It took a 13 hours flight, 1 hour bus ride, overnight train and a short ride in a minivan to arrive at my final destination on the other side of the world. If I could dig a hole to the other side of the globe I think I might end up in Missouri, but I’m fairly content with my current spot on the map.
I had arrived; arrived in Qingdao, China, which is located on the coast about halfway between Shanghai and Beijing. Specifically, I’m at Qingdao University, a Provincial Level University in Shandong province. Approximately 40,000 students study at their main campus, and they receive around 1,500 international students throughout the year.
Let me first introduce what I’ll be doing this summer. I will be working at Qingdao University as an International Intern in the International Student Office. This is an internship that I have been trying to set up for over six months with the International Affairs Office at Qingdao University. Needless to say this was the plan 6 months ago, but my plan didn’t account for everything I was about to experience.
I attained this internship by simply asking. I am a graduate student in the College Student Personnel Administration program at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, AR. While many of my other classmates found their summer internships within the state of Arkansas or other surrounding states I decided to look a bit further than that.
My program already has a short study abroad experience attached to our program where we have the chance to visit an International University. In the past they have gone to a university in Belgium, but the past two years we’ve been traveling to China and Qingdao University. So using the connections of that trip and the Study Abroad office on my campus I got the University to allow me a chance to be an intern at their University for the Summer.
So, as I stepped out of the minivan, I was swiftly scurried away to my room on the number 1 floor, which happened to be on the second floor, and was shown my room for the summer. My roommate who had been there since January was a Korean student studying Chinese language at QU. I rolled my over-sized bag into the room and sat down on the bed.
I began to laugh to myself and think about how interesting and hectic this summer was going to be. I had been given the chance to experience, first-hand, what it was like to be an international student as well as work with the international students in a completely foreign environment. All I could do was laugh at how “in over my head” I was and how much I hadn’t completely mentally prepared myself for such a new and strange experience.
I had been to China before, but this would be a completely different experience, living, working and doing everything in the “Chinese way”. I start my internship with the University in one week after a short introduction to the University with some of my other classmates during the study abroad experience. They were here for a short study abroad trip, but I was relegated to stay for the majority of the summer. After a quick week of meetings and formal dinners with various “important people” on campus my classmates left on a train back to Beijing.
While riding back in the van, that had taken all of my classmates and professors to the train station, some of the office workers that had joined the trek to the station turned to me and said: “Now you are one of us”. I laughed with the rest of them, but felt a certain amount of sincerity in their voice as they looked at me and nodded with approval.
I was now about to begin one of the most straining, draining and intense internship experiences I had ever been a part of. I had two days for a weekend and then it would all begin. I was soon to know what it was like to work, live and be completely consumed with Chinese culture, education and student affairs.
I had never drunk from a fire hose before, but I had a feeling I was about to. In two days I was about to drown or swim against a heavy current.
In the following weeks, I will be posting a series of blog entries that will cataloging my internship experience. Each post will focus on a aspect of student affairs and my experience with that at Qingdao University. Stay tuned as my world gets smaller and my perspective grows.