Skip to main content
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
SFU Co-op Student

Terracotta Warriors
Lonely Planet
The locals were very kind and loved talking with us. The poverty in the streets is striking though, with so many people living in such a small space and not enough work.

China is such a diverse country in terms of environment, language, customs, and food.  Over the past month, I had the opportunity to travel to three major cities in China and experience such diversity.  During the first week of October, the people here partake in a week-long holiday called National Week, so I decided to travel around with three other co-op students (Aron, Jackie, and Jennifer) and see some of the cities outside of Weifang.

Musicians playing local instruments in Xi'an
Musicians in Xi'an

We left on a train late Friday night, which was an adventure in itself as we didn’t know that our train was arriving on the opposite track!  We had to run down three flights of stairs with all of our bags, underneath the tracks, and up onto the platform before trying to find our carriage.  We spent twenty-two hours on the train before arriving in Xi’an; restlessness doesn’t begin to describe the experience.

We spent two days in Xi’an and were able to visit the Terracotta Warriors and bike on top of the city wall at night.  I think both Jen and I, who look Caucasian, were more of a tourist attraction than anything in Xi’an.  People were constantly asking to take pictures with us, sometimes attempting to photograph us without our knowledge by using camera phones!

Terracotta Warrios in Xi'an, China
Terracotta Warrios in Xi'an, China

One evening, while walking around the streets after dinner, we bought quite a few large scroll paintings from a row of painters along the side of the road. We drew quite the crowd while bartering and purchasing the paintings.  The locals were very kind and loved talking with us. The poverty in the streets is striking though, with so many people living in such a small space and not enough work.  Many times, when walking into a store, we would notice an excess of employees, all of whom are paid very low wages.  Most of my colleagues in Weifang make less than 1000 RMB a month, which is equivalent to only 140 CAD.

Arhat Temple in Chongqing, China
Arhat Temple in Chongqing, China

After Xi’an, we flew to Chongqing and stayed there for four days to go shopping and visit the local attractions. The Buddhist Arhat Temple we visited is much like the temples I visited in South East Asia, except for the massive buildings and towers you can see rising up around the temple. Chongqing is famous for a dish called hot pot. The dish is comprised of a huge bowl filled with a spicy broth, heated up by a burner in the middle of the table, while raw vegetables and beef are dropped into the broth to cook. It’s a lot of fun and the food is delicious, especially when we had no idea what we were ordering!

After flying back to Qingdao and spending a day at the beach, Aron and I took a short train back to Weifang to start work again while Jackie and Jennifer travelled for another two weeks.  Upon arriving back at work I found that we had moved to an office building one block outside of the university campus.  We’ve been in this building for four weeks now and it’s still under construction!  Attempting to teach twenty seven-year-olds, while a wall that connects to my classroom wall is being constructed, is not an easy task.  We obtained, just yesterday, an internet connection that remains connected for more than ten minutes at a time as well!  It’s a nice building, but it will be nicer when the noise ends and the dust settles.

Last week my back had become very painful and so my manager took me to visit a traditional Chinese hospital, as they do not have family doctors in Weifang.  When I arrived, after listening to my problem, the doctors recommended acupuncture and cupping.  Once the needles were in my back, they attached a small battery to the needles and shocked my muscles for half an hour.  Not the most pleasant experience.  Even worse was the cupping.  Amidst the cries of children next door, the doctors lit glass cups on fire and suctioned them to my back.  It feels like a million hands pinching your skin for ten minutes.  It left large and round purple bruises all over my back, which I thought was very attractive!  I went back for the next three days to endure this “healing”.  Needless to say, I think I’ll just deal with the back pain and have a massage instead!

As for my work, it has been a “learn as you go” experience.  I was able to create new business cards using the program, Photoshop, for the first time.  I have helped coordinate, with the office in Vancouver, the hiring of new co-op students for January.  And most exciting is that last week I organized the beginning of Mandarin lessons for CIBT foreign employees and one other foreign teacher in Weifang.  I now have the opportunity to formally learn Mandarin and the simplified characters!

the author and her co-op friends at a presentation
Co-op students at a presentation

Aron, another co-op student, organized a promotional lecture at a local medical university last week for 1300 students that I was asked to attend.  The other co-op students and I spoke for a few minutes about ourselves and our work.  We had to return the next night for an encore; as over 2000 students tried to attend the first night but they could not all fit into the hall.  Overall, it has been an amazing experience!

Beyond the Blog

SFU Co-op Student
visibility  86
Mar 8, 2011

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.


person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.


You Might Like These... Your Next Co-op

Taylor Mckinney headshot
Why Apply to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

It is a very exciting time to get involved with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)! Taylor shares her experience working at INAC's Yukon regional office and how she gained valuable skills while learning about Yukon First Nations, government and life in the North. 

Picture of Vanessa Clarke
Working with Weebly One Day and WordPress the Next

Things move fast in a Co-op. One day you could be working with your favorite application, completely comfortable, and the next, you'll be tasked with learning an entirely new application. This is what happened to Vanessa in her Co-op, and here's how her first placement went, as well as her favorite things about both Wordpress and Weebly - two applications you may also find yourself using in a Communication Co-op.

Author and her young male student smiling at the camera and holding up tennis balls in both hands.The picture is set in a field with trees in the background.
Making a Difference: My Co-op Experience as a Child Life Specialist

Emily, a Health Sciences Co-op student, worked for Western Society for Children (WSFC) as a Child Life Specialist. This allowed Emily to see the ability within disability, and realize that anyone has the power to make a difference. Read Emily's article to find out more about WSFC, and how good intentions lead to meaningful impacts!