Engineering Intern: I Attended One Of The Largest Conferences!| 3 min read


After flashing my nametag and being waved in by the security guards, I stepped into the conference. Towering flashy booths of China’s largest nuclear energy companies greeted me with 50-inch screens stuck in their walls and lit-up 3D models of nuclear plants. Company representatives stood behind candy dishes, stacks of brochures, and plastic business card boxes that said, “Cards here, please!” to the clean-cut men and women in suits who stopped by. Some middle school students on a class trip passed, chattering, and I smiled because I was just as excited to be here. On the second week of my Shanghai internship, I was on a business trip in Beijing at one of the largest international nuclear industry conferences in the world.

My company’s role at the conference was to organize the United States Pavilion for the U.S. Department of Commerce to showcase U.S. companies interested in cooperating with nuclear industry companies in China. The week before, I’d researched each of them and had learned about the different regulators, owners, operators, and other companies that made up China’s nuclear power value chain. This week, I became one of the representatives in our booth, distributing our pavilion brochure and trying my best to field the questions that I could. During the downtime and over the lunch break, my coworkers encouraged me to walk around. I found other international companies from Korea, France, Spain, Canada, and Britain as well as a hologram and a cool mascot in overalls from one of China’s booths.

Picture of Kara at the Forbidden City, Beijing

The conference itself lasted four days, from Wednesday morning through Saturday afternoon. On Friday, for the last night of the conference, my company had dinner with a couple of the other U.S. companies over Xinjiang region’s Muslim food shared family-style around the table. After the conference, my fellow intern and I elected to stay an extra night in Beijing so after checking into our hostel I went straight to the Forbidden City and then to the Nanluoguxiang alley of bars/street food. I discovered jianbing, a Chinese crepe folded around a fried cracker, and incredible corn on the cob from a street vendor.

On Sunday before our Uber to catch our flight back to Shanghai, I met the other intern and his Beijing friends for brunch. One of them compared Shanghai and Beijing, saying, “Since there’s not as much Western influence, Beijing can be gritty – it’s real and it can be hard. But the days when you end up rocking it make it worth it.” As I’m reflecting, I agree and I also think her statements hold true for what I’ve experienced so far in coming to China. I didn’t anticipate how impossible it is to get by on just two words of Mandarin (specifically “ni” and “hao”) being ethnically Japanese and culturally American. I knew neither the process nor how long it takes to get a debit card sent abroad if it’s lost. And yet, going on this business trip to observe international business and bond with my coworkers, playing tourist at the Bund and Yunnan Gardens with my local roommate on the weekends, and just being able to “rock it” here makes it all completely worth it.

One month almost complete with five months more to learn, grow, and live in Shanghai.

Kara Ogawa, an engineering intern from China Internship Program, was placed in Shanghai for 6 months, a student from Drexel University.

Rachel Yoon

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