I am Melanie McAuley, from Ballyclare, a final year student on the BSc Honours Degree in Agricultural Technology, delivered jointly by Queen’s University and CAFRE.
Last year as part of my work placement I decided to do something completely different. After spotting a post on Facebook about a British Council Internship in China I decided to go for it and was both shocked and delighted to be successful after competing with applicants from all over the UK.
My adventures started on day one when my plane to Xiamen was diverted to Jinan due to Vladimir Putin attending a summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un! Luckily an English speaking Chinese man spotted that I looked lost and helped me make my connection to Qingdao.
Then after a day of settling in I started work at Kingsun foods, a global trader in seafood. Getting to work was a challenge in itself as my apartment was a half hour walk plus two bus journeys from my work place. I immediately realised I was in a very different culture when Chinese people kept coming up to me to take my picture and examine my ginger hair!
I worked in a global seafood sales team and my first deal was the sale of two containers of crayfish to New York.
It was a very high pressure environment with long days but I also got the opportunity to tutor my co-workers in English and edit letters. Every weekend I jumped on a bus to explore sights including street markets with barbequed scorpions and crickets, Giant Pandas at the zoo, the Olympic sailing stadium and amazing shopping.
I learned to expect the unexpected in China as I encountered a typhoon in my first week of work with collapsing bridges, wading through flash floods with fish falling from the sky, hailstones as big as my fist and the windows in my apartment blown in.
I made a lot of friends through my work and together we experienced Chinese tea ceremonies, fan making and going to the beach where I got mobbed by a group of South Koreans who had never seen a westerner. And I learned a little bit of the Chinese language.
My internship organiser also arranged amazing group trips to the Great Wall, the architecture of Hangzhou, Tianamen Square and the
After an incredible two months I came home and completed the rest of my work placement in a red meat company in Northern Ireland. I will never forget my time in China.
My experience has left me wanting to see much more of the world and I would encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to travel to go for it.