Packaging student learns on the job while in China

By University Communications
November 30, 2015
UW-Stout packaging major Wang Lee, of Wausau, sees the famous Chinese terracotta warrior sculptures in Xian, China, while working this fall at Bosch Power Tools in Hangzhou, China. The Cooperative Education experience is through Career Services at UW-Stou

Photo: UW-Stout packaging major Wang Lee

Wang Lee has learned a lot about packaging and China since arriving in the country at the end of July, and he expects to learn plenty more before he returns to University of Wisconsin-Stout at the end of January.

Lee, a senior packaging major from Wausau, does not expect, however, to figure out the traffic in China. “There are traffic laws here, but no one really follows them. It’s a game of Mario Kart almost every time you enter a taxi,” he said, referencing the popular video game.

Experiencing Chinese life, from traffic to food to sightseeing, is one of the side benefits of an international educational experience Lee never thought possible. Thanks to his undergraduate program director, Associate Professor Robert Meisner, it was.

Meisner worked with Bosch Power Tools of North America to create a UW-Stout Cooperative Education position in 2014. The position, through UW-Stout’s Career Services, is with Bosch in the Chicago metro area.

In fall 2014, Lee became the first student to participate in the new Bosch Power Tools co-op. More than 1,000 UW-Stout students participate in co-op experiences each year. The program integrates college studies with paid work experiences.

While in the position, Lee learned about a similar opportunity at a Bosch facility in Hangzhou, China. He applied with Bosch, again, and was accepted in May.

In early November, Lee discussed his experience to date in China:

Q: What are you doing day-to-day during the co-op at Bosch? 

A: Although I am not directly working with the machines all the time, I do work directly with the line engineers and supervisors daily. I have projects I’m solely responsible for, thus I am kept busy. In addition, I work with our European and North American counterparts daily in order to design and manufacture the packaging you see on all Bosch brands in the U.S. and Europe. On a daily basis, I attend meetings, do communications, make vendor calls, etc. I also get the opportunity to spend time with the packaging manufacturing lines.

Q: What skills are you learning?

A: The newest one is Chinese packaging standards and procedures. You would be surprised at how knowing their mindset and standards helps a great deal daily on the job. Skillwise, the only packaging-related skill I’ve learned is how to handle certain manufacturing components/lines/programs. I have to be vague due to a confidentiality agreement.

Q: How well have your classes at UW-Stout prepared you?

A: I would have to say very well. My packaging classes have helped me build a strong knowledge foundation. I am able to understand and communicate packaging terminology and related talk that goes on at work. To read and learn packaging theory and applications at school is interesting. However, to actually apply what I have learned is a satisfying feeling.

Q: How has the experience, so far, reaffirmed your career decision?

A: The experience thus far has definitely reaffirmed my career choice. I have been granted so many opportunities and have been able to meet great people and see amazing places. Even though this is just an internship, it has allowed me to see why so many have started to flock to the packaging industry. The work is so diverse, you meet amazing people and you see something new every day. I know I made the right choice.

Q: In general, what’s it like working and living in China?

A: If I had to sum it up in a few words, I would say, “Keep an open mind.” The work culture, environment and social norms are totally different than what most Americans are used to. The work environment is more relaxed than most Asian and western countries. The people are nice and very open to helping out. Everything is a new adventure — trying authentic Chinese food, seeing the beautiful West Lake and all the nice expensive cars. You will see more high-end cars here than in most metro U.S. cities; Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis, BMWs and Audis are a common sight in Hangzhou. I’ve had the chance to travel many places in China, like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Xian and Xiamen. Also I’ve been able to travel abroad to Korea and Thailand.

Q: How have you overcome the language barrier? 

A: I have not overcome the barrier completely yet. I have the basics down like hello, goodbye, how are you, where is the bathroom, etc. However learning Chinese when everyone already assumes you are Chinese is hard. My co-workers all speak English so they help teach me words and are also able to explain to me in English, which is extremely helpful. However the way I have learned the most is just listening to regular people speaking Chinese; the submersion itself forces you to learn.

For more information about UW-Stout’s packaging program, go here>>.