My Suzhou is a That's series when we ask a Suzhou-based somebody to tell us about their life.
Romanian native Coco Albota has been an ambassador for InterNations Suzhou for nearly two years. As her time comes to an end, and she readies herself to pass on the baton, we asked her what it was like to be the heartbeat according to which all of Suzhou runs.
You are from Transylvania in Romania. What brought you to China?
Officially, school. I arrived in Suzhou in 2014, for a one-year exchange master’s program at the French-Chinese Institute. That was the excuse. The real reason? A need for new beginnings, challenges and opportunities. Just a month ago started a new job as an F&B Marketing Manager for Crowne Plaza Suzhou, a great opportunity that I am planning to make the most of!
What is your career background?
Before moving to France in 2011, I worked as a journalist for a couple of regional newspapers in Romania, and then switched to online content. Being part of one of the first waves of web agencies in Bucharest was a great learning experience. I have also worked in event management and web marketing. I moved around a lot.
InterNations @ La Vie Terrace
How did you come to be involved in InterNations Suzhou?
I attended my first InterNations event when I was a student in Suzhou, looking for opportunities to network. By my third event, I received a job offer from a fellow guest. And when I returned for work in 2015, the community was looking for ambassadors.
The title is more pompous than the role, but it is a good tease to start a conversation. The main responsibility is to organize a monthly event in the city where expats get to meet each other, network and interact (locals are of course welcome, too).
For the first year I worked with Mark Huguet, a great guy. When he wasn’t available anymore, Sandy Cipto, who happens to be one of my best friends here, took his role.
During these almost two years we managed to double, and sometimes even triple the number of attendees, find sponsors who provided us vouchers for every event, and host our events at the city’s best hotels and restaurants, while negotiating a good deal for those attending.
What has been the most memorable event?
Hard to choose, I put a lot of heart in each and every one! Maybe the one last year in Carumba Bar at the InterContinental Suzhou. Around 80 people registered, but 101 showed up. It was the biggest one so far and we had an amazing Latino band playing live, it was a hot summer evening – everything just matched!
But for me, InterNations means so much more. It gave me the opportunity to get to know so many amazing professionals from all fields of work, but also some of those who, in time, became my best friends here. It also opened a lot of doors, professionally.
I am very happy that people in Suzhou know me as the one who make connections between people. And it is not only about business. I get introduced to so many new Suzhou expats who want to know where can they meet the Italian community, join a salsa party or have a veggie burger. Seeing them after a couple of months, settled in Suzhou and feeling at home, and knowing that I played a small part – that’s amazing.
InterNations @ Hyatt
So which places do you recommend?
I love the El Luchador beans burrito, the live music in Feeling Bar 188 and the long evenings dancing in Hemingway and Pravda. But Suzhou has a place for everyone – artsy people go to Locke Pub, cocktail lovers to Lunghezza.
Because I work late evenings, I try to put together some awesome parties, a great excuse to get my friends to Mariana, our hotel bar, where we can enjoy cocktails and listen to live piano music. Talk about mixing work with pleasure.
What is the best thing about living in Suzhou?
The people! I call Suzhou ‘The Village,’ and I mean it in the best way possible. With only a couple of popular areas, it is easy to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances. Short distances help if you need to attend two or three events in one evening. People are friendly, curious to discover new venues and incredibly supportive.
InterNations @ Chateau
Can anyone join InterNations Suzhou?
Of course! All you need to do is make an account on www.internations.org. By joining online you have access to a forum with lots of useful advice and you receive an email every time a new event is set to happen. While most of our members live in Suzhou, we had guests coming to our events from neighboring cities – Changshu, Wuxi, Kunshan.
What next, now your time as ambassador has come to an end?
InterNations Suzhou is still very much alive. The HQ in Germany is currently recruiting new ambassadors and they will have our full support. This is a volunteering position which requires a couple of hours of work every month – finding a venue, negotiating a deal, promoting the event – but the personal rewards are, as I mentioned, very special.
As for me, I am focusing on my new job, trying to learn as much as I can so I can!
Register for InterNations Suzhou at www.internations.org