My internship in China was intriguing technologically and culturally. So many impressions touched me that it became hard process all of it. Looking back now it was an invaluable time.
At Bayer I interned in the polycarbonate business unit. Polycarbonates are polymers produced during the chemical process of polymerization. Their three most important characteristics are: transparency, high impact resistance and flame retardance/good high temperature resistance. According to the head of product technology polycarbonate is the best material available if all three characteristics are needed in a product.
During the three-week internship the whole process that goes into a polycarbonate product from the side of Bayer, the raw material supplier, was explained to me.
The operation sequence starts with the request of a customer for a polycarbonate with certain specifications. If the product cannot be found in the existing product portfolio it has to be developed. Polycarbonates can be modified by mixing them with certain additives. If for example the stiffness of a material has to be increased glass fiber needs to be added. The product developer then sends his formula to the compounding lab. There it is produced. The finished granulate then is used to produce test specimen in the process of injection molding. These test specimen are tested in the testing lab. If the results regarding material strength, high- and low-temperature resistance and procecssibility meet the customers requirements it can be produced in the large production plant. If not the formula needs to be refined.
I was allowed to watch all these steps and ask any questions. The people at Bayer were always friendly and generous by answering all my numerous questions.
In my free-time I got so see a lot of Shanghai and its people. I was very lucky to meet another intern at Bayer who showed me around a lot and knew what places were worth a visit. He was a very likeable guy. Since I got to spend much time with the people at Bayer I got amazing insights into their lives and believes. Also I met a Chinese friend from my year abroad in the USA who spent his summer break at home in Shanghai. With him I got to spend time in his Chinese family. In addition I got to have dinner with amazing people that were friends of my father. Concluding it can be said that I got to see Shanghai and China through the eyes of many different people. Workers that had lived their whole lives in China, businessmen that grew up in China but now travel the world and Germans that moved to China.
Despite the trend to a larger middle- and upper-class in China most people still have to work incredibly hard for their living. Even though by now it is possible to have two children one child is already very expensive to have. Only a minority can afford two. Still many parents work hard to fulfill their wish. It is very common for the children to be raised by the grandparents because both parents work fulltime. Enormous pressure sits on Chinese children but they do not complain since they do not know differently. The 7-year old son, of one business consultant I got to have dinner with, leaves the house at 7:30 a.m. and comes home at 4 p.m. every day. Then he has to do homework until 8 p.m.. After the dinner he has to go to bed. This daily workload increases, as the students get older. On the weekends of course homework needs to be finished but the children also have to finish a tight schedule of sports, music classes and art courses. To my question how his sons are going to learn social skills he smiled and said that he also sees that problem. He is planning on sending his children to high-school in the USA and already sends them to summer school there when they are 13.
Finally Chinese culture is very interesting. There are many wise idioms but they are hard to translate. The following examples try to present the essence of the idioms. A worker in the coating lab sad to me: If three people are walking one is the teacher. It expresses that we stay students through our entire lives and from every person we can learn something if we keep our eyes open. Another Chinese wisdom is that in life someone should always take a step back and look back on the things that happened. By doing so it can be realized that events in life that seam dramatic and incredibly important, are not of such relevance in juxtaposition with the whole picture. A piece of advice I think is worth considering. Furthermore a Chinese saying is that one should tolerate a situation that cannot be changed at the moment to avoid further pain. But this toleration should only last until one can change the undesirable situation. The don in Mario Puzo’s novel the godfather mentions something very similar: “He had long ago learned that society imposes insults that must be borne, comforted by the knowledge that in his world there comes a time when the most humble of men, if he keeps his eyes open, can take revenge on the most powerful. The idiom criticizes rash action and advises to calm down and wait for the right moment of action.
My month in China was a time I very much like to look back at now. I can certainly say that it changed my view on the world.