From Indiana (IN) to Suzhou (SZ)

Sullivan’s Apartment in Suzhou

After a lengthy 14-½ hour flight from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, senior, Sean Sullivan arrived at the Shanghai Pudong Airport.  From there, the company driver would take Sean to his new home, an apartment in Suzhou New District, Jiangsu Province, China.  There he would spend the next ten weeks with Univertical Corporation at Univertical International’s Suzhou location, interacting with their culture and familiarizing himself with the company’s international markets.

Univertical, with their primary location in Angola, Indiana, has served the worldwide plating industry since 1938.  The corporation is dedicated to manufacturing superior anodes and chemicals, which are utilized in 33 states and 18 countries.  Univertical prides itself in providing the highest quality, highest purity and best customer service around the globe.

Sullivan, a Marketing/Management double major and employee at Univertical Corporation, works part time at the Angola office as a sales/marketing and quality intern.  The meaningful work experience he has gained since joining the company in May 2011 allowed for him this unique opportunity.

Sullivan’s Desk at Univertical International’s Suzhou location

His days in Suzhou were spent learning about international markets and how business operates internationally.  While across the globe, Sullivan was able to update Univertical’s presentations, research new products, and compile information on new markets in South and East Asia.  The company generously provided Chinese lessons for his convenience twice a week.  And five days a week, Sullivan managed to extend the company’s generosity teaching English classes to his Univertical International coworkers.

Though some of the work atmosphere was similar to that at the office in Angola, he did share some unique differences.  He explained that in China most employees take a van or a bus to their respected workplaces, as he did during his time spent there.  Therefore, it is customary for the business/factory to provide lunch to its employees since returning home for a ‘lunch break’ is unlikely.  The cafeteria was located downstairs of the office spaces and provided a small variety of Chinese cuisine.  “It’s a good thing I liked rice – I could live off the stuff,” Sullivan joked.

The opportunity was also available for Sullivan to help out with the English Scholars Summer Camp at Xinxu School.  The school was located in a village on the outskirts of Suzhou and the Chinese government has invested a great deal into it.  The students are made up of the children of migrant workers, those who have moved to Suzhou from all over China to find work.  Although the school was on summer break, an American non-profit group hosted the camp for local children.

English Scholar’s Summer Camp at Xinxu School

The camp ran from Monday to Thursday and volunteers, both Chinese and American, helped teach English to around 100 Chinese children.  Univertical International helps sponsor the camp, so as the only foreigner in the office at that time, Sullivan had the opportunity to both write and present a speech at the closing ceremonies.

When he got the chance, his free time was spent with his German friends, who were also interning in the area, as well as some local Chinese friends as they explored the world’s most populous country.  The travels included visits to the global city of Shanghai, as well as traveling around Taihu (Tai Lake) in Eastern China and enjoying time under the sun.  Sullivan also spent time touring the neighborhoods of Suzhou by bicycle, dining at local Chinese restaurants and enjoying the diverse culture around him.

This educational journey across the globe was interestingly enough of some familiarity to him, a homecoming of sorts.  The Chinese culture was home to the Sullivan family, as they resided in China’s capital and second largest city, Beijing 15 years ago.

Taihu (Tai Lake) in Eastern China

With his recent return to China, he admits his time away has allowed for many considerable changes in the culture.  “[Back then] the rich were very rich, the poor very poor … you had ‘made it’ if you had a nice bicycle.  Now, you’ll see top of the line cars, Lambos, Bentleys – their middle class is large, and growing at an incredible rate. The Chinese ‘love’ of the Western culture has made the younger generations, for lack of a better term, very materialistic.”

As the interview comes to a close, he encourages me to explore opportunities similar to his.  “Most Americans view the Chinese as an ‘enemy’ of some sorts.  Beliefs aside, there is no denying that China is now as well as the future.  We live in a global market; the United States will play a strong role as the world moves forward, but we must adapt with the change.  It is important for every American to know that there is life outside of their local community, state, as well as our country.”

He takes a minute and shares with me this final thought, “It was an amazing experience, something I wouldn’t trade for the world … I’ve met people from all over the globe along with some local Chinese who were able to shed some light on what it was like ‘growing up’ in China. I consider these people my friends, those from China to Europe and even to Africa, I hope to stay in contact with them all.”

For further information on Sullivan’s experience in China, visit his blog http://seansullysullivan.wordpress.com.  And for information on Univertical Corporation visit them at http://univertical.com/index.html or contact at 260-665-1500.

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 Additional Pictures from Sean’s Trip:

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