When he was looking for a summer internship, Ryan Colwick wanted one where he could put his creative skills to use in a professional atmosphere.
Instead of searching near his hometown, where friends spent their summers completing routine tasks, he set his sights overseas and landed an internship in Beijing.
Through the company CRCC Asia, which matches students with companies that offer internships in China, Colwick interned at Brand Head, a creative design firm in Beijing’s Chaoyang district.
Over the summer, he worked on multiple projects and utilized skills learned in and out of the classroom.
“They liked me because of my hobbies. I enjoy crafting, building and electrical work with LED strips, making masks and stuff like that,” he says. “So they used the experience that I already had, and then they handed me this huge project designing part of the Christmas light display for the China World Mall, which is the largest mall in Beijing.”
Under the guidance of Brand Head art director Jean-Charles Penot, Colwick worked on various projects, which meant he had to understand Penot’s vision and then make it a reality.
“The trust he showed in me by letting me on so many projects was a big deal to me,” the graphic design major says. “In turn, I tried my best to produce his vision.”
Traveling through China was always an adventure. While Colwick was working on a project, he had to travel two hours on the subway to get to the electronics district. This was the one place in Beijing that had the specific item he needed, but Colwick encountered an obstacle. The people there didn’t speak English.
“I would talk to them through my phone on Google translate, but it doesn’t work if it’s a complex question,” he says. “Saying ‘I need this LED with a 47k resistor to build up power and flash’ just wouldn’t work.”
Colwick says he used hand gestures and drawings to help solve the translation troubles. He eventually found the LED capacitors and created an LED firefly to help with Penot’s idea to stir public awareness of the pollution in China.
“People in Beijing don’t believe that the fog is pollution, but it is,” he says. “There used to be fireflies all over, but because of the pollution they all died or moved to the outskirts of Beijing.”
The fireflies were going to be scattered throughout a Beijing neighborhood. On each LED bug, there would be a QR code for them to scan to learn what was going on and why the fireflies had been placed there.
“The project is about public involvement,” he says. “When people see the fireflies, the older generation will be brought back to their childhood, and they can tell their children and grandchildren about fireflies, and wonder why they’re not around anymore.”
Each of the projects that Colwick worked on expanded his abilities. He highly recommends international internships because in addition to getting professional experience, he was exposed to a different culture while touring China and worked with interns from around the world.
“I put my education to good use,” he says. “The professional experience I gained under Jean-Charles was invaluable, and it pays off, too.”
Colwick may head back to China after he graduates in June. Brand Head offered him a job.