Beijing - Dirty, Crowded and Awesome
I spent the last ten days in Beijing visiting our internship program. The purpose of my trip was to check-in with the students, meet all of the people that make the program possible (Jim James, Lili, Elliot, and others), and get the feel of the program that I've talked about with so many interested students.
When I started my position as internship director last summer, one of the first students I met was Wyatt Bruton. He came by my office soon after his return from Beijing and he was just so excited. All the exclamation marks I received in emails over the summer were nothing compared to talking with him in person. To be honest, I had been a little skeptical of this program at first. How could Wyatt love a city that was so heavy with smog? Just the thought of the subway made me anxious with claustrophobia. But as Wyatt talked about his internship, the lifelong friendships he made with his Chinese roommates, and the migrant village where he spent much of his time, I started to believe that maybe our Beijing program really changed students' lives afterall.
During my time in Beijing I was able to spend so much time with our students - we shared many meals, went on adventures, even played some intense games of basketball (I'm still recovering). The group has bonded in a beautiful way and it was fun to be a part of it for a moment.
During my time in the city, I visited the student's internships and learned so much about the incredible places they are spending their summer - from IT services to healthcare to start-up juice and tshirt companies (more on this), to non-profits and PR agencies - each internships is a great match for the students' interests. Perhaps my favorite internship story is about Cramer. When I sent Cramer the internship placement that Jim James (our coordinator in Beijing) had assigned him back in April, he wrote back skeptically "Elizabeth - I'm really excited about China and sure everything will be fine, but can you please explain what I will be doing in 'juice retail'." I wrote back something like "Oh Cramer, Jim James does an excellent job placing each student and I'm sure it's a cool company and you'll be exposed to many aspects of the business. Don't worry!" I later learned that on Cramer's first day at work, he spent many, many hours chopping fruit wearing his button-up and tie. I can't help but laugh imagining Cramer. As it turned out, however, he now claims that the experience has been crucial to his internship - helping him understand the business in a way he couldn't do without chopping fruit. The Entrepreneur that started iF Juice, Flo Eysler, requires all of his sales representatives to spend one day a month on the production side of the business. He wants everyone with iF to understand the ins and outs, especially Cramer.
At each internship I stayed long enough to learn about the companies and the projects our students are working on and of course embarass each of them by taking their picture (see below!).