I should preface this blog post by stating that unlike most other contributors, I am neither American nor Chinese. Rather, I’m Australian! My name is Dustin, and I’m the new intern at Project Pengyou.
But you might now be wondering, why would an Australian be working at Project Pengyou, an online community for Americans who have lived or studied in China? My nationality should not imply that the work of Project Pengyou is either irrelevant to me or that I am incapable of appreciating its worth. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. So, in order to understand why I chose to complete my internship at Project Pengyou, you need to know a little about my background.
After graduating from Deakin University in Melbourne, where I studied Psychology, I began professional employment in the welfare sector. I predominately worked with child protection clients, refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. Although many of the clients that I worked with came from disadvantaged backgrounds, their determination for a better future inspired me to learn more about the world and my place in it. I decided to return to school, in order to get a second degree in International Studies. It was during this period that I was truly made aware of the pivotal role that the United States holds within the global community, and the unlimited potential for China as a ‘rising’ global power.
The US and China are two of Australia’s major trading partners. Australia shares close ties with both countries in terms of diplomacy, economy and security. Clearly our futures are linked. Given this, I believe it is important that diplomatic decisions between the US and China be made by those with an intimate knowledge of the opposite culture. One way of achieving such knowledge is through studying and living abroad, which offer more insights than anyone could ever hope to learn from a textbook. Yes despite all of this, I was surprised to learn that the number of Americans studying in China has remained well below the number of Chinese studying in the US. This means that the hope of future US leaders having an intimate knowledge of China may not be realized. I believe helping promote Project Pengyou can be an excellent way to achieve this goal.
With this in mind, when I was asked by my University to select an international internship to undertake, I could think of nothing more interesting and rewarding than Project Pengyou located in Beijing. Living in China while completing my internship has certainly cemented the idea in my mind that there is no better way to gain an insight into another culture than to immerse yourself within it. My immersion has given me a wider perspective, and the chance to see things from another side of the world that may have seemed strange or peculiar before. I have no doubt that when I return home after two months, I will simply have a better understanding of the world, not just of China or the US.
All of this also reinforces my belief in communities like Project Pengyou. In my previous jobs, I witnessed the positive difference that a strong and proactive community of people can make in transforming the world into a better place. I believe that Project Pengyou is no different and has the potential to do the same on a global scale.