My first official event

I’m Anouk and I’ve been an intern at the Science, Technology and Education (STE) section of the Swiss Embassy in Beijing for two weeks now. So far I can already look back to a very interesting and manifold time.

Last week I had my first “official appearance as a representative of the Swiss Embassy”. The occasion was the opening ceremony of the Beijing Science Festival (BJSF) at the Beijing Olympic Park. The BJSF took place from September 12th to September 16th, organized by BAST, the Beijing Association for Science and Technology. The aim of the annual Science Festival is to popularize science through interactive projects, demonstrations, forums and shows.

Source from http://www.bast.net.cn/

Source from http://www.bast.net.cn/

Our section of the embassy got an invitation to attend the opening ceremony of the festival as well as a buffet prior to that. When I heard that I should go there all by myself, I was on one side looking forward to it, but on the other side very nervous, since I have never attended such an event before. There was a shuttle bus waiting for the invitees from the different embassies near the embassy district. Of course I did not exactly calm down when I saw that the other attendants were all men in a much higher position and with a lot more experience than me. After every one of us got his own volunteer appointed to, who should guide us through the evening, the bus took us to the buffet. I quickly calmed down when I experienced that the atmosphere was very informal and friendly. I had the chance to have interesting discussions with representatives of the Finnish, French and Malawi embassies about their embassies cooperation with China and about innovation in China. Although there weren’t any Chinese officials present, the way of connecting clearly had a Chinese touch. Most of the times even before the small talk started, business cards were exchanged, of course with two hands and a slightly bended head.

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Later we were driven to the exhibitions of the Science Festival at the Olympic Park. The exhibition was organized into different theme regions, like chemistry, nutrition and health or defense science. Especially interesting was the astronomy and space region, where the presentation of a lunar vehicle model took place for the first time in public.

After the tour through the exhibitions, the opening ceremony took place, with colorful acts, shows and dance performances. Unfortunately it was disrupted by heavy rain, but of course the volunteers anticipated that and had umbrellas ready for us.

So all in all I had a really interesting evening. The different way of interacting with people (although maybe less formal compared to Europe, but on the other side more formal with important procedures like the exchanging of business cards), the perfectly organized evening (everything went exactly after timetable, everyone had his own guide), the very colorful performance at the end, this was all very new for me. I definitely look forward to my future tasks at the embassy.

 

Goodbye from Claire Berset

It seems like I arrived yesterday in Shanghai and it’s already time for me to leave swissnex, after two short but intense months. When I left Shanghai in 2012 after one year, I’d never  have thought that I would be back so soon, and this time to get work experience. I was really excited about it and I was right: from the first day on, I felt very comfortable thanks to the warm welcome of the team and I got to work on different interesting projects. I learnt a lot regarding swissnex but also about working in a dynamic and multi-cultural environment (and in an open space listening to Shanghainese conversations), with its advantages and challenges. Being involved in such an organization from the inside probably taught me way more than reading a million books on business administration. This internship confirmed my interest in international relations and opened my eyes on other fields, which I am looking forward to explore further during my studies.

For my second time in Shanghai, I found everything I had been missing for so long (friends, ECNU, the skyscrapers,… and of course COCO) but also experienced many new things. One could spend 10 years in China and still be surprised every day; Shanghai is the perfect example – I was impressed how many places had changed in only one year… I’m already looking forward to coming back in a few years!

I’ll keep many memories from these two months and I would like to thank Pascal Marmier as well as everybody else for welcoming me at swissnex and allowing me to participate in the many ongoing projects. I enjoyed it a lot and I hope to stay linked to the swissnex network and to the great people I met here!

谢谢你们, 祝大家顺利和愉快!

Claire

 

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana"

… and after 5,5 months in Shanghai I am flying back to Switzerland.

My internship at swissnex China was incredibly interesting, valuable and rewarding. While writing my research report on philanthropy and nonprofit organizations China, I learned a lot, not only about research topic itself, but also about China’s history as well as its social, economic and political development over the past decades. In my interviews with different nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other institutions, I learned about the many challenges the nonprofit sector and Chinese society as a whole face.  During conversations and travels with my friends and colleagues at swissnex, I learned a lot about them and myself, the differences and similarities between Switzerland and China, and about 莲子. During my lunch breaks, I learned to appreciate the delicious simplicity of a full plate of fried rice with lots of spicy sauce. The list goes on…

I would also like to take this opportunity to share three of the many highlights of my stay in China:

-          Walking around and being blessed by the holy waterfall 雨崩神瀑 in Yubeng, Yunnan.

-          Being late to the stage at the SERI delegation event “What’s driving Switzerland’s success in Education, Research and Innovation?” at the Swissôtel Grand Shanghai… (Thank you Pascal for taking it with humor!)

-          Having my leg hair admired and touched by an elderly man at a bus station in Kunming.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Pascal Marmier, the entire swissnex China team, and the Gebert Rüf Stiftung without whose generous support and assistance all of the above would not have been made possible.

谢谢和再见,

Lennart

  

It’s always hard when we have to say GOODBYE.

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There’s no doubt I enjoyed this internship very much, and I’m 100% positive that it is nothing like what my classmates were doing in other places. During the time, I got to work on different kinds of interesting research projects, gained much hands-on experience in the multicultural working environment, and got to participate in all kinds of swissnex China events, which are always very cool and fun.  And apart from all that, I got to meet and know the swissnex China group. Everyone has been so nice and friendly, and the office is constantly filled with laughter, not to mention the always-full snack table. I will definitely miss being here with everyone.

I’ve learnt a lot from this experience. I’ve accompanied professors from Switzerland to various meetings, thus having the opportunity to have a close look at other disciplines which I certainly would not have the chance to otherwise. For example, I’ve attended a meeting about urban planning and transportation, and even tried out the driving simulator of the metro. I’ve done lots of cool researches about innovation in China, such as 3D printing, e-commerce and android phones.  I’ve even done some cultural tour with our foreign guests, and learnt something more about my hometown Shanghai. These experiences helped me tremendously in terms of interpersonal relationships, research ability, as well as working in professional environment. Though I’ve not yet decided what I’m going to do in the future, I am sure the experience at swissnex China would be beneficial in any way.

Farewell my friends, ’till we meet again.

- Lan Xiao

Updates from our Intern: Lennart Bolliger

I am currently still working on my research project on philanthropy and the nonprofit sector in China. At the end of June, I had the chance to travel to Beijing to interview several local foundations and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) such as the China Foundation Center and the Narada Foundation. All interviews were very different but extremely interesting and informative, and have helped me a lot for my project.

The written report aims to give a comprehensive overview of the field of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector in China, and includes the following chapters: key concepts, objectives and approach; historical basis and development; donating in China; foundations in China; challenges and developments in the Chinese nonprofit sector; case examples of NPOs and foundations; and areas of collaboration between Chinese and Swiss foundations.

The final report will be available in German, English and possibly Chinese. I hope my work will not only contribute to a better understanding of the Chinese philanthropy-sector among Swiss foundations and NPOs but also foster the relationship and collaboration between the sectors in both countries.

 

Christina Myers

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My name is Christina Myers and I just graduated with a degree in economics/business from HEC Lausanne. I am a half Colombian and a half Swiss. I was born and did all my studies in Switzerland. However, I left when I was 16 years old for a year to Colombia to the Swiss high school in Bogotà. I also took a gap year in Australia before going to the university. At university I was president of an entrepreneurship students’ association. I had to start-from-scratch and create/organize many entrepreneurship projects to promote entrepreneurship to students. During my studies I also created and launched a company called VOXSEAL with an EPFL graduated student (co-founder). Yves Pigneur supervised this work. VOXSEAL offers software solutions that remotely recognize individuals by the sound of their voices. We won a grant from “TheArk” in Idiap Research Institute in Martigny. I was also a teacher’s assistant of an entrepreneurship and innovation course at the EPFL (Venturelab). This is how innovation and entrepreneurship became a real passion for me during my studies. In Shanghai, I work 50% for the university of Lausanne and 50% for swissnex. My job for the University of Lausanne is to promote the university (find internships, partnerships, network of Alumnis). For swissnex I will be helping on entrepreneurship projects and helping also with communication. I am more than happy to work with the swissnex team and to be in Shanghai for six months!  

 

Claire Berset

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My name is Claire, I’m 20 years old. I just finished my first year at the University of St. Gallen (HSG) and I’ll start studying International Affairs this fall. After high school (in Fribourg), I took a gap year to learn Chinese at the East China Normal University in Shanghai. It was an incredible experience and I’m really happy to be back in Shanghai this summer. I hope to have other chances to go abroad during my studies. I’ve always wanted to work in an international context and this experience at swissnex China represents a great opportunity for me. My task here at swissnex is on one hand to do some research on the professional and vocational educational training programs by Swiss companies in China and, on the other hand, to help with the improvement of the website. Besides, I am working on a project in collaboration with the School of Business Administration (HEG) Fribourg to promote the Global Strategic Observatory on Water and Natural Resources (OSEM) to Chinese companies.

 

A Cultural Immersion into Traditional Chinese Medicine

 As part of the Diplomatic Staff of the Swiss Embassy I have the privilege of attending an intensive training program offered by the Beijing Municipal Education Commission for free. It comprises Chinese language and culture courses to deepen my understanding of the environment I now live in.

My class recently had the opportunity to visit the Beiing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM).

Established in 1956 it has some 30,000 students today. It is in fact the only Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) university that is part of Project 211, a multi-billion program launched by the Ministry of Education to raise the quality of education and research in China.

BUCM was the first TCM institution in China to accept foreigners. Now, some 900 international students call the university their alma mater. Today, BUCM cooperates with 27 countries and constantly looks for new partners.

After a brief introduction to BUCM we students learnt about TCM and its way of practicing.

Professor Zhao Baixiao from the School of Acupuncture and Moxibustion explained that TCM is based on a 3000-year-old history.

Some of the concepts of TCM certainly are contentious, mainly because they don’t entail a science-based approach. But it should also be evident that over the many, many centuries, a lot of experience has accumulated through trial-and-error. This has undoubtedly produced a lot of effective drugs and forms of treatment.

TCM is based on a few fundamental ancient philosophies.

  1. The Yin Yang theory: Yin and Yang describe the way phenomena naturally occur in pairs of opposites (e.g. heaven-earth, sun-moon, day-night, summer-winter, male-female).
  2. The Five Elements theory: It rests on the notion that all phenomena in the universe are the products of the movement and mutation of five qualities: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water; the interaction of the five elements explains the nature of all phenomena.
  3. The Qi and essence theories in Taoism: Qi is the basic substance by which all movements and mutations of all phenomena in the universe arise; Qi is the original power of the human body to perform normal activities.
  4. The I Ching, the Book of Changes: It is about a system of cosmology and philosophy intrinsic to Chinese culture

Following the presentation we learnt that there are over 8,000 ingredients used for medical prescriptions and that about 10-20 ingredients are typically used for one formula.

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We experienced firsthand how students learn to properly use an acupuncture needle or massage patients by matching certain patterns registered by a computer.

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The final part of the class allowed us to have our “ailments” treated. For instance, I had a needle stuck into my hand two centimeters deep, underwent a mini-session of cupping (which left red circular marks on my back), and patched hard tiny one-millimeter seeds onto pressure points on my ear (pressing them hurt more than the needle!).

Out of interest I also asked about the doctor’s advice with regards to nutrition. I now know that it should not be “rice only”, but in fact a combination of bean, millet, rice, corn, and wheat.

Promising to be a 乖 student I try to have a varied diet. And I remind myself that, yes, the body needs rest from 11pm to 6am.

A Business Trip to Shanghai

I am currently interning at the Science, Technology and Education Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing. My team works closely together with swissnex China in Shanghai. Together we promote Switzerland as a prime location for research, innovation, and technology. We also strive to bring China closer to all our Swiss stakeholders and help the different parties connect the dots.

So, the coordination and cooperation between our teams in Beijing and Shanghai happens on a regular basis. And last week I received the opportunity to finally visit my colleagues in Shanghai in person.

The meeting was merry, and the Japanese food over lunch tasty (seafood in Shanghai is so much better than in Beijing). Although the business part of my trip was effective, I consider the social aspect more important. In any setting I can think of, if you want some people to move from merely being a “group” to being a “team”, you have to create opportunities for them to build trust and bond with each other. Only then will they voluntarily share information and only then the “whole” is worth more than the “sum of its parts”. In this sense the “business” trip to Shanghai was very successful in my opinion.

Actually, my visit to swissnex was a return. Just after my undergraduate studies I interned at swissnex for two months in 2009. With the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, which had just gone by, and the approaching World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 the development momentum in the country was growing ever stronger.

And today, some years later, you can see how much the country has changed. Shanghai has definitely become friendlier to foreigners, and foreigners continue to be attracted to Shanghai. A study by Shanghai Jiaotong University revealed that 90 percent of expatriates surveyed in 2011 had a positive image of the city. It is thus no wonder that some 143,000 foreigners, or a quarter of all foreign residents in China, were living in Shanghai that year. And the Shanghainese seem to be open-mined toward them. Upon entering a local convenience store I was surprised to have the clerk talk to me in English – this is still much more unlikely to happen in Beijing.

Shanghai is very pleasant and “好玩儿”. But this Chinese city with “European characteristics” certainly only represents one facet of today’s China.

 

"Farewell my darlings in swissnex China!"

My time at swissnex China has come to an end.  I can say for certain that I enjoyed my time here.  I won’t forget the people that I have met at swissnex.  As I won’t forget the people here, I am sure that they will not forget me either – I have made my mark at swissnex. 

As I have previously mentioned in my prior post, the most rewarding thing about my internship at swissnex China is that the work I do is relevant and is acknowledged.  My work is to not be gone unnoticed.  I love that I am given big tasks such as helping with the annual report, editing reports, creating new brochures, etc.  It is very satisfying knowing that the work that I come by is to be published and publicized to the masses in China and Switzerland, with the potential of other countries. 

The tasks that I am given may be tedious, but that’s not to say that it is not interesting.  For instance, to prepare for the makings of a presentation I had to read up on other reports such as those on social media.  Those social media reports are very insightful; I learned more about China’s Internet history and social media use than my four months in China.  

Since the last post until now, my biggest accomplishment is getting to know more of the people in the office.  Becoming friends with the people at the office has been an eye-opening experience and I thank them for the great memories.  If not for them, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to explore a city that is unknown to me. 

再见上海!

Until we meet again!

- Vanna Tran

A Rather Salubrious Experience

Hello, my name is Lù Āndé (陆安德), and I am interning at the Embassy in Beijing in the Science, Technology and Education section.

Let me today shed more light on the Mandarin Chinese language by looking at a very special character.

The in pinyin ordinarily looking word Biáng would seem unequalled in any Chinese dictionary. But in fact, it does not even appear in the Kangxi Dictionary (康熙字典), which was compiled in the 18th century and contains some 47,000 characters.

Biángbiáng miàn is called one of the “ten strange wonders of Shaanxi (陕西十大怪) and describes in fact a noodle dish. And here is what it looks like:    

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Would you like to see it a bit larger?

This character, which is made up of a whopping 58 strokes, took my Chinese co-worker half a minute to write by copy-pasting it. I find that quite impressive (she says she wouldn’t know how to remember the character).

According to China Daily, “Biáng” is an onomatopoetic name. It refers to “the sound the chef makes when he pulls the dough into noodles and bangs them against the table”.

The origin of the character is not exactly clear. The fact that it cannot be found in the Kangxi Dictionary indicates that it may have been created only in the last two hundred years. The components of Biáng – for example speak (言), tiny (幺), and horse (馬) – could potentially tell us something about its coming into existence. But there is no historical evidence for this. So perhaps, it was merely a witty marketing stunt by a Shaanxi noodle store owner.

Be it as it may, this notorious noodle is today also sold in Beijing. So I decided to go out and taste Biáng Biáng noodle for myself.

And this is what I encountered:

With assorted ingredients this rather spicy dish plays with the senses and, to protect from cold Shaanxi winters, heats up from within. That is if you manage to eat the noodles! They are wide and long, heavy and slippery, and the noodle is in fact the biggest one I have ever seen in any dish.

My companion and fellow intern Yǐn Ānjùn (尹安俊), who shared the dish with me, praises Biáng Biáng noodle as “the best dish” he has tried in China so far. I, too, will return to have more for sure – perhaps after an unusually hard physical workout.

philanthropy - networking - change

My first three weeks as an intern at swissnex China in Shanghai have already been extremely rewarding and eye-opening in so many ways. Here I would like to talk about three of those ways.

Lennart Bolliger

However, before that, I would like to briefly introduce you on what I am doing at swissnex China. Until the end of August 2013, I will be working on a research project on philanthropy in China. The project, which is supported by the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, has three elements. First, the project aims to give a general overview of the Chinese philanthropy sector, its characteristics and particularities. Second, we plan to conduct a survey among Chinese founders about their motives and attitudes. Third, the project tries to take a closer look at the link between philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, and new concepts such as venture philanthropy and impact investing.

By being a swissnex intern, I have tapped a source to a vast network of people with all kinds of personal, academic and professional backgrounds, coming from all over the world. Whether a social entrepreneur setting up homes for autistic children in Shanghai, an ex-consultant at Boston Group Consulting turned philanthropy consultant or a young journalist who tries to connect local Chinese farmers and agritech suppliers, the people I got to meet are truly inspiring, and they are all somehow linked to swissnex.

There is no doubt that swissnex China's network – which is almost synonymous with Pascal Marmier's network – will be greatly beneficial to my future academic and professional path. As a student currently gaining more working experience, I am now learning that there is a lot more to the word «networking» than overused business lingo. Networking can be about finding true common ground for common motivations, causes and goals.

Being in China and meeting new people, however, are not only very valuable experiences for practical reasons but for personal ones as well. Living here regularly makes me stop and reflect, realize how fortunate and privileged my life has been, and generally helps put things in perspective. When you are in Europe, it is difficult to comprehend the sheer scope and complexity of the current social, political and economic changes taking place in China. A beggar, who probably experienced the Cultural Revolution, standing in front of a McDonald's makes you think how far China has come and wonder where it is going.

"This internship suits my expectations"

My name is Mélanie Boillat. As a Master of Sciences in Business Administration student with a major in Entrepreneurship (Innovation & Growth), I am currently doing a six-month academic internship at swissnex China. I got this chance thanks to the solid and long-lasting partnership between the School of Business Administration Fribourg and swissnex China, which offers me its support in the framework of my Master thesis. 

I am conducting research in the field of innovation, with a focus on the subject of “How International Cooperation, specifically with China, Pushes Innovation in Swiss SMEs”. I decided to take this amazing opportunity in order to have a concrete experience abroad, especially on the Asian market. My aim is to develop my skills and knowledge on international business and cooperation. 

Last year, during my Master’s program in Entrepreneurship at School of business administration Fribourg, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Marc Pauchard and Prof. Dr. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser. My classmate Audrey Schroeter and I carried out a market analysis in the field of nanotechnologies for them. So it was great to meet them again here in China. I realized how small the world is and how everything is interconnected. More specifically, I also understood the important role of swissnex China in connecting people and developing scientific cooperation between China and Switzerland. This internship suits my expectations of working in an interdisciplinary and international environment. It gives me the entrepreneurial freedom and creativity to match my personality and drives my motivation to satisfy my professional life.

"as an intern, my work is not to be gone unnoticed"

When I first learned of swissnex, I wasn’t sure if this was the place I wanted to intern because I had absolutely no prior knowledge about it.  My other hesitation was how this internship with swissnex China would fit into my business major.  However, after visiting the swissnex Boston office, I was more than happy to accept an internship with swissnex China because the visit showed me that the work environment would be very open and casual.  I actually would be able to work on various projects and do real work rather than mindless busy work that interns usually receive. 

Upon starting work with swissnex China, I was a bit lost because I still had not fully understood the operations that swissnex China undertakes.  It seems as if they have a hand in everything and not anything in particular.  However, I was thrown right into the flow of things, which is a good thing.  It actually reminds me of my dad how he thinks that in order to learn anything, you start off with the hardest thing so that everything else is a breeze. 

As an intern, my first main task was to aide in the makings of the Fact Sheet Version of the Annual Report.  At first I was taken aback that I was given such an assignment because I had no idea what projects swissnex China supported so how could I be trusted to summarize a year’s event that is to be published.  However the more time I spent researching swissnex’s activities, the more I learned.  By the end, I was very proud of the Fact Sheet because it was well written and informative.  The fact that people will see my work across the world is satisfying. 

Being trusted with such a meaningful task makes me feel content.  I am actually contributing something of worth to the organization and my work is not to be gone unnoticed.  I’m glad that I don’t get “pushing paper” tasks; I have more opportunities to learn.  Not to mention I was presented the opportunity to interview Sophia from Make+ program.  I like that I have the freedom to interview whom I think are interesting and get the chance to explore more of Shanghai for the pretenses of work. 

I thoroughly enjoy interning at swissnex China.  

Goodbye Junbo! 再见!

再见 - Zàijiàn - Good bye, Junbo CHEN!
Thanks to your help swissnex China now has a strong presence on Chinese social media. We wish you good luck and a lot of success in all your future endeavors!
Thank you very much - it was a pleasure having you here with us. 

All the best!! 

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