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Experience report: internship at Boehringer Ingelheim in Shanghai

A scholarship from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts enabled Henrik Baran to do an internship at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH and Co. KG in Shanghai. From March to August 2013, Henrik worked in the company's Global Biopharma Engineering & Technology department where he was involved in cleanroom planning. He was also project coordinator in charge of redeveloping company premises. Here he summarises his experiences during his six-month stay in China.

Henrik’s research group in Shanghai. © Henrik Baran

I am studying building climate at the Biberach University of Applied Sciences and did a six-month internship at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH und Co. KG in Shanghai. When I arrived in Shanghai, I was faced with a challenge that I had not really thought about before I left. Hardly anybody in the street speaks English. So at first, I found it quite difficult to find my way around and cope with everyday life. 

Boehringer Ingelheim provided me with a small apartment in the “German Centre Shanghai”, which was close to where I worked and meant that I did not have to look for a place to live myself. My Chinese colleagues were very helpful, especially Ms. Hu, who made lots of phone calls in Chinese for me. That said, I would like to recommend to everyone to learn some basic Chinese before coming here. This makes it not only easier to deal with everyday life, but also gives a very good impression to Chinese colleagues. Boehringer Ingelheim enabled me to do a Chinese language course. This was excellent and helped me to make myself understood in everyday life after a relatively short period of time. 

Work and activities

I found the activities of Boehringer’s Global Biopharma Engineering & Technology department very interesting. I was involved in the planning of a cGMP (current good manufacturing practice; ed. note: current means that technologies and systems that are up-to-date must be employed in order to comply with the regulation) biopharmaceutical production plant, and my work focused specifically on the design and dimensions of the company’s new cleanroom laboratories. We had to implement both European and company regulations in China. I also worked on identifying areas where we could save energy. Many of my ideas have been integrated into the design of the new plant. The work I did was not only technically challenging, but also taught me a lot, especially as far as working with my Chinese colleagues was concerned. The Chinese way of thinking and working differed significantly from what I had been used to before.

I also had the responsibility of renovating and redeveloping office areas in the German Centre Shanghai. I was in charge of coordinating the entire project and was entrusted with the interesting tasks of negotiating with service providers, awarding contracts for building services, carrying out procurement and ensuring cost recovery. 

Based on my experiences, I can recommend to everyone to spend some months in China. Getting insights into the Chinese world of work early on during your studies is excellent preparation for a possible collaboration with Chinese partners in your later career.

Impressions of the country

In addition to working, I took time out to look around Shanghai and the Chinese hinterland. Together with European friends who were also doing internships or working in Shanghai, I visited the cities of Suzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Beijing and Qingdao. All of us loved the delicious Chinese cuisine. Of all buildings we visited, I found the Great Wall and the Forbidden City particularly impressive. My stay in China provided me not only with insights into modern China, but also with insights into the fascinating culture of the old Chinese empire.

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/experience-report-internship-at-boehringer-ingelheim-in-shanghai