Charmed by China

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At home I look out upon the wider world with great interest. I was first intrigued by China at academy and studying International Relations at university furthered this interest. One of the rising powers, its presence is becoming increasingly felt globally.

This summer I had the privilege of contributing to the important work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at grassroots level by interning at the Beijing office of Jane Goodall Institute China, Roots & Shoots. This is a humanitarian and educational NGO working to educate and empower China’s youth about environment and wildlife protection, increasing their awareness of these issues to effect future decisions.

I had never embarked on anything of this scale before. It was my first internship and also my first experience of independent travel abroad. While this would have previously made me very apprehensive, my time thus far at university has given me increased self-confidence. After extensive preparation and research, my nerves did not compare to my excitement.

My time there was life changing. It was completely immeasurable. I learned so much about myself, people and other cultures as well as developing academically and professionally. I experienced the professional international working environment, being given responsibilities and feeling that I contributed to the NGO’s work. I was inspired by the staff’s devotion and passion and saw for myself the impact of their incredible work, also through working at two events. One was for children of migrant schools as these children otherwise do not receive science lessons. The other was at the British Embassy, Beijing, where the NGO was invited to promote its work.

Environmental education event for migrant schools.

Environmental education event for migrant schools.

British Embassy event.

British Embassy event.

My favourite thing about experience was the challenge. Beijing, the cultural and political centre, is becoming more modern but, in many respects, remains traditional. Everyday tasks, such public transportation, were testing in more ways than I had anticipated and demanded problem solving and active thinking. The different language and culture were barriers that I learned to deal with. Throughout my time there I attended language and cultural classes and events. I was touched by how communication was possible, and friendships could be formed, in spite of the difference in language. I came to appreciate and understand a culture so different from my own and was humbled by expressions of delight on occasions such as when they were able to see the unpolluted sky.

Forbidden City, Beijing.

Forbidden City, Beijing.

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An unreserved section of the Great Wall of China.

An unreserved section of the Great Wall of China.

On reflection, my summer in China gave me a new perspective and understanding. As well as learning about another culture, being outwith the west and away from home enabled reflection on my home culture. This will be useful to my continued study of International Relations. I truly cannot express how much I enjoyed or benefitted from my summer experience and feel so grateful and privileged for the opportunity. I made so many friends and new connections and learned beyond measure. I now have an appreciation of the world and everything that goes along with it in ways that I would not have achieved by being at home and simply looking from afar.

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