Compounding One International Experience with Another

Dhina Susanti and Cheng Cheng are among the many international students who have come to UW–Madison. This summer, both are building on their international experiences through internships that have taken each of them to yet another country.

Dhina Susanti, a senior from Semarang, Indonesia, majoring in electrical engineering, is working as a service engineer intern (May 30-July 22) at Bucyrus China, part of Bucyrus International, a home-grown Wisconsin company that produces mining equipment.

Susanti explains: “I will mainly work with the service leaders and will be rotated to our sales department for two weeks. I will spend part of my time in the Beijing office and will also travel to service stations adjacent to major customers’ mine sites, such as Inner Mongolia and Huainan.”

Cheng Cheng, a senior from Shanghai, China, is majoring in sociology with a concentration in analysis and research and a certificate in German. She is an intern at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, in Hyderabad, India (May 31-July 10).

Cheng explains: “For my internship , I conduct an independent research project, examining how the Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Project affects married women’s contraceptive use. Upon completion of the internship, I will write a final report about my project.”

Susanti and Cheng discuss about their internship experiences:

What attracted you to this particular internship?

Susanti: “When I found that there was an internship opening in China, I was ecstatic. China is developing so fast and by all means has great potential. It was predicted that China’s economy will surpass that of the U.S. by 2021 and is an already economic superpower. I want to see that and just generally encounter the working experience in China while it’s rapidly developing. Besides, Bucyrus is such a globally renowned company and technology leader in the industry; these inspired me to pursue an opportunity in Bucyrus China.”

Cheng: “First, I want to see what social science research is like outside of Madison and the U.S. My academic and career interest lies in sociological research. Under the current context of globalization, understanding the variations in research conventions, resources, and ideologies among different nations and cultures not only will help me to learn from alternative perspectives on how to do research, but also prepare me for conducting collaborative research in the future as my colleagues are likely to come from all over the world.

“Second, I hope to broaden my knowledge of social issues that developing countries—including and especially India and China—are facing in the process of rapid socioeconomic development. What motivates me to study sociology in the first place is that I hope to utilize my knowledge in sociology to contribute to our understanding of the causes and consequences of these changes that rising developing countries are going through.

“Third, I hope to further develop my skills and knowledge in research methodology and statistical analysis, by carrying out my independent research project during this internship.”

What were your initial impressions upon arrival?

Susanti: Beijing was just like Jakarta, almost too similar I thought. I am originally from Semarang, Indonesia, but I spent the year before coming to Madison in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. Coming to Beijing during summer, Beijing resembled Jakarta in so many ways: the heat, the traffic, the massive crowd, the mess, the highways, the tall buildings, the malls, and many others.

“Even the people in Jakarta struck similarities with people in Beijing because Jakarta has a rich Chinese backgrounds and history in the past. The only difference was the Chinese language, because in Indonesia we mostly use Indonesian and English language. So I thought the language would be a fun challenge but the feeling of being home impressed me and immediately made me feel at ease.”

Cheng: “First, the weather is extremely hot. I arrived in the beginning of June, which is towards the end of the hottest season in Hyderabad. The average temperature then was around 90. I had to constantly stand under the fan to cool myself down.

“Second, the traffic is overwhelming. Though I was born and raised in one of the most populous cities in the world, Shanghai, I was still shocked by the traffic in Hyderabad. This is primarily because there are no sidewalks for pedestrians. In addition, cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, auto rickshaws, and livestock share the narrow roads together. Frequently I find vehicles travelling in the opposite direction, running towards me.

“Third, Indian English appears to be almost a foreign language to me due to differences in pronunciation and vocabulary as compared to American English. Communication problem arises despite the fact that we are all speaking ‘English’. “

Was there anything particularly surprising or different from your expectations?

Cheng: “I was not prepared for two things. One is the Indian head shake, commonly found in South India. I was really confused at first when the locals try to express ‘no problem’ while shaking their heads. Another is the looser standard of punctuality. Being punctual represents responsibility and reliability in the U.S., China and many other countries, but perhaps not necessarily in India. When I was scheduled to meet with the professor or a colleague for a meeting or a gathering after work, I need to be very flexible and wait for at least 15-20 minutes beyond the scheduled time. “

What has been the most challenging adjustment?

Cheng: “Adjusting to Indian ways of communication, the accent and the mannerisms—such as the head bobble—is the most challenging for me. On the one hand, I need to learn to understand what the locals are trying to express. On the other hand, I must try to let the locals understand what I am trying to say. Indian accent is as hard for me as American accent for them. “

Susanti: “Aside from the language barrier that hinders me to adjust to the place even better, I found it most challenging to make social interactions and just generally find a community in Beijing. I will be travelling to other places such as Inner Mongolia, Huainan, and Langfang every two weeks and I will only stay in Beijing for one week in between. Thus, I have no capacity and time to make and meet friends outside of work. It makes me feel lonely and I sometimes miss Madison. I tried to cope with this feeling by exploring the city during the weekend, whether it’s Beijing, Hohhot, or Nanjing.”

— by Kerry G. Hill

Susanti has posted photographs from China on Flickr: