Justine Cameron-Chileshe - General Journalism Projects in China
Having spent two years drowning in essays, deadlines and exams, three weeks after finishing my A Levels, I decided to embark upon a different and more challenging adventure – volunteering in Shanghai with Projects Abroad. The sheer professionalism, efficiency and expertise of the Projects Abroad team helped to cement my decision alongside my unfettered excitement at the prospect of working within one of Asia’s most dynamic and innovative cities.
Equipped with nothing but enthusiasm, basic Mandarin and of course my suitcase as I stepped out of Shanghai’s leading edge Pudong Airport, I was immediately engulfed by the stifling heat, surreal infrastructure and a dizzying array of people, a far cry from my native leafy London suburbs. As perplexing as my initial landing was, I was welcomed into the country and taken to my apartment by Michael, a Projects Abroad staff member, who provided a friendly face as well as a wealth of information that proved vital to my trip.
My Journalism placement
Having never had any formal Journalism experience, you can imagine my elation when I was told I was going to be working with iMetro, one of China’s leading bilingual magazines. Accustomed to spending my mornings rammed into Shanghai’s Metro, I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the everyday hustle and bustle of the city. Working as an English Editor, I was able to liaise with both the editing and publishing team, contributing to the publication of the monthly cultural magazine. Admittedly, working within the fast paced industry of Journalism the concept of a “typical day” goes out the window.
Nonetheless, throughout my month in Shanghai, I found myself writing several articles on topics ranging from the latest music releases to a personal editorial on my own experiences within the city. Whilst nothing beats the pride of seeing your own published work in print, my weekend in Spa Links Hotel and Resort comes close. In need of a volunteer to participate in the opening of the luxury 5 star resort - I eagerly stepped up to the challenge!
Representing the magazine at the press conference, meeting the experts within the European and Asian Hotel industry and viewing Shanghai’s tranquil springs was a truly exciting experience. Indeed, working in a small team of 10 allowed me to voice my opinions and engage fully with the magazine as I was taken aback by the increasing number of responsibilities given to me, enabling me to develop vital skills for the future.
Free time in Shanghai
As I was only staying in Shanghai for a month, my mentality was to see, taste, smell and experience all that the city had to offer; luckily it was a mutual feeling among my flatmates and the rest of the Projects Abroad gang. The friendships sustained throughout my trip proved vital, as we each understood what it was like to be a young foreigner living in Shanghai and we were able to experience the daunting city together and create some interesting memories!
Working from 9:30 until 6pm Monday to Friday meant that our evenings were precious. We often filled our evenings dining out, having been enticed by the authentic cuisine, particularly the street food stands outside our apartment, as well as experiencing the alternative live music bars within Pudong. Thursday nights, however, were always dedicated to meeting the rest of the Projects Abroad volunteers organised by Kay (Projects Abroad staff member). Whether it was simply a casual drink or intense competitive bowling, the Projects Abroad team provided a fundamental support network.
My memories of Shanghai consist of a bizarre juxtaposition of being humbled by the peace of the Buddhist temples, awestruck by the views on Shanghai’s financial centre and trawling down Shanghai’s heaving People’s Square. The continual army of Starbucks, overenthusiastic sellers encouraging me to part with my cash for “designer” bags, staggering heat and masses of people make Shanghai a unique place, certainly a contrast to my own naïve perceptions of China.
The most resounding experience of the trip, however, was turning 18. Having spent my birthday in the beautiful French Concession, stuffing my face with cake, having the entire restaurant sing happy birthday to me and exploring the Shanghai nightlife until the early hours of the morning - I can honestly say that it was a birthday that I will never forget!
Certainly, travelling to Shanghai, gave me the confidence, skills and memories that would have been impossible to gain sitting in a classroom. As I embark upon the rest of my gap year, I will certainly be returning to Shanghai in order to explore more of what the city has to offer. For me, Journalism in Shanghai proved to be such a worthwhile experience enabling me to embrace the archaic richness of the Chinese culture as well as witness the vast modernisation of this evolving city.