This summer I had the possibility to experience the first foreign internship in my life, although I’m still at High School. To be honest it was not as easy as I expected to get a foreign internship place for me as a minor and on top of that only for three weeks. But I had a lot of luck and got the chance to spend the time of my internship at BSAF BCCP TMDI in Shanghai, China. The Project is responsible for the planning of a new MDI (explanation see below) site at Chong Quing.
BASF itself is currently the worldwide biggest chemical company and employs around 110 000 employees in 80 different countries. Its headquaters is placed in Ludwigshafen, Germany, where it has been founded in 1865. BASF runs over 390 sites all over the world, especially in Europe, South America and Asia, with which they achieved a profit of 8,4 Mrd. € in 2011. The original products that had been produced by BASF were aniline and soda, what you already can see at the name (Badische Anilin und Schwefel Fabrik). But today they produce nearly every needed chemical.
One of the chemicals they produce is MDI, the most important basic material for the plastic production. BASF already runs one MDI site in Shanghai, but caused by the big market of MDI, they decided to build up another one in China, placed in Chong Quing.
For the realization of the BCCP project, BASF decided to work together with some contractors, Daelim, from Korea, and Wison, from China. Both contractors are engineering companies.
BASF and the contractors together form Team MDI (TMDI). Only 60 of around 300 employees working for TMDI are although BASF employees. But all TMDI members are working in the same building in Shanghai on two floors. Most of the BASF employees at TMDI are Germans, but there are also some team members from other European countries as well as Chinese, American and South American.
My first day started with a conversation with the ‘big boss’ of the project, like everybody calls the project manager. He explained me all the basic things about the project. After that I started to do my work. Because of the briefness of my internship, they were not able to give me many challenging exercises. So I should help one of the team secretaries of TMDI at her work.
She handed me over the absence list and some organization work. But soon we saw that this was not enough work to fill my work days. So one of the process engineering managers took the time to explain me in detail what exercises his work contains. And during the following days I had the possibility to check some plans of the site, the contractors had made before, together with the process engineering manager and the lead engineer. We also compared the 3-D model on the computer with the plans. Furthermore I was able to join a meeting with some employees of the Chinese contractor, which was very instructive, because I became acquainted to the Chinese way of working and I also realized that the Chinese people sometimes have different priorities than the Germans.
I also had the possibility to talk to one of the controlling managers, the quality check manager and the infrastructure manager. The conversation with the controlling manager was very interesting, because I also write my term paper on this field. Surprising for me was, that the things he does at the project are partially very different from the controlling exercises you learn about in theory. My conversation with the quality check manager was also very instructive, because I didn’t knew anything about that field before. And the infrastructure manager showed me how many things you have to think of, when you’re building a plant, that don’t have anything to do directly with the plant.
In my last week at BASF I got the chance to experience two site visits, one in Shanghai Pudong and one in Shanghai Pushi. Those two days had been very interesting and also very impressive. At the first day I had been to a site in the SCIP (Shanghai Chemical Industry Park). This site looked like you would imagine a chemical site and was in the middle of nowhere. The day started with some explanations from some fabric engineers about the different steps from the educt to the product and after having our lunch the engineers also gave me a tour through the plant. At the second day I visited the site in Pushi, which is placed directly at the Huangpu river and doesn’t look like a typical site. It’s more like a gathering of houses, surrounded by many plants. The BASF China headquarters are going to move to this site in a few years and they also want to enlarge their R&D department there. A Chinese employee of BASF welcomed me and gave me some explanations about the site. Although it is a very small site, they have 5 different plants and their R&D department there. After we had our lunch, I got a tour through the whole site, before we stepped into one site, that produces the basic material for washing agents. Following to this we also visited the quality check center where we walked around and finally watched a quality check of synthetic leather colour. Unfortunately most of the Chinese employees don’t speak English very well, so many of my questions I had asked, stayed unanswered. Anyway I had two very interesting days.
And of course, like in nearly every internship, my supervisors gave me a typical intern work to do: I had to order around 150 folders by alphabet.
Luckily for me the BASF TMDI members had a team building event, which they normally have every three month, during my internship. It was a dragon boat race with a following dinner at a Japanese restaurant and of course, like always at business dinners in china, with a lot of sake. This was great fun and my team even won the race.
In the evenings I didn’t had so much time, because I always returned at 7 o’clock at the hotel. But a lot of my evenings I spent my time walking around the city centre of Shanghai, watching all the things going on in the streets and searching something to eat.
My weekends were full of sightseeing tours. Some of them I did on my own with my travelling guides help and some of them I did with my colleagues or on their recommendations. I visited most of the temples that are left in Shanghai, for example the Longhua or the Jing’an Temple. I’ve also been up to the two highest Buildings in Shanghai: the Financial Center and the Oriental Pearl Tower. Both buildings contain a sky walk. This means you walk over a transparent floor, which is 474 m over the floor at the Financial Centre and 94,5 m over the floor at the Pearl Tower. Although the one in the Financial Centre is higher, the one in the Pearl Tower is much more fascinating, because it’s a 360° skywalk. Another must during a stay in Shanghai is visiting one of the fake markets and the tailor markets, which is also a very interesting experience. The opposite side of shopping possibilities in Shanghai is also very impressive. Everywhere you can find huge shopping malls and everywhere you can find Western brands. But not only brands like H&M or Zara, most of the brands you can find there are much more expensive, for example Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Prada. The flagship of expensive shopping in Shanghai is the IFC mall, where only the big, expensive and mostly Western brands can be found. One of the best things of Shanghai is the food. Nearly everything tastes delicious and nearly everything is very cheap. It’s always good to try new things like for example the typical Shanghainese noodle soup with fish.
All in all I have to say that even if I didn’t do that much challenging exercises during my internship, BASF gave me the possibility to learn a lot about the real working world and they also helped me to get an idea in which direction my studies should go to in the future. So all I can say is: Thanks a lot BASF for this great experience!