When I signed up for an internship with IES Internships, the most I was hoping for was an internship that would stand out on my resume. Little did I know my time with the Oriental Danology Institute would mean getting to work with a tight-knit family and enjoy homemade food every lunch.
The Oriental Danology Institute, aka ODI, is an environmental non-profit in Shanghai founded by Lei Zhou and his wife Jinjing Li. ODI works with other companies to help become more environmentally aware and with Lei’s background in anthropology, he also works to make sure the human aspect of environmental changes aren’t forgotten. Lei and Jingjing run ODI out of their house in Shanghai, along with a special private preschool for their young son and a few other children. I work with one other intern, a college student from Canada a few years older than me, and our little office is cozy. The homey atmosphere and care my bosses show make it more like a family, and going to the office never feels like I’m clocking in 9 to 5.
But by far what makes me the luckiest intern in Shanghai is Ayi. Ayi is the nanny for the family, and she is one of the sweetest people ever. She doesn’t speak too much English, but with my limited Chinese we can talk a bit. Every day for lunch she makes delicious home made food for the staff and kids, mostly traditional food from regions all over China. The first day she made a Shanghai specialty of pork, served with tomato soup. That’s when I knew I was one lucky intern, and be sure to bring my camera every day to lunch.
The best is when Ayi makes a food I’ve never eaten before, and my co-workers have to show me how to eat it. I’m usually too embarrassed to ask, but sometimes someone will see me struggling and offer to help. The second day she made a bowl full of bright red crawfish, and I sat and watched everyone tear into them before grabbing one for myself. It was still a struggle, Ayi and Lei had to help me a bit, but it was delicious and very worth it. The same pattern repeated with chicken feet the next day, and special soft boiled crabs caught by a local fisherman and guest of the family.
I’m more than happy to be with ODI, not only for the important work they do but also for how welcoming they’ve been. I’ve gotten to know my co-workers, their family, and it’s never felt like work. These little lessons in real Chinese culture and spending time with a family have been one of my favorite parts of interning in Shanghai.
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<p>Lily is a journalism student at Emerson College and is excited to be spending her summer in Shanghai. She loves traveling, learning about new cultures, and eating all the best local food. Exploring one of the most exciting places in the world, follow Lily as she explores her roots and Shanghai!</p>