internship

Yes, you may spit in public: Cultural Differences in Shanghai after 4 weeks

shanghai chian

[Photo taken on June 18th, 2015 while walking to the subway from IKEA]

It’s been two weeks since my last post(I haven’t sat down to write in a while) but I finally found time to write about a few cultural differences I’ve noticed while being here in Shanghai, China. Here are the main ones:

People are genuinely kind

For the most part, Chinese people in Shanghai tend to be kind. They smile at you, they laugh, and they help you when you ask for it. I haven’t had any issues yet(fingers crossed) but I don’t expect to either.

Chinese people are very superstitious

Often you will hear fireworks go off randomly around the city. Anytime a new store is opened, they shoot off fireworks to scare away the ghosts. The color gold is used to also scare away ghosts and “protect” certain buildings and stores. Also, the number 4 is unlucky because it is a homonym for the word death meaning it is the same word, but in a different tones in Mandarin and some other dialects of Chinese.

Spitting in public is socially acceptable

In public, common to hear people gathering up all the saliva and mucus in their mouth and then yucking it onto the street. It may be disgusting to hear and see but it’s most likely due to the air pollution that they have to eliminate all that gross stuff from their system. I

Men grow out their pinky nails to pick ear wax

I wish I had a picture to show for this but yes, some men will have long fingernails on their pinkies with the specific purpose of cleaning the earwax from their ears.

“scooterpooling” and “bikepooling” is common

Almost anywhere I go in Shanghai, I always see multiple people on scooters and bicycles. I carefully observed scooters and bikes when I’m walking and it seems as though almost all are built to hold at least two people. I personally think it’s awesome! They’re saving electricity(most scooters are electric) or just sharing a ride! I wish my bike back home had a seat on the back for someone- I’d give friends rides more often! I don’t have a picture I took but here’s one I found on Google Images so you get the idea:

bikesharing

Well, hope you enjoyed the short post with a few observations about cultural differences in Shanghai! Next week, I will write about what my experience has been like teaching English! Zàijiàn!

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15 Weeks: Monday dinner interrupted by robbery

shangai dragon buenos aires

[Photo Courtesy: Google]

It was 7 o’ clock and I had one hour left before finishing my last day at my internship with Process Street, a new startup here in Buenos Aires. The team consisted of the two co-founders , Vinay and Cameron, and me, the intern. I found the internship through Craigslist in August and worked one day a week,

“Hey, we’ve got a surprise for you. We’re taking you out to dinner. We’re going to go to this awesome Chinese food place called Shangai Dragon down the street. ” said Vinay as him and Cameron walked in the house after getting back from the gym.

“What? Sweet! I’m ready!” I replied back excitedly. Mike, one of their roommates, also came along with us to the restaurant.

We drank a few honey-flavored beers and ate the delicious Chinese stir fry. Since Mike and Vinay are from Australia, Cameron is from Canada and I’m from the US, we found ourselves in a deep conversation about the histories of how our countries were started and our lives growing up. Then everything changed.

“Wait, what’s going on over there?” Cameron interrupted our conversation and gestured towards the bar in the middle of the restaurant.

I turned my shoulder and realized one of the waiters was sitting on his knees on the ground in the middle of the bar with his hands behind his back. “Wait a second. What the heck is going on?” I thought to myself.

Then I froze. My eyes widened, jaw dropped out of fear and I clenched my fists until my knuckles were white.

*Cha-ching* The cash register opened and one waiter handed money to a man who then stuffed it in his brown messenger bag. Another man wearing a black t-shirt around his mouth, like a cowboy would with a bandanna and dark sunglasses covering his eyes, stood by his side. A pistol stuck out of his waistband.

Then I realized this was real life. The restaurant was being robbed and I was right there in the middle of it.

“Okay, guys. Don’t move or say anything because I think those guys are robbing this place right now.” I muttered in English as calmly as possible.  We didn’t make any rash movements.

Once the men obtained all the money from the cash register, they proceeded to leave the restaurant. At the same time however, an older couple, likely in their late 70s, were trying to escape the restaurant discretly.

The man with the mask grabbed the woman by her arm and muttered a few words in Spanish. I didn’t catch what he said but thankfully he didn’t harm her and took off with the other thief.  We heard the screech of the tires spinning as they took off before the police arrived.

Afterwards, I felt shocked and confused by the situation and the fact that it really happened right in front of my eyes.  We finished the rest of our drinks and left in awe at the fact that we witnessed a robbery.

I feel extremely thankful that I wasn’t hurt nor was anyone else and that they only thing they did was steal money. It’s still insane, for me at least, to think that this actually happened and that now I’m writing about this- two days later.

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24 days, 313 emails, 6 trips to Safeway and 1 sailing trip in San Francisco

san francisco, california, verbling

Today, was my last day of my internship at Verbling and tomorrow, I leave San Francisco. I have learned SO much from being here and I want to share my reflection and insights with you in this post. I’ve split it up into two categories to specify what I learned directly from my internship and what I learned from outside my internship:

What I learned from my internship:

 Customer Support is more important than you think technically I learned this from Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh but the idea is that customers will always be the most important aspect to your company(in my opinion). It’s important to help them out as much as you can and make sure they’re happy. If you happen to be placed in the customer support sector, learn to enjoy it! It may sound hard but assisting other people find solutions to their problems can make you happy 🙂

Everyone’s opinions are valid- I really loved this part about my team. Even though I wasn’t an engineer or a co-founder, my opinion still mattered and my team members listened to what I had to say. If I had an idea and explained it, people listened. I felt extremely lucky to have the ability to share my thoughts as an intern.

You can work outside of your “field”– I mostly did customer support and social media management but one day, I asked if I could try coding a little bit and I actually got to! It was beginner stuff but at least they gave me the chance to try it out and I enjoyed it! I also had to do research statistics for my boss for a meeting with an investor and that was something I felt inexperienced in. However, I did it to the best of my ability and succeeded with the help other team members!

You won’t always be told what to do- I think this is especially true with startups who are still at an early stage but I imagine this applies to other jobs as well. A lot of the times, I had to find my own projects because everyone else was busy doing their own thing. One project I completed was a press release. I wrote up a press release for the first time and my journalist friend edited it, and I sent it out to a few blogs. I haven’t received any replies yet but it’s now I have an idea of how to write one!

40 hours is A LOT per week-  I felt so relieved when they told me I didn’t have to commit 40 hours a week if I didn’t want to. Working six hours everyday drained me- I can’t even imagine putting in 70 or 80! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the work but rather some days were long and repetitive and others were exciting and dynamic.

What I learned from living in San Francisco:

Co-living spaces are definitely better than a hotel or regular hostel– living at The Embassy Network was, by far, the best decision I could have made as far as accommodations. It’s hostel/co-living space. I created strong friendships with the permanent residents and met a wide variety of unique people who stayed in the hostel. The community in this house is so welcoming. Every Sunday night around 7pm there is communal dinner where up to 50 people come  to eat and we prepare the food. I can’t wait til I come back to San Francisco and stay here again. Oh, and on the floor below the main floor is a bowling lane 😉

Learn from people- From each person that has lived at or visited The Embassy Network, I have learned something new. Whether it’s about bitcoin, cognitive science, hacking, or decision making, I’ve gained new knowledge that I wouldn’t have if I had been elsewhere. It’s fun and exciting to learn about new subjects or subjects I haven’t studied before. Sharing knowledge is one of the greatest abilities ever 🙂

Strangers may help you- I wasn’t directly helped by a stranger but one guy I met came here from Spain and didn’t know anyone and found a job from talking to a random stranger. He was on his bike, waiting at a red light when he asked the guy next to him how his day was going. After that, they talked and my friend explained his situation and the guy said he knew someone who could help him out. Next thing he knew, a company employed him as a designer. Now designers from amazing companies such as Google and Twitter mentor him and he loves the culture. You never know what can happen- you could put a smile on someone’s face or find a job!

From my parents, to high schools teachers, to professors, to mentors- they all have reminded me of how important it is to reflect on activities and events in our life. I try to practice this exercise with anything that involves learning because it helps me remember what I’ve learned and apply those things to other areas in my life. I hope my reflection and insights have encouraged you to at least visit San Francisco for a week! You can definitely learn a lot! I plan to come back after Argentina and continue learning as much as I can.

Lastly, I want to thank the University of Arizona Honors College for the extremely generous scholarship. This experience would not have happened without that scholarship because San Francisco is WAY too expensive to live here regularly. And, thank you to The Embassy Network for letting me stay for four weeks 🙂

What methods do you use to reflect on different life experiences?

An unexpected conversation on the light rail home

Yesterday, the coolest thing happened on the light rail on my way home from SoMa, the area where I work.

I hopped onto the light rail near AT&T Park and sat down next to the window facing one way, while the train took off the other way. I opened my book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and divided into the world of lean startup production. As my journey in the book continued, more people filled the train at each stop.

Before the second or third stop before my stop, a young man around his early twenties boarded the light rail and ended up next to a lady who was reading a magazine in front of me.

“Hey, so what are you reading?” He said in a half-joking manner and then laughed to himself. I couldn’t keep in my chuckle because she didn’t reply and nobody ever talks to one another on the light rail. I think people think it’s weird or awkward.

He noticed my chuckle and then decided to say, “So what are you reading then?” I didn’t even think twice and immediately started talking to him about The Lean Startup and the travel website that I’m working on with two friends.

He actually seemed interested and even gave me a few suggestions, which I may end up using. I couldn’t help but notice at least four people listening to our conversation-not because it was particularly interesting to them but because we, two strangers, we’re having as semi-in-depth conversation and that wasn’t “normal.” It amazed me because I felt like he was breaking a mini social norm.

We were still talking when the light rail arrived at my stop and unfortunately, I had to get off.

“My name’s Joe by the way.”

“Jake. Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We shook hands and I hopped off the train. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.

You’re probably thinking, “It’s really not that big of a deal. There are always random strangers who will strike up a conversation with you.” And you’re right! It wasn’t the first time ever but it was the first time on the light rail in San Francisco.

I’m not 100% sure why I felt so moved after it happened but I still think it was the coolest thing ever. I wanted to share it with you guys because of how it made me felt! It also made me realize, “Hey. Why am I not that guy who starts random conversations?”

I think most of us are scared. I know I am. But I want to at least try and change that. I’m not saying everyday I’m going to try and start a conversation with a stranger but I’m going to take advantage of more opportunities like that guy Jake did. He made me laugh and he saw me reading-a puurfect opportunity to start a conversation. You should try it to- at least once. See what happens and let me know! When I try it, I’ll share with you what happens.

Have you ever been approached or talked to by a stranger that made you feel positive afterwards? Feel free to comment below! I’d love to hear about any similar experiences 🙂

P.S- If you’re from AZ, please “like” this page for David Garcia’s campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction: https://www.facebook.com/pages/dg4az/492602880810729

From a cold email to an internship in the heart of San Francisco

My journey with Verbling started almost two years ago when I sent this cold email, hoping to find a job working for this amazing language learning platform. Tomorrow, I set off for California to start my month-long internship with the company next week. I hope this blog post inspires you to let go of the fear of rejection or failure, and pursue a job related to your passions.

Screenshot 2013-05-15 at 11.29.16 PM

 

(Click to enlarge)

I had used the website a few times to practice my Spanish with people from Colombia, Mexico and Peru. I LOVED the idea of Verbling- connecting native speakers with language learners-and I wanted to be a part of the team. Not thinking twice, I quickly wrote up this email and sent it to a jobs link not knowing what exactly would happen. It wasn’t until January of 2012 when I received a response from one of the co-founders. By that time, I had completely forgotten about the email I had sent during the first semester of my last year in high school.

I couldn’t believe it. I thought certainly it was a mistake. One of the co-founders of Verbling, Jake, wanted to Skype with me, an average high school kid?

I replied back with more excitement than a little kid visiting Disneyland for the first time. After I Skyped him, he offered me a job as an administrator on the website. I didn’t sleep for the next two weeks.

Life seemed too good to be true. I felt giddy as can be at the fact that I was getting paid to work with the engineers and speak Spanish and English with people from all over the world. Right then, I knew I had the most awesome job in the world. I became so passionate about language learning and learning about other cultures. I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be and that my desire was to make this company succeed.

After a few months, I hired a few friends from high school, which grew into the administration team that I lead. We were a great team. There were 7 of us and we were fantastic. We made sure the site was working properly and kept the Verbling community safe for all the users.

Then in November, I moved up to start teaching English. I felt so grateful to be given the opportunity to teach. I fell in love with it and it hit me! Whatever I end up doing after I graduate from college, teaching will be involved. It’s such a rewarding experience to teach and inspire students who are thirsty for knowledge. Languages are my passion and my job allows me to earn money for sharing that passion. I feel extremely appreciative.

Tomorrow, I begin a new path in my voyage with such an amazing team-an internship right in the heart of San Francisco at Verbling. I will fly out of Phoenix and into Laguna Niguel to spend a day with my family before heading to San Francisco on Friday. On Monday, I will start my first day working as an intern at Verbling. I cannot explain the joy and excitement built up inside of me to be able to participate in the early stages of a company that will change language-learning education forever.  It wouldn’t even be possible with the generous monetary award I have been granted by the University of Arizona Honors College. After I return from Argentina, I will share my experience with others at the university because I want to give advice and tell stories that will encourage others to embark on similar journeys.

I decided to write this post because most people don’t know how I ended up where I am. They think I got lucky. However, that’s not the case. I took a leap of faith and sent a “cold email,” not knowing where it would lead and here I am- about to embark on a month-long learning experience in San Francisco. This is my story that I have created for myself. Now it’s time for you to create yours.