Volunteer Review: Martyna Kopacz - Law in China
In July 2011 I went to China for one month to volunteer on a Law project in Shanghai. I had no idea what to expect, to be honest I was a bit scared but still enthusiastic. When I went got on the plane at Munich Airport I asked myself: “What are you doing? Is going alone to China, without any friends or acquaintances a good idea? Are you crazy?”
First Impressions of China
All my doubts disappeared when I got into a taxi with Rico, a Projects Abroad staff member who picked me up from the airport. When I got to the apartment I was surprised - we had a huge living room, kitchen and 2 bathrooms! The flat was situated on the 14th floor, so we had an amazing view.
Rico showed me the most interesting places near my accommodation and it appeared that my way from the apartment to the metro station would be through the park, where every morning lots of Chinese people exercised.
I was a bit scared about starting work the next day so in the evening my lovely roommate took me for dinner; we had a lot of fun and I didn’t even think about my first day at work.
My Law project
My supervisor, William, took care of me throughout my placement. He gave me my own desk and even brought me my own coffee machine because I told him that I love coffee. He also brought me a lot of calendars, maps, CDs with Chinese music and, most importantly, he gave me a book in English about Chinese Law.
During my first few days I was preparing a comparison between the Scottish and Chinese legal system, as before going to China I read many books about Chinese law. Moreover, the presentation about the Chinese legal system organized by Projects Abroad helped me a lot. A Chinese lawyer told us lots of interesting facts about the Chinese legal system and we were able to ask lots of questions.
After one week at work, I had prepared my own draft of a contract. It was a new experience to me, but was very successful as William congratulated me and said that I did a good job. A few days later he told me that he got a phone call from the client and he said that contract was really well prepared.
I would start work at 10am, so I was leaving my flat at 9am, although if I was late there was no problem - sometimes I was even the first one at the office. Every day I went for lunch with William and got to try many different foods. I would finish work at around 4 or 5pm, but if I wanted to finish earlier there was no problem and William or other employees also helped me to find my way to museums or other monuments.
Free time in China
Whatever you enjoy doing in your free time you certainly won’t get bored or feel lonely. I love traveling so every weekend I visited historic places, monuments and did general sightseeing. One weekend I took Friday off work so 10 volunteers and I could go to Beijing for the weekend. We organized a trip to the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and we ate a delicious duck from Beijing.
Projects Abroad took care of us, not only during the day time, but also during the evenings and weekends. Each Wednesday we gathered in Judys, a Mexican restaurant, for dinner and every weekend Projects Abroad’s staff organized special events such as dinner in typical Chinese restaurant, bowling, karaoke etc.
During my placement in Shanghai I met a lot of clever, interesting and funny people and I made friends there who I am still in touch with. At the end of October we had a reunion at one of our friends’ houses in London.
I am also still in touch with William (my supervisor). At least once a month we send each other emails. He even offered me job in his office after my graduation and his clients, with whom we went for business meetings, invited me to Singapore or Hong Kong for other placements.
This trip was the best thing I have ever done. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay there longer but that one month was the most amazing in my life. In such a short time I made so many friendships. If I had any problems (for example I lost my phone or broke the key to my flat) the local staff was so friendly and helpful so I didn’t have to worry about anything.
Certainly Shanghai is one of the most exciting cities in the world. Nobody I know went home disappointed. In fact almost everyone was crying that they had to leave, no matter how long they stayed.
Half a year has passed and I still miss Shanghai, even today I was cleaning my room and I have found some souvenirs form Shanghai and honestly, I shed a tear! I recommend these projects to everyone; it is a great opportunity to practice your skills in certain areas, meet new friends and experience new places.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.