Friday, August 12, 2011

Work

I probably should tell you all what I'm doing at work.

I'm interning this summer with two connected organizations: the Institute for China-US Law and Policy Studies and the Peking University School of Transnational Law. I worked for the Institute for the first six weeks of the summer in New York, and I'm spending these seven weeks living in Shenzhen working for the law school. Both are run by Jeffrey Lehman, an epic legal academic who used to be Cornell's president and dean of the law school at the University of Michigan. He's also the nicest person ever. He's pretty amazing as a person and as a boss.

My research project in New York was largely creating a taxonomy of cross-cultural interaction and psychological differences in light of a 2003 book by University of Michigan academic Robert E. Nisbett, The Geography of Thought, which posited that Asians and Westerners think differently. (My anecdotal evidence agrees in much more detail. Jews think differently from Chinese, and both think differently from mainstream secular Americans, who think differently from Mexicans.) I spent six weeks trawling through an ocean of academic literature and created an enormous, enormous matrix with all the data I got on bubbl.us. The goal is to help develop training for the mostly American professors and lecturers here in Shenzhen, who are teaching Chinese students, as well as things for the multicultural workplace.

Here in Shenzhen, things are a bit different. I'm working with the mostly Chinese administrative staff on several important issues, including: insurance policies, translating and editing translations of the Peking University Code of Conduct, event planning, and helping all the non-native speakers with their written and spoken English. It's fun. My colleagues are really nice and we chat a lot in both Mandarin and English. I'm gaining a lot of good workplace Mandarin. I got at least fifteen words from the hour-long meeting on Tuesday.

I'm also giving a lecture to the new graduate students during their orientation week at the end of August. The topic: Life in the American City and on the American Campus. It's an hour-long affair: I give a 25-minute talk, and then answer questions for however long I need to. It should be fun.

I also get little bonuses. We have two week-long summer programs running, so I'm going to some of the events. Tonight, I'm off to a welcome dinner, and then I'm going on Sunday to a Universiade soccer game (women's soccer, to be exact). Next Thursday, I'm directing team-building exercises on a beach trip.

It's been a good work experience so far. I have a lot of good stuff to bring back to UChicago, both for school and for my position at CAPS next year.

This weekend will be busy. I'm jumping the border to Hong Kong for the day tomorrow to see friends and climb a mountain, then Sunday sees me going to a medieval temple and old tomb, as well as the soccer game in the evening. Monday might bring a Chabad visit.

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