technology in development in one place – and we were part of it! We spent most of our days working on the pod at SpaceX, running around to get parts or tools, then taking the pod back to the workshop for the evenings to do yet more work. The time constraints were extremely tough and we wanted to do the best we could. There was a very long list of tests that had to be passed with SpaceX engineers, and only the first 3 teams to complete them all would get to race their pod in the vacuum tunnel. We passed the majority of the tests, but unfortunately, we did not manage to pass them all on time. Still, we were part of the main event and showcased our pod to the public and more importantly, we got invaluable feedback from SpaceX engineers on what they liked and what we could have done better.

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Assembling the pod in the workshop (me in the back, twisting on some cable connectors)

The public event was a great experience as well – I got to explain our hyperloop pod design to people of all kinds walking by – local citizens, other students, Tesla/SpaceX engineers. This trip had definitely improved my public speaking skills and general ability to get things done in an unknown environment.

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Explaining our pod design to the public (me in the back, explaining our power systems to the older couple)

Summer in France

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In June I spent a month in Caen, France attending a Port Engineering workshop. I decided to go on a whim, despite not knowing much about the field. I had only 2 days between my last exam and the first day of the programme, which made the transition quite abrupt. Packing for a warm climate was stressful, plus the pressure of just going on without having any break was huge. But I was excited to see what France has to offer, so I pushed through my tiredness.

A long 16-hour drive later, and I was in Caen. I’ve booked a flat with 3 other students from my course, and we’ve made a decision not to stay on campus, which was outside of the city. Many people thought that was a bold move, because 90% of the programme participants stayed in halls. But in hindsight, it turned out to be our greatest decision!
Our flat was situated on the main street of Caen, overlooking the quays. Besides beautiful, the street was full of life – vibrant cafes and bars, fancy restaurants and hidden places to enjoy French crepes. And every day after the classes for the day were over, the whole group of 50+ people moved to the centre. Hosting a few dinners for our new friends (and showing off some cooking skills) was fun, plus every time we wanted to do something, we were on the right street.

The programme itself was a bit chaotic when it came to organisation, but that also made it unexpectedly fun. You never knew what was about to happen – one day we were on a bus to explore a small Normandy village, the next day we were having 8-hour classes on wave modelling. It was this unexpectedness, plus the laughs we shared with the other participants (equally confused) that made the time pass so quickly. We learned a lot of technical stuff, but most importantly – I learned how to lead and communicate in a group of truly international people.

For me, the biggest takeaway are the new friends and contacts I’ve made – knowledge is not restricted to books only, so I’ve invited many of the people I’ve met to come visit me in Edinburgh.

Experiencing Nepal in 3 weeks

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This summer I travelled to Nepal, where another medical student and I conducted anatomy workshops for almost a hundred medical students. We taught them a new way of learning anatomy by combining body painting with the knowledge of surface anatomy, aimed to encourage further exploration of the subject. The feedback for the sessions was very positive, with particular appreciation of how our interactive sessions help to commit information to long-term memory. This is important as comprehensive knowledge of anatomy allows better physical examination of patients, which is crucial in areas with limited resources, such as Nepal. The technology we take for granted in the UK, such as MRI and CT scanners, is being slowly introduced in the capital. However, these facilities are only avail for those who can afford the insurance. Until this financial obstacle is overcome, most people will rely on physicians, who will diagnose and prescribe treatment based on their knowledge, using little radiological imaging support.

Furthermore, I benefited from the workshops by gaining teaching experience and learning about medical education in Nepal. I found out that despite the society being divided by a caste system, there are scholarships to ensure that anyone who is bright enough can study medicine, irrespective of social background. Secondly, their teaching system is very similar to ours but with emphasis placed at health problems faced by a developing country, including infectious diseases and newly established chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus type 2.

During my travels, I noted some of the challenges facing the Nepali people. The population of Kathmandu Valley exploded in the recent decades due to villagers migrating in search of safety and employment, resulting in over 2.5 million citizens. This initiated uncontrolled urban expansion with little sound infrastructure; lack of access to water, sanitation, electricity, and safe roads is a daily reality for many in the capital. For me, some of the poverty was reflected in the architecture – tinplate roofs were held in place by rocks or used tires, and some old brick buildings deemed habitable after the earthquake in 2015 were propped up with wooden sticks to prevent them from collapsing. In cities, air pollution was widespread and most people would wear masks to protect themselves. Travelling to rural areas of Nepal during the monsoon season was a challenge, as the roads could be closed for weeks after annual mudslides and floods.

However, despite accessibility issues, there is much to admire about Nepal such as its natural beauty and rich culture. Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp allowed me to experience some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. While in the Chitwan National Park I saw rhinos, tiger prints, and was chased away by a crocodile from its lair. In Kathmandu, I visited some cultural heritage sites, galleries and was blessed by a living goddess (Kumari). Most of all, the hospitality of my Nepali friends made this trip truly enjoyable.

Anatomy workshops

 

Annapurna Base Camp views

 

Chitwan National Park

 

Outskirts of Kathmandu

 

Stupa