This August I worked for a month in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, which neighbours the heartland of China’s coal bed methane (CBM) production. As a ‘flow assurance’ intern, I worked with the team responsible for ensuring gas flow from each production well to our customers. Over the course of the entire summer I would both work and travel in this incredible country – I have always been interested in China, with this proving a perfect way to explore and learn at the same time.
The Lujiazui skyline in Shanghai’s Pudong district.
Before leaving for China my main concern was going there alone. I knew that English was not the spoken language, so communication could be difficult, and frankly I was worried about being lonely. I was also told that some companies take on interns just to have a token foreigner, so was worried that the work might be tedious and not very useful! However, I had a great time both in Zhengzhou and travelling many diverse regions across the mainland, where I met some great people.
A personal highlight – Zhangjiajie National Park, where much of ‘Avatar’ was filmed.
My project was really interesting and allowed me to use new software to model an existing network of CBM wells and pipelines. This allowed me to learn new skills and importantly offered future value for the company. My colleagues were very welcoming and I quickly made a group of good friends – this gave me the chance to try a huge range of Chinese cuisine and some even spoke English! I was also able to visit the CBM production field on a three-day trip and, on my final day, the company took me to Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chinese kung-fu.
A set of CBM production wells on my field trip.
My friends and I having homemade lunch on my final day in Zhengzhou.
Company trip to the Shaolin Temple and Song Mountain.
My experience in China taught me many things, from both a personal and professional/academic perspective. I was able to develop new technical skills but, in my own opinion, I learned more from the people I interacted with and the Chinese way of life. Going abroad is the best way to develop self-confidence and by learning from others you can also learn about yourself. Further to this, the Go Abroad Fund is a fantastic way to help make the most of your international experience. I would encourage anyone to take the opportunity and my key advice would be:
• Prepare – for example, not many people speak English in China so learn some useful phrases.
• Be open – stay careful but try to say “yes” to everything.
• Do not worry – things can and will go wrong, but being resourceful and pragmatic all adds to the experience!
Thank you China – 谢谢中国