Hello reader! This is Vikramaditya Patil. I am a fourth year Aerospace Engineering undergrad. After spending two months in the city of Jinan, China, I take this opportunity to share my experience of interning at the Shandong Academy of Sciences.
Equipped with a few commonly used phrases like, “ni hao”, “zai jian”, I thought living in China would be a cakewalk, but I was cleared of my misconceptions within a few hours of landing at Guangzhou. I promptly realised there would be three major challenges, Language, food and internet, Although living in China was a novel experience, it proved to be fun and thoroughly enriching.
The Internship Application Form (IAF) had opened in the last month of the autumn semester.
The Shandong Academy of Sciences’ internship, had a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) work profile and I signed the IAF. The selection process was pretty straightforward. They shortlisted 8 students based on our resume and asked us to read a research paper. The research paper was fairly advanced and demanded some effort to read. In the interview, they asked us questions about CFD, the research paper and ourselves. After the interviews, two of us were selected for the internship.
The visa process for China was simple, and we landed in China in the first week of the Summer vacation. We worked at the Energy Research Institute of the Shandong Academy of Sciences in the city of Jinan in Shandong province of China. The institute has a team of scientists performing experiments in various fields including fluid mechanics, biology and medicine. The experimental setup consisted of state of the art machines. Among all the experimental research, we were a part of the vanguard of a new simulations team they were putting together to complement the experiments performed at the institute. We chose one of the experiments for the simulations and over the course of two months studied the flow in microchannels. The two months of the internship went by as we modeled, simulated flows and did the computations on an HPC cluster.
Some people at the institute could speak English and hence we could communicate with them easily. I got to learn a lot from the team at the academy, they were also very helpful, and before I knew it the language barrier melted away. I read a lot of research papers, learnt a lot about CFD and picked up some Mandarin from the team.
We had lunch at the Office canteen every day. The canteen had boiled vegetables, bread, rice and meat for lunch. Having lunch at the canteen made me quite handy with chopsticks.
By the time I left China, I could swiftly finish everything on my plate with chopsticks. On our last day at the academy, we had a farewell dinner. It was an authentic Chinese experience,
with a rotating table, that had an assortment of dishes. Every member of the team made toasts in English, some struggled. After two months of deep immersion in the Mandarin language, I was able to make a small toast in the language, and that made the team more happy than I was for having learnt a little Mandarin.
Jinan City is known as the city of springs, because of the many natural springs in the city. I visited a number of them and strolled around the city after work, sometimes discovering a new restaurant to try. Occasionally, another foreigner would walk past and nod in an acknowledgement of an unspoken kinship.
China is a very beautiful country, with a rich history and tradition. The historical places and artifacts are impeccably well maintained. I marvelled at the sheer scale of the Forbidden city complex in Beijing, that was once reserved for royalty, Trekked the Great Wall of China which extended to the horizon, Visited Confucius’s home and his cemetery. At the museums I took a walk through history, witnessing the rise and fall of Chinese dynasties.
Transport is very convenient in China, with high speed trains, city buses, and metros. From natural scenic beauty to marvellous infrastructure, you can see it all.
The people are very helpful, and communication is made easy by translation apps.
The food is very different from the so-called Chinese food we get here in India. A typical meal consists of vegetables, meat, noodles, rice and if you are lucky some dumplings. There are a multitude of other dishes to try, and one can enjoy the cuisine even if they are vegetarian.
The censored internet was an impediment, with filtered search results, very slow connection to unauthorised websites, and the outright ban of numerous websites. I got around that with a VPN like some of the Chinese people at the academy.
All things considered, the two-month internship in China, provided me invaluable exposure to Chinese culture, tradition, history and new friends. I realised that unlike how it may appear the Chinese people are similar to the Indian people in more ways than one. I left the institute and then China, with a tinge of sadness, wishing I could have stayed a few more days
and in parting, I said “Zai Jian” (Meet Again).