Live from Suzhou

11.09.2017

Together with ICL (Integrate Chinese Life) we provide our graduates and apprentices with exceptional professional opportunities abroad. We are excited and proud to participate in this year's program.

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Graduates and apprentices who take advantage of these opportunities will

  • build their self confidence and ability to act autonomously,
  • develop their intercultural communication skills
  • and obtain a global perspective of Schindler’s worldwide operations.

Jan Blunschi reports:

My name is Jan Blunschi, I live in Rothenburg and I finished my apprenticeship as a technical designer with the vocational matriculation qualification currently. I spent the last two years of my apprenticeship in the engineering department of the Top Range Division. I mainly worked on commission solutions for high rise elevators in skyscrapers.

In November, last year, I was asked if I would be interested in a two-month internship at Schindler in Shanghai (China). The internship would be organised mainly through the organisation ICL (Integrate Chinese Life). My answer was «yes». However, I hadn’t made myself big hopes, because a few other apprentices were asked as well.

During the past few months, everything became more concrete and I was asked again, if I would like to do the internship, together with Diego Sanchez (a polytechnician, who started his apprenticeship in the same year as I did). I didn’t need to think about that offer twice and I confirmed immediately. Even if most of the things were unclear at that time.

Those things changed slowly but everything worked out on time. I also got a task from my department that I must fulfil during the two months abroad. I shall analyse how our team in China works with the CAD program and afterwards, I shall improve their working methods with a specific training.

On July 9th, Diego and I sat in the plane towards China, together with three other participants of the ICL internships. In the next two months, I will report weekly about my experiences here in China. Stay tuned.

View from the airplane
On the way to China

Week 8 – Last days in Suzhou, Hong Kong and journey back home

I’ve started the week by doing some different small tasks that needed to be done before I went back home. Whenever the time allowed it, I continued work on the database with the instructions for our engineers. Additionally, I’ve had some discussions about my project. In the meantime, orders have been made for it. But before they can be produced, we need to rework the construction.

Wednesday was my last day in Suzhou. Therefore, we’ve had some final discussions. We discussed, what still needs to be done and how we want to proceed in the future. I couldn’t finish the construction for the test tower in Jiading during my time in China. I will take this task with me and finish it in Switzerland.

Beside of that, many more instructions for the database still need to be done once I’m back in Switzerland. The feedback on the current state of the database was very positive, many colleagues have confirmed they’re already using it and they think it’s very helpful.

Team in Suzhou
With my team in Suzhou

In the evening, I was invited at Damon’s house for dinner. After work, we went to buy food in the supermarket. At his house, he introduced me to his wife and afterwards we had «hot pot». As I expected, it was delicious.

After the meal and after I gave a small present to Damon, I took my way back to Shanghai. There, I’ve started packing my stuff because on Thursday, I flew to Hong Kong.

Hot pot
Hot pot

After a pleasant flight, I sat in the train which connects the airport with the city. I had to go out right after I’ve checked into the hotel because the manager of the engineering department wanted me to come to the office as soon as I arrived in Hong Kong. He wanted to discuss the schedule for Friday.

The engineering department was thinking about purchasing licenses for the 3D-CAD. Because of such a large investment, they wanted to be sure if it’s worth it. Due to that I presented some projects I did with this program and I also showed how to create models and drawings.

I went on a walk to discover Hong Kong in the late evening. Even though I had only a few hours, the city impressed me on one side with its size and how everything is kept clean, on the other side with its multiculturality. Furthermore, different than I knew it from the last two months, almost everyone spoke very good English.

On Friday morning, I presented the CAD program and its database in about two hours. The attendants were impressed by how easy it is to create, edit and receive data with the program. During the presentation, I could answer many questions, which were important for a decision.

At noon, I went to have lunch with one of the future users. He was at the meeting in the morning and positively surprized by the functionality of the program. After the meal, he showed me the area and he took me to a visitor’s platform of a tower next to the Schindler office. The view over the city was beautiful.

Hong Kong
View over Hong Kong

After that, I already had to leave because I had to catch my flight back to Shanghai tonight. During saying goodbye, the manager of the engineering department told me they already decided to purchase two licenses for the CAD program. I was very happy about that.

Due to heavy thunderstorms, my flight to Shanghai had a delay of about 2 hours. I was back in my apartment after midnight. Before I finally went back to Switzerland on Saturday evening, I visited the fake market again to spend my last Yuans.

My flight to Switzerland arrived as planned and I was happy to meet my family and my girlfriend at the airport in Zurich. That was the end of my extremely interesting, intensive and eventful stay in China. I am very thankful, that I got this chance and I am happy, that I took it. I hope there will be similar chances for other apprentices in the future, because what I’ve learned and experienced in China is hard to get in Switzerland.

Week 7 – Swiss visitor, factory visits and closing ceremony

On Monday morning, I travelled together with my colleague to Suzhou and introduced him to the team. When he finished setting up his workplace, I continued my work on the database and created some more instructions.

In the evening, we were accompanied by two Chinese colleagues. They brought us to the hotel, where my Swiss colleague will stay this week and helped him with the check-in. Afterwards, they took us to some nice places in the city. Suzhou at night is even more beautiful than during the day because there is illumination everywhere which creates a very special and impressive ambience.

First we visited the old town and a rebuilt part of the town wall. After that, we went to the lakefront where you can find many bridges and a nice pier. That’s the reason why Suzhou is called ”Venice of the east”. There are small and large rivers which flow between the streets and houses that can be passed by going over variety bridges.

Lakefront by night
Lakefront by night

On Tuesday I worked on the instructions again the whole day. After that I went back to Shanghai in the evening. There was organized a networking event by the community organisation “Young Swiss China” together with their pendants from France, Sweden and Finland. Except from people I already knew, I also met some interesting new persons that all live and work here in Shanghai.

On Wednesday, I went to Jiading again. In the morning, a machine engineer, an electrical engineer and a person from the marketing department guided us through the escalator factory. It was very interesting to get to know more about the second major product of our concern. Right after that, I needed to discuss some points about a project for the test tower with the installation manager.

At noon, we went to the canteen for lunch and had a look at the showroom afterwards. There are show models of many different car claddings and some other products. My colleague was as impressed of the campus as I was.

In the evening I met the people of the ICL Cup to discuss the Swiss promotion event. Unfortunately, I will not be able to take part at this event because I will stay two days in Hongkong for Schindler next week.

Showroom Jiading
Schindler's Showroom in Jiading

The next day, I worked in Suzhou again. In the afternoon, me and my colleague could visit the elevator factory. This factory mainly produced parts for the car. In the evening, we were invited by the team for a team dinner. We went to a restaurant with very traditional dishes from Suzhou, which were delicious. After dinner, we went out to buy souvenirs before going back to the hotel.

Time flies and on Friday it was already time for the closing ceremony of the ICL Cup. The event was hosted by Swissnex, an organisation that helps Swiss and Chinese institutions to communicate with each other.

After a short presentation of Swissnex, the Swiss Center and Skilltrip (a new start-up of the ICL Cup crew), a short retrospection of the time in China was presented. Then, all of us got a certificate that proves our attendance at this internship program. When the event was finished, the ICL crew went out with us to have a drink on the interesting and successful time.

Week 6 - Jiading, Training, Festival and Hangzhou

This was already my sixth of eight weeks in China and I still experience new and exciting things almost every day. I started my week with preparations for a training about drawings of bended parts that fulfil the codes. Beside a checklist and an example drawing, I also prepared a PowerPoint presentation that explains all the important point of such a drawing for my Chinese colleagues.

Test tower Jiading
Test tower in Jiading

On Tuesday morning the quarterly all employee information of Top Range Division China took part at the new Schindler campus in Jiading. After the presentation and lunch, we visited the new test tower at the campus which has a height of more than 200 meters.

The whole campus is very impressive. Everything is huge, modern and well organized. The rest of the afternoon I worked in Jiading. In the evening, I went back to Shanghai. Thanks to the metro and the shuttlebuses provided by Schindler it is more convenient to travel between my apartment in Shanghai and this campus. Compared to the journey to Suzhou, which I did the next day as usual.

On Wednesday, I held the training which I’ve prepared on Monday. I did it twice in total, once for the engineers of my department and once for the engineers of the factory in Suzhou. The attendants of both trainings were interested in the topic that I’ve showed them. Afterwards I gave all of them an access to the Database, where I uploaded checklists, CAD- instructions and drawing codes.

My week went on as interesting as it was. Thursdays, I went to visit a supplier in Suzhou with two of my colleagues. They manufactured a prototype of my construction and built a mock-up installation. We spent the whole morning with the engineers of the supplier and discussing about the problems they faced during the manufacturing process and with checking the correctness of the parts.

During this, we found out that some points were not indicated good enough on the drawing. Also, we noticed, that the whole construction could be made much more cheaper if we implemented some minor changes. The rest of the week, I was working on the construction for the Jiading test tower.

We started the weekend with exploring a part of the Chinese night life culture: karaoke. With a group of seven people we rented a room to test our singing skills.

The Saturday I join the “Life in color” music festival with some friends. The American festival took part for the first time in China and we heard about it by chance. Besides the electronic music, the highlight of this festival is, that you can be sure you will go home completely coloured by paint. This because, on one hand, visitors can buy bottles of paint to paint the other ones and on the other hand, during the concerts there are paint guns that splash into the crowd. Our white clothes looked like rainbows in the end.

Like in Beijing, we were almost the only western people around. Due to that, we were used as photo models by many Chinese. Even the official photographers of the festival liked us and took photos of us.

Life in color
Jan and Diego at the "Life in color" festival

ICL organized a trip to Hangzhou for us on Sunday. This is a city in the neighbourhood of Shanghai. We visited a famous and still active Buddhist temple there. In the Evening, my working colleague landed in Shanghai. He will work in Suzhou the next week. Therefore I had to leave Hangzhou earlier because I wanted to meet him at the airport of Pudong. Even though it visites Hangzhou just for a short time , but I enjoyed to see the temple and the praying Buddhists.

Buddhist temple
Place in front of the buddhist temple

The flight was fortunately on time. After we found each other at the huge airport, we took the maglev train into the centre of Shanghai. I showed him the tallest and most impressive buildings of the city in the short time that was left. After that, we went eating at a restaurant. Then I took him to the hotel with a taxi and went back to my apartment.

Water snake
A seller with his water snake

Week 5 - CAD-model, snake, Bejing and the Great Wall

My fifth week in China started with an urgent task. I had to create a CAD-model of an elevator shaft, which is needed to be shown at a meeting with a costumer. This meeting was on Wednesday, due to that, I worked the first two days of the week only on this task. Fortunately, I could finish on time. The rest of the week, I was working on a construction for our test tower at the new factory in Jiading which I am going to visit next week.

On Tuesday evening, I went to a street in Shanghai with many Chinese restaurants together with my roommates. Besides classical Chinese dishes, also very unusual things have been served. We decided to try water snake. Even though it didn’t taste too good, I will remember this experience for a long time. 

As already mentioned last week, I travelled to Beijing with our Group this weekend. On Friday, all of us took one day off to make the long journey to Beijing worth it. At 5.30 a.m., we had to leave our house to go to the Hongqiao railway station in Shanghai, where our about five-hour long train journey began.

After our arrival in the capital, we first did the check-in at our hotel. Then, we went to visit the Summer Palace. This is a huge and very impressive park with many old palaces and a lake. There were mainly Chinese tourists in this park. Many of them wanted to take pictures with us because we are European and something special for the Chinese people. Therefore, our stay reminded on a photo shooting sometimes. We as well as they had a good laugh there.

In the evening, we went to the famous Olympic Park, where the Olympic summer games took place in 2008. Unfortunately, the weather finished our stay earlier as planned. A storm came up shortly after we arrived. But I was very fascinated of what we’ve seen in the short time.

Summer palace
ICL group in the summer palace

On Saturday, a tour guide took us to the Great Wall. After a two-hour car ride and 30 minutes of hiking, we stood finally in front of one of the most famous buildings in the world. Everyone was astounded by the sight of the wall, which lies on top of the hills like a giant snake as far as our eyes could see. We took some photos, walked on the wall and ate something. After that we took our way back to Beijing.

Back there, we took a short break at the hotel before we went out for dinner. We ate the most famous dish of the city, Beijing duck. All of us liked it very much and it gave us the power to discover the city at night.

The great wall
View over the great wall

On Sunday, I visited the pearl market. Except from pearls, also clothes, shoes and electronical devices are sold there. I bought a couple of souvenirs for me and presents for my family. Afterwards, I went to downtown Beijing. This is a historical part of the city with many restaurants and tourist shops. That was the end of my short but still very exciting trip to Beijing.

Back in Shanghai, I noticed once more that I am living in a metropole. When we tried to take a taxi to our apartment, there was a huge queue across the railway station. After about 90 minutes waiting time, we finally were exhausted in one of more than 60’000 taxis of Shanghai.

Week 4 - 1st August, CAD problems, video conferences and tea ceremony

On Tuesday, 1st August, the Swiss national celebration day took place. Even if we are far away from Switzerland and everyone had to work that day, we celebrated it with a fondue in a real Swiss restaurant in the evening.

On Wednesday, I played badminton in Suzhou again. Afterwards we ate at a restaurant which serves traditional dishes from Suzhou. The highlight was «Suzhou fish». This is a deep-fried fish, which is prepared in a special way. It looks a bit like a hedgehog. At the end, a sweet-sour sauce is added. Tastes as delicious as it looks like.

Suzhou fish
Suzhou fish

I had to deal with many problems with my CAD program this week. Fortunately, with the help of the CAD support all of them could be solved. Furthermore, I arranged two weekly meetings with our engineers where they can ask questions and raise problems they had during their work with the drawing program. Afterwards, I’ll prepare instructions about how to proceed in those cases. Later I’ll put my instructions into a database to make them accessible to everyone.

Many of my Swiss colleagues returned to the office after their holidays this week. This allowed me to hold a couple of video conferences which were important for my further proceeding. Amongst other things, we decided that I mainly shall concentrate on the transfer of knowhow regarding drawing norms in the coming four weeks. I also could forward the feedback from the engineers who are industrialising our project in Suzhou. During the manufacturing process, there occurred several findings which now must be implemented into the finalized manufacturing drawings.

Art district M50
On the way to art district M50

After the Chinese course at the weekend, we visited the art district M50, where many different artists try to sell their artwork in small galleries. Afterwards, we visited a shopping mall for tea with about 200 different tea shops. In one of those, we could try many sorts of Chinese tea in a tea ceremony and purchase them later.

On Sunday, I went to a huge clothes bazar where you could find all kind of clothes from Chinese manufacturers on five floors. After that, I visited Pudong again, which still fascinates me with its huge size and the fact, that there were only agricultural areas 25 years ago.

We also booked a trip to Beijing for next weekend. I’m looking forward to see the Chinese capital and the great wall.

We also booked a trip to Beijing for next weekend. I’m looking forward to see the Chinese capital and the great wall.
We also booked a trip to Beijing for next weekend. I’m looking forward to see the Chinese capital and the great wall.
Tea ceremony
Tea ceremony

Week 3 - Heat, view, factory visit and Suzhou

This week began as hot as the last one. The peak was reached on Tuesday, when the temperatures reached 43°C which felt like 53°C. That was even too hot for the electric power supplier. At this day, something became reality, that I couldn’t imagine before. The electric power for the Schindler factory had been limited so much that only the IT System could be supplied with enough energy to keep running. Due to this reason, all employees could leave the factory at 1 p.m.

Putuo District

Because I had to settle something for my visa in Shanghai I didn’t travel to Suzhou on this day. This allowed me to visit the observation deck of the Shanghai Tower which is with a height of unbelievable 632 meters the second tallest building in the world. It also houses the world’s fastest elevator that drives upwards with a speed of incredible 18 meters per second. Because I was there before sunset, I could see Shanghai at daytime and at night. What a view!

Shanghai before sunset
Shanghai shortly before sunset
Factory visit
Factory visit at Helece

My tasks at the office this week were on one hand to work on a project from Ebikon and on the other hand to study, how the CAD models of our new products work.

On Friday morning, I visited together with Damon the factory of Helece. This is a factory at the edge of town which supplies Steelwork to Schindler. This was the point where I noticed, how important it is to be able to speak Chinese because none of the engineers of Helece spoke another language than Chinese. During the meeting, one of the engineers took out a staple of drawings. I was astounded and happy when I noticed that many of the drawings were created by me.

Beside the daily work and the visit of the Shanghai Tower it was a busy week too. On Thursday, I followed an invitation of ICL to help them with planning an event to promote Switzerland. After a brainstorming session, everybody got the task to think about an option, how to teach the local people about Swiss culture.

The weekend began with a «hello weekend drink» organized by ICL.

Tiger hill
Tiger hill

We went to a museum of modern art after the Chinese lesson on Saturday morning. In the evening, we joined the Swiss national day celebration of the Swiss Club Shanghai. There was available everything the (Swiss-) heart desires such as raclette, potato salad and Lindor chocolate. I was surprized and pleased when I met Schindler employees at the event.

On Sunday, I decided to visit Suzhou with someone of the group because I didn’t have any time to do so after my work during the last weeks. The city surprized me with its variety. We saw some old places with rich tradition like the Tiger Hill or the old town and modern areas like the Industrial Park, with the «Gate to the East».

Also, we saw the questionable Xiangcheng district, where many famous western buildings like the Tower Bridge of London have been copied. A particularly conspicuous aspect was that there were strikingly more construction sites compared to Shanghai. I’m curious how Suzhou will look like in five or ten years.

Week 2 - Prejudices, badminton, language course and fake market

My second week in China started with an announced meeting with our engineer from Jiading, who is currently industrialising one of my constructions. In the beginning, I presented my construction to him and his team. Afterwards I answered their questions. Sometimes, the question-and-answer-session was an uncomfortable situation for me, because the engineers spoke in Chinese to each other. It felt strange because I didn’t understand anything they said. But in the end, everybody left the meeting room happy and I was relieved.

The opening ceremony of ICL took place in the evening of the same day. The organizers presented the background and the target of our internship in China. They also explained us, why it is important for Switzerland to have young people which understand the Chinese culture and why it is an advantage for China, too. Furthermore, we were asked about our prejudices we’ve had before. I must admit, that many of the things I’ve expected in China aren’t true at all.

Factory's own badminton hall
Playing badminton with my team colleagues.

On Wednesday, I’ve booked a hotel near the factory in Suzhou. This allowed me to meet my team privately. Right after work, I went playing badminton with three working colleagues at the factory’s own badminton hall. I’ve had a lot of fun, even though the others were way better than me. Like the last days of the week the temperature was around 40°C this day. Due to this fact, it was very exhausting to play in a hall without air-conditioning. I don’t need to mention that everybody was wet when we were finish. Afterwards we went to have dinner together.

My work week was as diversified as challenging. The main tasks were to write CAD-instructions and clarifications regarding the project that’s getting industrialised now. I noticed, how helpful it is to be able to speak with the people directly instead of discussing everything by phone or email.

Fake market
Fake market

On Saturday, I’ve had my first Chinese lessons in a language school in Shanghai. It was very interesting to see, how the language works and what the background of the characters are. The main topic after a general introduction was the pronunciation of the vowels.

On Sunday, I went to the fake market. The fake market is a big bazar, where most of the vendors sell fake products like watches, shoes or headphones. I was astounded about how good the products were copied but however, I didn’t buy any of them. To calm down after the busy market visit, I went to the Century Park which is located directly above. The park is huge and very impressive. It was a worthy ending of a great week.

Week 1 - Everything new to me

I use the elevator to go down to the road from our apartment at the 19th floor. After that, I ride with the subway to the train station to take the nearly 300 km/h fast high-speed train and then I finally take a taxi to get to the Schindler factory. In short: this is my 1,5-hour trip to work from Shanghai to Suzhou.

One of the first things I’ve recognised was, how much the Chinese government does for safety. It’s not only shown by the high number of police officers all around the city but also in facts such as you won’t get a train ticket without your passport and without a train ticket you can’t even access the train station. At the beginning, it was also a bit unusual, that you must send your bags through a scanner every time you want to enter a station.

Because I’ll stay in China for a long time, I had to get a medical check-up. This included a radiograph, an ultrasonic test, an E.K.G test and the donation of a blood sample. The whole test procedure reminded me of the medical check-up at the recruitment for the military service in Switzerland.

My first day at work was kind of calm. Damon, who’s the responsible person for me in Suzhou, showed me my workplace. I started to set it up right afterwards. Then I started planning the task, that I must fulfil during the next two months. At lunchtime, I was invited to have a Chinese meal with my team. I enjoyed it, as everything I tried to eat so far. My new team colleagues were a bit disappointed, when I started to eat with the chopsticks without any problems. They already brought me a fork, but I didn’t use it.

Schindler Suzhou
Schindler campus in Suzhou

On my second day at work my supervisor was in the office. Right in the morning, we had a meeting to discuss his expectations from me and the goals I should reach during my internship in China. There were some more topics additionally to the CAD training. The rest of my week I organized myself and prepared things for the next week. On Monday, I’ll meet an engineer of the factory in Jiading, who is currently industrialising one of my constructions. He would like to ask me a few questions.

As soon as possible, I started exploring Shanghai. I was fascinated of the size everything has but I also was exhausted by the huge number of people everywhere. The one thing, that impressed me the most was the skyline of the district Pudong, which you can see from the other side of the Huangpu river.

Skyline of Pudong
Jan with the beautiful skyline of Pudong

Thanks to the fact that we travelled to China in a group, I never had to go somewhere on my own - except the work. The communication within the group fortunately works very well, although there are people from the German and from the French part of Switzerland. As everyone in the group, I enjoy it to be in China. After some minor problems in the beginning, I’ve become familiar with everything now. I’m very curious about what awaits me within the next week.