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Intern Abroad

Living in Sevilla

25. August 2022 | von
  • Spain, Sevilla
  • Architecture M.Sc.
  • April 2022 – July 2022

 

My internship in Spain was very spontaneous. I applied right before the six weeks deadline and when the Erasmus confirmation came I had only three weeks left to find a flat, book a flight and insurances. I thought that would be an impossible task and almost didn’t try at all. Looking back, I am so happy that I did try! Because everything worked out just fine just as it usually does and after the slightly exhausting organization I had some of the best months so far.

© Smilla Schäfer

Before going to Sevilla, I had this expectation of the Spanish people to be as openhearted and extroverted as I knew it from the South Americans. I was a little shocked to find this to be not very true, at least in my experience. It definitely took some time to figure the people out and make genuine connections and I am very grateful that I had this time!

Where I found this expectation to be true was in my Mexican flatmate. She made the first weeks so much easier for me and I found a great friend in her. During the weekends we would go for trips around Sevilla, for example to Granada, Cadiz Lagos, and during the week for Tapas and Tinto de Verano in the evenings. I am very happy to have met her and cannot wait to visit her in Mexico next year! So, I recommend to not get a flat alone but with flatmates because that is a great way to meet other people that don’t work in the same office.
In the architecture office, in which I did my internship, I met some great people too. The other interns were mainly from Italy and especially with one of them I became good friends. Once a week we would go to our favourite bar, Galeria Taberna Anima, together with my flatmate where they played Flamenco Music every Wednesday. Highly recommend that. Another intern was from Croatia and one week a few friends of hers came with one of her professors from Slovenia to visit her and our office.

© Smilla Schäfer

This was a very happy coincidence because I connected well with them and now will start my next internship in their office in a few weeks.

So, the thing I am most grateful for are definitely the people I met and the connections I made during this internship!

© Smilla Schäfer

But besides that, I also fell in love with Andalucia and Sevilla itself. The landscape with its mountains and beaches is stunning and the culture so rich that there seems to be a different fiesta or feria every other week. I loved to live by this new rhythm – work in the morning, siesta in the evening and going out at night -, I loved the food and how they put olive oil on everything and I even loved the climate, although I am not going to lie, the late July with 46 degrees every day was hard. If you go to Sevilla, make sure your apartment has airconditioning!

Because of the heat the office had a special summer schedule. We would start at 8am and leave the office at 3pm. An exception was the time right before a submission deadline, when everybody had to stay longer but in general everybody left really punctual. Non-negotiable was the coffee break at 11am. The office had no coffee machine, so we left the office to go to the next bar in small groups every day. Very quickly the Coffee and Tostada con Aceite y Tomate became a daily ritual for me and I already miss that.

In conclusion I can say that this internship abroad contributed highly to my professional growth as an architect and allowed me to network with a lot of interesting people but also helped a lot to my personal growth and gave me many great experiences! I recommend taking this chance and just doing it to everyone who might be thinking about it.

My experiences in Bristol

25. August 2022 | von
  • United Kingdom, Bristol
  • Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Computer Engineering (M.Sc.)
  • March 2022 – August 2022

 

I lived in Bristol for five months as part of the UNITECH programme. The programme aims to connect engineering students with each other and with companies and to promote the development of soft skills. Part of the programme is a semester abroad at one of the participating universities in Europe and an internship at one of the companies. I decided to do an internship at Infineon Technologies UK Ltd., which at the same time covered the industrial internship I had planned in my Master’s programme.

Through the UNITECH programme, I already had direct contact with Infineon’s HR department, which meant that there was no need for a traditional application process. I wanted to do the internship in a non-German-speaking European country and work on both technical and non-technical tasks. Therefore, a position in the sales area in Bristol was suggested to me, which I accepted after a discussion with my future supervisor.

© Maike van den Berg

© Maike van den Berg

I was paid like a graduate student for the internship, which in my eyes was a high salary for an intern by German standards, but not necessarily for young professionals. The funding of the internship as an Erasmus+ internship was especially helpful when applying for a visa.

Because of the Brexit, I needed a visa to be able to work in the UK. The process – as mentioned above – was greatly simplified by the Erasmus funding. I applied for a Tier 5 visa with the help of the RWTH. I had to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship from the British Council, with the RWTH as the sending institution and the company as the receiving/host institution. With this Certificate of Sponsorship, I was then able to apply for the visa online.

I found a room in a shared house in Bristol through SpareRoom, which is similar to WG Gesucht. Living in Bristol is very expensive and I was lucky to find something affordable close to the city centre. Right at the beginning I bought a British prepaid card (ASDA Mobile) so that I could then open a bank account. It was all done online and I went to Lloyds Bank.

My experience in Bristol can be divided very well into professional and private.

© Maike van den Berg

© Maike van den Berg

The internship didn’t really live up to my expectations, partly due to the fact that my supervisor left the company a few weeks after the start of the internship and there was no real replacement, and partly due to the office culture at Infineon in Bristol. Due to the restructuring following the termination of my supervisor, I often lacked a direct contact person and received little feedback on my work despite repeated requests. This was depressing, especially because I had no experience in the sales field and was therefore often somewhat disoriented. However, the internship also included technical projects, which I enjoyed much more and which made me feel more comfortable in the team. In addition, there was little active social life in my office and most of my colleagues were much older than me. Even though I had consistently good experiences in direct contact, no real personal relationships were formed.

These rather disillusioning experiences were more than made up for by everything outside of work! Through my housemates, I had a lot of contact with people my own age locally. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to join any societies at the university because I would have had to be a local student, but I did find a basketball team and made friends through it.

I found Bristol to be a great place to live. It’s a very progressive city with a great arts and culture scene and lots of concerts, some of which are free. There is an almost endless choice of vegan restaurants and many local ciders and beers. The harbour in the city adds to the atmosphere and there are many beautiful parks for warm summer evenings (I was very lucky with the weather during my time there!). Also, the proximity to Wales offers many opportunities for beautiful hikes in the hilly countryside. Unfortunately, the national parks there are not so easy to reach by public transport, so we often rented a car privately via Karshare.

Compared to Germany, the UK is more expensive in all areas. The cost of living was quite high and I found public transport especially expensive.

© Maike van den Berg

© Maike van den Berg

That’s why I bought a bicycle right at the beginning, which saved me a lot of expensive bus rides.

I am more than happy that I was able to do the internship in Bristol! The internship itself probably helped me the most in that I now know what is important to me in a future job and how I would (not) like to work. At the same time, of course, the insight into a large company was also interesting, as it gave me the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people at Infineon’s different locations.

Everything aside from the internship was what particularly enriched my time in Bristol. I found the British people I met to be incredibly friendly and open and I felt like I was living in a city where many things are possible.

Helsinki – A truly livable, diverse and exciting city

10. August 2022 | von
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Materials Engineering, PhD
  • April 2022 – July 2022

 

At the end of 2021, I have decided to spend three months on a research stay at Aalto University in the Finnish capital. Finland has attracted me for quite some time. It appealed to me to learn how people live in the northern countries of Europe, how the much-praised education and social system works, and what it’s like to live with 20 hours of sunshine a day. The opportunity for the research stay came about through a long-term collaboration with Aalto University.

I found out more about Helsinki through former student colleagues and friends. They suggested me to apply for a room in one of the many student dormitories. Everyone recommended the student agency HOAS. Through HOAS I got a cheap room in a 6-person shared flat. Only exchange students that studied in Helsinki for a semester were accommodated in my apartment building. This meant that we always spent a lot of time together. Whether it was going to the sauna, having dinner together or kayaking in the early evening, there was always something going on. However, it takes much more effort to get in closer contact with Finnish people than with internationals. Therefore, I joined a soccer club at the beginning of my stay and thus came into exchange with the locals. It is also possible to meet the locals in everyday university life, but you should be aware that building a friendship is not as easy as in other cultures. Nevertheless, you can learn a lot from the Finns. I found it impressive with which composure things were accepted and how pragmatically solutions were found. Moreover, I had the feeling that Helsinki is a city for all people. A very good public transport network, a developed bicycle path system, clean barbecue areas and public saunas. In addition, the low crime rate makes Helsinki a very livable city.

In particular, the public library Oodi, where, in addition to the possibility of borrowing books, there are also offers for young children, video games, workstations, sound studios, 3D printers and much more. A place for young and old; rich, and poor. A place for exchange across social classes and age boundaries. Very impressive!

From Helsinki you can also visit the Estonian capital Tallinn. The crossing by boat takes just 2.5 hours and costs less than 10 euros per trip. There you can see the influence of the European Union: Neighborhoods are being modernized, digitalization is being pushed hard, infrastructure is being expanded. For me, the contrast between the old Soviet structures and the influence of European ideas was very exciting to observe. While older people spoke Russian and Estonian in the markets of the Estonian capital, English was clearly heard more often among the younger generation. Young people wanted to belong to the EU and be a part of the idea of a common Europe.

Finns like distance and in this case, it has nothing to do with the pandemic, but it is a good habit not to get too close. There is one exception, however: the sauna. In saunas, Finns are very talkative, moving close together to make room for everyone. It’s a place for socializing and sharing, and I’ve spent a few evenings there with colleagues, roommates, and new friends.

In summary, I can say that the Finnish capital is truly livable, diverse, and exciting. I am glad and grateful to have been given this opportunity for a research stay. Finally, my personal advices for staying in Helsinki as a student: live in HOAS dormitory, buy HSL-City Bike subscription (35 euros for 6 months), visit the beach on Pihlajasaari, go kayaking, go to Tallinn, eat cheap sushi, spend time in Oodi, discuss with Finns in the sauna, spend long summer nights at public barbecue places, drink cheap beer in Kallio district and try Finnish salmon soup.

Writing a Master Thesis in Milan

01. August 2022 | von
  • Italy, Milan
  • Management and Engineering in Technology, Innovation, Marketing and
    Entrepreneurship M.Sc.
  • March – June 2022

 

I am happy to share some insights on my time abroad in Milan, Italy. During that time, I conducted research on my Master thesis at Politecnico di Milano. I am solely responsible for the content of this report.

Preparation
Prior to applying for the Erasmus+ Internship grant, there are several steps to be taken independently from the country or city you will be studying at. In my case, didn’t do an internship but wrote my Master thesis at a foreign university. Therefore, preparation included looking for interesting institutes or researchers across Europe, who have expertise in a specific field you are interested in writing a thesis in. A decent approach is to search for relating papers or studies, for example. After you have set eyes on a specific institute, I suggest writing a short research proposal. This includes 5-10 pages where you are explaining your motivation and your expertise regarding the specific research topic. Additionally, I suggest you write a short introduction to a possible topic that seems suitable as Bachelor/ Master thesis. Once you are in contact with respective researchers at the institute you applied for, you can start looking for an internal supervisor at RWTH. The overall topic of the thesis can then be “finetuned” between the three parties. From my expertise (I also wrote my Bachelor thesis externally), it shouldn’t be a big problem to find an internal supervisor as long as the external institution seems interesting! The actual application for the Erasmus grant is quite self-explanatory and convenient, so no need to further explain it in this report.

There is not much to consider before moving to Milan, as it quite easy to move around the European Union. However, when living in Italy you need to register for an Italian tax number. Just contact the Consulate of Italy in Cologne before the movement and they will send you a respective number.

Living in Milan
Everyone who has been to Italy before, knows exactly the Italian kind of vibe. And even though Milan is in the northern part of Italy, the so-called business part, you can truly feel this Italian spirit in Milan. Enjoy the food and all the Aperitivos you will have during your time abroad! Milan truly offers a lot of great restaurants, bars, and cafes. But don’t fall into the tourist trap and rely too heavily on websites like TripAdvisor and Co. Rather try out Pizzeria Assaje for an amazing pizza! Because by doing so, it can easily get quite expensive without the food actually being delicious. Thus, I suggest walking around the streets and absorbing the atmosphere. I am quite certain that you will quickly find a great place to eat. Especially, the district Citta Studi where the PoliMi is located offers great localities. But the great part about Milan is its great variety of districts that all offer other specialties. Navigli, for example, is famous for its many bars and the two canals that are filled with tourists during the day. In contrast, Porta Venezia is known as gay district and also offers great bars including a lot of clubs, whereas Moscova is rather a more expensive area where the wordl famous Duomo is also located. Other than that, almost every day you can find a lot of people gathering on public places. The infamous, Piazza Leonardo right in the center of PoliMi offers a great atmosphere with hundreds of students gathering every weekend and some DJs playing some music. Milan as the creative and fashion capital of Italy offers lots of intellectual places. Fondazione di Prada or Pinacoteca di Brera displays great art and amazing architecture. Many museums offer student discounts. Pinacoteca di Brera, for example, just costs 2€ per person.

© Jason Grüninger

Picture from the stands of the San Siro stadium (Inter Milan vs AS Roma) © Jason Grüninger

Other than that, the San Siro stadium accommodates both Milanese teams AC Milan as well as Inter Milan. So, plenty of possibilities of embracing the incredible atmosphere in this stadium while watching first class football.

In summer, Italians are usually driving to the seaside themselves. You should do the same because Milan is quite empty in August! On a side note, as you are not included in any official welcome days by the host university, I suggest writing the RWTH authorities and asking them to share your contact details with the other moving students from RWTH. In this way, you already get to know some people before going abroad and can discuss common difficulties.

Accommodation/ Transport
For accommodation I recommend using Housing Anywhere. In Italy it is common that you don’t get to know your flat mates before you haven’t actually rent a room in the respective apartment. In my opinion that quite weird, but it is what it is. Just don’t be surprised! Another surprise can come with the prices for flats in the central districts. However, I suggest embracing the opportunity and really getting the most out of your time abroad by staying in the cool districts like Citta Studi, Porta Venezia, Washington, Moscova, Navigli. Otherwise, you might have to drive quite long distances, specifically because the metro stops working after 1pm and you have to use buses instead. Regarding the transportation, get yourself a monthly metro ticket. You just need a picture and then can file for the ticket at one of the ATM offices in the metro stations. The ticket costs 22€ per month and also allows you to take buses. Riding a bike in Milan is no fun because of cobblestones, bad streets, etc., so better use the public transport. Safety is not an issue in the public transport. Just be careful when taking the night buses, but no more caution is needed than anywhere else in big European cities.

© Jason Grüninger

Lago di Como pictured in Lecco © Jason Grüninger

Around Milan

Milan is located in a great region. You are close to the mountains, as well as close to Lago di Como, Lago di Maggiore, and Lago di Garda. Enjoy some sun and take a dip at these destinations, it’s just an hour away from Milan by train!

Lecco, for example, is easy to reach and offers a cute little town at the stunning beginning of Lago di Como. I also went to Venice for two days, which is also quite close (3 hours by train).

© Jason Grüninger

Busy street on a sunny day in Turin © Jason Grüninger

Additionally, Turin is close by and is definitely worth a visit! An absolutely underrated visit is the city of Bergamo. Especially the old town of Bergamo is beautiful and definitely worth a visit.

I hope this report gives you a good first impression of your time abroad.
I wish you a wonderful time in Milan!

 

My experiences in Sweden

19. Juli 2022 | von
  • Sweden, Linköping
  • Electrical Engineering M.Sc.
  • 02/2022 – 06/2022

 

In the following I will report about my internship abroad with Erasmus+ in Sweden, which I conducted in the 4th semester of my Master’s studies in Electrical Engineering.

Preparation and search for an internship

Before I started my internship, I already did an Erasmus study semester in Stockholm at the KTH. Therefore, my start in the internship was probably very

© Max Renner

© Max Renner

different to most other people who come directly from their home country, because I was living in Stockholm already since August 2021. My studies ended in January 2022. However, I wanted to stay longer than half a year and for that an internship was the perfect possibility, since it is a mandatory part of my Master’s studies anyway. So, in January, shortly before the Erasmus studies ended, I began looking for an internship. Very important to know about internships in Sweden is that they normally do not exist in the form they do in Germany. Most companies only offer Master’s thesis opportunities and internships only during the summer months in a fixed context. Internships in the normal working schedule as they are usual in Germany are rare. I also sent a couple of speculative applications to companies, but the feedback was very sparse. In the end I managed to find an internship by contacting my professors from KTH, one of whom referred me to a professor who held a guest lecture in that course. He had a project in mind which was suitable for an internship and so it worked out in the end. In conclusion, it might be hard to find an internship in Sweden (apart from Master’s theses) outside the summer months. It might still be worth trying, but without personal connections it will probably be a bit harder than in Germany to find a fitting spot.

© Max Renner

© Max Renner

Formalities

The formalities were very conveniently fulfilled. From the company’s side, I at some point got a working contract and once it was signed everything was practically done. It all worked out even without the personal number, which usually is needed in Sweden for pretty much everything. But it is only possible to obtain it if one stays at least a full year. But still, formalities and payment were no issue even without the number, at least in my case. The Erasmus+ paperwork was also very easily done. I got a list of what I should hand in, and after I took care of that I already got the Erasmus funding pretty quickly. Regarding the health insurance, I relied on the European Health Insurance Card which I had by being health-insured in Germany. For getting the covid vaccine in Sweden it worked out, otherwise I luckily did not have to use it. I still had my apartment in Stockholm from my previous Erasmus semester, so I did not have to look for a new one. However, it was not very good and extremely expensive (800€ per month – only possible thanks to the Erasmus funding). Apartments in Stockholm are very hard to find, especially as a non-student, so I kept my apartment even though it was so expensive. I found it on blocket.se, but lots of other apartments are also rented out on Facebook. Students in Stockholm also have access to SSSB student housing, which is probably the best and cheapest option, but as an intern who is not also studying at a university in Stockholm that is not possible as far as I know. (The rents in Stockholm are capped by law. Two Swedish friends said my rent would surely be too high and that I could claim part of the money easily back. I will try that, but since the process is not yet finished, I can not say whether or how good this works.)

Job and everyday life

The internship was supervised by a guest professor from one of my courses, as already mentioned. I worked for Ionautics AB, and the internship was done in cooperation with the Linköping University. I conducted experimental work in the area of High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering, a technique for deposition of thin films. Since the main purpose of my internship was research, we are now, after the internship is done, working on a manuscript to publish the results as a scientific paper. The internship was in Linköping, however I

© Max Renner

© Max Renner

decided to keep living in Stockholm, since all my friends from the previous Erasmus semester were there as well and because Stockholm is a beautiful city. This on the other hand side made it necessary to commute a couple of times a week, which was extremely exhausting, since it took 2.5h per way. I did home office two or three times a week and could also work during the train rides, otherwise it would not have been possible to keep living in Stockholm. Still, the commuting was very annoying and took a lot of time, so I would not recommend it if there is no concrete reason to do it. The job routine was not too different from Germany, so I did not have something like a culture shock. My working time was the usual 40h per week. Due to the commuting, I had a lot of flexibility for the working hours and the home office, that was very nice. Important to notice about most companies in Sweden is that in the summer, especially July, practically no one is working. Many companies completely close for three weeks or so in July, and those who do not have most of their employees on vacation anyway. My internship ended in June, so I was not directly affected by that, but people who want to work over the whole summer should be prepared that it might be necessary to take a couple of weeks off in July.

© Max Renner

© Max Renner

Leisure

My colleagues were all extremely nice and friendly, I really enjoyed my working environment. However, due to the long distance from home, the people I met after work were my study friends from KTH rather than my working colleagues. In that sense, my leisure time was a bit atypical for an intern, since I was still a part of the Stockholm international student bubble. Stockholm is an extremely beautiful city and there is a lot to do. I was on the road for practically one year non-stop and still had a couple of ideas about what to see and do. With sightseeing, bar hopping and outdoor activities there is easily enough to do for a whole year in Stockholm. I would also recommend doing some trips to the other parts of Sweden. The darkness in the winter can be an issue for some, the best remedy is to do a lot of activities and meet many friends, then it is not a big deal anymore (at least for me). And in the summer you get the reward with long nights, beautiful sunsets and the midsommar celebrations! I did not really have something like a typical everyday life, because the commute was very long and I was travelling a lot as well. That means I was also not part of a sport club or something. However, I was still part of the KTH Outdoor Club, for which you do not need to study at KTH. So for outdoor lovers in Stockholm I can recommend to check that out.

Conclusion

All in all, the internship was an incredibly enriching and interesting experience. For anyone who gets the opportunity to work in Sweden for some time, I would definitely recommend taking the chance. The only drawbacks are the high prices and that it might be hard to find an internship spot. But if you worked that out, you will be rewarded with nice people, interesting work experiences, a beautiful nature and long summer nights!

 

 

Living in Madrid

19. Juli 2022 | von
  • Spain, Madrid
  • Data Science M.Sc.
  • March 2022 – June 2022

 

My experiences:

Spending some time in Spain as always been on my mind, so I was really happy to finally realize it. I spent about four months in Spain and in the following I will share my experiences about living in Madrid, finding and organizing an internship and my overall personal experience.

I lived in Chueca, which (together with neighboring Malasaña) is a major destination for gastronomy and night life. On the one hand, it is great because it has a lot going on and represents diversity and LGBTIQ-friendliness. It has a central location both for walking to many parts of central Madrid as well as convenient public transport connections. On the other hand, it is expensive and did not really have a neighborhood-like feeling because it is very crowded and to my impression is really anonymous. It offers many fancy restaurants and shopping opportunities, which did not correspond too much to my preferred price segment and atmosphere though.

My favorite neighborhood is Lavapiés which is more multicultural and offers more affordable options for going out. However, accommodation there is also scarce and my recommendation for a flat would be to also consider other areas which are well connected with public transport and which have their own local atmosphere without an abundance of tourists.

As activities, I can recommend hiking and climbing in the nearby mountains. The villages of Cercedilla, El Escorial and Manzanares El Real can be reached with public transport and offer great hiking. For climbing, I was lucky to join a group of climbers of the alpine club of the Autonomous University and could profit from the good atmosphere and the carpooling within that group.

Apart from the outdoor activities and all the museums and interesting places inside Madrid, I also want to recommend doing day trips by train to the cities Toledo, Segovía and Ávila.

Finding and organizing the internship was not so easy because the planning horizons of the companies that I talked to were not clear. For example, I found a company which would have employed me, but in the end there was a shortage of projects in my desired time period. In general, the insecurity due to the pandemic situation made many companies reduce their internship activities. Moreover, I wanted to avoid a pure home office position, which ruled out some start-ups/IT-companies which do not even have office spaces anymore.

Apart from using job platforms, I eventually found my company by browsing through Madrid’s universities, their spin-offs and cooperating research and development institutes. In particular, these are more used to employ interns because in many study programs in Spain there are obligatory internships which seem to have additional funding.

However, in my case, I was the first person to come from abroad and that is why the amount of questions, uncertainties and organizational issues was relatively high. Neither to me nor to my contact person at the institution was clear at the beginning whether I would need to get a NIE (foreigner identification number) or a social security number. As my host institution could pay me a small salary, I eventually tried to obtain a NIE. This turned out very difficult because there were no appointments available at the foreign affairs office and police in Madrid. For several weeks, I checked the corresponding web page daily and could not get an appointment. Even though, I felt to have understood the system (that new appointments are entered into the system on Mondays around 12PM, still the demand by other and technical obstacles where high). In the end, I decided to travel more than 100km to the neighboring province of Ávila (as mentioned above it is a pleasant day out though) and managed to get an appointment and my document there. From then on, the procedures went relatively smoothly (apart from smaller struggles setting up a bank account).

The work itself started smoothly and I felt well-prepared from my studies and previous work experiences.  The team met on two days per week in the office, the remaining days I mostly worked from my room.

I worked on data analyses and machine learning model improvements that the team had always had in mind, but could not find the time themselves for. Therefore, my work was on the one hand useful and providing insights to the time, but on the other hand always a bit separated from what the colleagues were doing. Moreover, my actual supervisor was very busy and partly away, so I was somehow not sure who to ask certain things and who decides the next steps, but I recommend to just not hesitate and ask in the group chat etc.

A peculiarity for me was that some colleagues did not have breakfast at home and that the culture of long coffee breaks (including breakfast) is imported. My colleagues worked rather long hours, but still did not let them stress too much and I appreciated to have a good and social atmosphere.

My overall experience was positive, however, it was more difficult than expected to get socially involved. This is the disadvantage of a big city and that people in my case are having their routines and private lives. In my case, sports and university associations were the solutions to get to know people. In total, I leave Madrid with some positive memories and rich in experiences, however looking forward to environments with more close people and friends.

Gaining new experience in Denmark

14. Juli 2022 | von
  • Denmark, Sønderborg
  • Computer Science B.Sc.
  • February 2022 – June 2022

 

My experiences:

Hi! I’m Katharina, I study Computer Science at RWTH Aachen University and I’m at the end of my Bachelor’s degree with a focus on Data Science. In the summer semester 2022, I completed a four month internship at Danfoss in Denmark.

Finding an internship

At the beginning of 2021 I was very fortunate to be chosen as participant for the UNITECH International exchange program as a representative of RWTH. The UNITECH program is a unique opportunity, which combines an academic exchange semester at one of the 8 partnering universities (incl. for instance ETH Zürich, Trinity College Dublin, Politecnico Milano) and an internship with one of the corporate partners. Therefore I spent the winter semester 2021/2022 in Lyon, France as part of the exchange and then started looking for an internship through the network around October. UNITECH arranges career fairs for us to get connected with the corporate partners. In one of these events I came in contact with a team from Danfoss in Denmark. After interviewing with several corporate partners I decided to go with Danfoss, because I very much liked their philosophy and the project description suited my profile very well. Additionally I was swayed by the conditions, as the position was compensated fairly well and accommodation was found and paid for by Danfoss. At the beginning of 2022, I had signed my contract and was looking forward to another opportunity to live and work abroad.

Formalities

Getting settled in Denmark might take some time, since there are several formalities to take care of upon your arrival and most steps include some waiting time before you can move on to the next. For any kind of official correspondance (bank accounts, getting paid by your employer, going to the doctor) you will need a NemID. This is something to take care of as soon as possible. Before you can receive the NemID, you will need to get a EU-Residence document from SIRI (apply before arrival!), a CPR number from the citizens’ centre as well as a health card (yellow card). If you reside in Denmark and are registered with a CPR number you are entitled to receive Danish health insurance. I would also recommend to contact a bank as soon as you have the health card so that they can start the process of opening a bank account for you. When these things are settled, you should be good to go. If you are planning to stay in Denmark for a long time I would recommend getting a Danish phone number in order to use the MobilePay app which is very commonly used as a payment method.

Danfoss

Danfoss is a Danish multinational company, with more than 40,043 employees globally. Danfoss was founded in 1933 by engineer Mads Clausen. Within Denmark, Danfoss is very known and is one of the biggest employers. In the south of Denmark, Danfoss has several office locations, the two biggest ones being their headquarter in Nordborg and the site in Gråsten (within Germany, the main location is in Hamburg). Nordborg is also where Mads Clausen founded the company, so many people living in the area are connected to Danfoss. The corporation is still family-owned and as an employee you can really feel their moral compass through the board’s decisions. Danfoss main market is the energy sector but their product portfolio is quite diverse, ranging from cooling & heating solutions to pumps as well as frequency converters (AC drives). From the beginning, energy efficiency has been part of Danfoss DNA, which is why their motives in terms of sustainability and decarbonization are very credible to me.

My Internship Project

I completed my internship in the Drives Intelligence department, a technology development department focused on embedded digital solutions for variable frequency drives. My project’s title was „Vibration Analysis using Machine Learning“ and dealt with creating a Machine Learning solution for mechanical fault detection using signals from a variable speed drive and additional vibration sensors. My tasks included traditional steps in the Data Science pipeline (Data Collection from a laboratory setup, Preprocessing, Feature Engineering, Training a Machine Learning model) as well as working on the deployment of the model. Since the department is R&D, they are bringing many new ideas to life and prototype solutions quickly, which is fun to be part of.

Office Routine and everyday life
 © Katharina Alefs

© Katharina Alefs

Our office was located in Gråsten, while all interns were living in student accommodation in Sønderborg, which meant commuting to the office by bus (takes approx. 45 minutes door to door). This wasn’t a very exciting part of my day, but since I became friends with other interns that commuted with me, time was flying by. I usually had a daily meeting with my supervisor and a weekly discussion with other members from the team about how my project was going and to receive their input. I was very lucky when it came to my department, since they were all very supportive and accommodating. Some weeks of the internship I mainly spent in the lab to collect data from the fault simulation setup, but generally I was in the office and most people were present in person as well. In terms of the pandemic timing I got lucky because I didn’t have to work from home and I got to meet people face-to-face. This contributed to a good working environment.

I also recognized that working in the Danish job market is characterized by flatter hierarchies than in Germany, everyone is very approachable no matter their status and you usually call people by their first name, independent of their rank.

Daily Life/Leisure

The south of Denmark is a really beautiful place. Our student dormitory was located 5 minutes away from the beach and starting April/May we spent many days there, in the water or next to a bonfire. Sønderborg is a small town which is overall quiet but you will find everything you need. SDU university is located here which means that there are many (international) students. Regarding the nightlife there are unfortunately not many things happening. There is a student bar on campus that we visited from time to time. Since I made many friends through UNITECH that were also working for Danfoss, we still had a great time cooking together,

 © Katharina Alefs

© Katharina Alefs

playing sports or travelling to places like Aarhus, Kopenhagen or Berlin.

Summary

My internship experience has been really great. I was very happy with the team and how my project developed. It showed me the importance of people and communication on how you perceive going to work everyday. I gained more confidence in my abilities through working independently but also receiving support when needed. Fortunately, I was offered to continue my work for Danfoss as a remote student worker, which I will do so while writing my Bachelor thesis. Lastly, I made very good friends who had a significant impact on how I perceived the overall experience.

 

A great time in Barcelona

30. Juni 2022 | von
  • Spain, Barcelona
  • Empirical Educational Research M.A.
  • 11.04.-24.06.2022

 

My experiences:

© Caroline Scherer

© Caroline Scherer

Since I’ve wanted to go abroad during my time at university for a long time, I decided to look for possibilities to do an internship abroad. To find a hosting organization, I did some online research on my own to look especially for research groups, since that was the area I was most interested to work in. That is how I found a research group at the University of Barcelona with a focus on intercultural educational research. I sent them a very formal application via email and quickly received a rather informal response, saying that the group would like to welcome me for an internship. The organization beforehand was a bit difficult – although I was in contact with the professor who would be my supervisor since November, it took a long time until my learning agreement was signed. For a long time I was not sure if my internship would actually happen and I barely managed to hand in the application for the ERASMUS+-Scholarship in time.

 

Because I only knew about six weeks in advance that I would really go to Barcelona, I did not have much time to look for accommodation, but I have heard from other people that it’s not unusual in Spain to look for shared flats etc. just a few weeks before moving in. Since I was busy with deadlines for essays and didn’t have much time to organize accommodation, I contacted BCN-Nest, an agency specialized on finding accommodation for international students. BCN-Nest charges a commission fee which for me was worth paying because this way I did not have any more trouble finding a room in Barcelona and I felt it was a relatively risk-free option. After sending in a short questionnaire on my wishes for the accommodation, I had a video-call with one of the consultants who then sent me detailed information on one possible option. My wish was to live with a host family to have the chance to practice my Spanish skills, and I got placed with a middle-aged woman and her young daughter with whom I could set up a video-call to get to know each other a little bit before agreeing to live there.

 

I decided to go to Barcelona by train, the fastest connection from Aachen takes about 12 hours. After my arrival, a consultant of BNC-Nest went with me to my host’s apartment to make sure everything was in order. All in all, I was very happy with my living situation. I lived in Grácia, which is considered to be one of Barcelona’s most beautiful districts with many small shops and a lively neighbourhood. The room I rented was definitely not the cheapest option, but considering the great location and the nice apartment, the rent was completely reasonable – utilities, wifi etc. were also included in the price and I was provided towels and bedsheets, so I really didn’t have to worry about anything regarding the apartment. I also could use the washing machine as well as the kitchen tools. Because of different working schedules I could not spend as much time with my host family as I would have wished to, but we got along very well and it was definitely an advantage to have a local to talk to. Because I didn’t stay for more than three months, I didn’t have to go to the registration office. Besides the rent, my living costs were similar to Germany. I usually went to Mercadona or Lidl to buy groceries, those were some of the cheapest grocery stores. In restaurant the prices depend a lot on the part of the city – in touristic areas it’s expensive, but in other districts the prices are comparable to Germany. I didn’t open a bank account in Spain because of my short stay. Withdrawing money from my German bank account was relatively expensive (about 5€), but in my experience you don’t need a lot of cash in Spain because you can pay with your bank card almost everywhere.

© Caroline Scherer

© Caroline Scherer

My way to work was relatively short, there was a metro station just five minutes away from my apartment, which connected me directly with the university campus where my office was. On usual days I worked in the office of the research group which I shared with a doctoral student and sometimes other researchers of the group. My tasks varied a lot day by day, in general I was attending and assisting the different activities of the research group, which meant I was participating in team meetings regarding various research projects, I attended classes held by my supervising professor, I helped executing different steps of research projects … Since the everyday working language in the research group was Catalan, I could sadly not always understand everything that was going on and I was also very restricted in the tasks I could perform on my own. My understanding of Catalan became a little bit better over the time, but it was still far from an academic level. I usually spoke English or Castellano/Spanish with the team members, but English only when I didn’t understand something in Spanish or if I couldn’t express a thought properly. One of the tasks I did on my own when I didn’t participate in activities of the research group was updating the Website together with a colleague. Usually, we split the work so that I would write or translate pages in English and/or Spanish and she would focus on the Catalan version. Working on the website allowed me to get an overview of the projects the research group had finished or was still working on, which was quite interesting. All in all, I enjoyed working with the research group. The colleagues as well as my supervising professor were very welcoming and nice and the internship helped me to get insights on the working processes in a research group. However, I would have wished to learn more about research methods during my stay and was a bit disappointed that I didn’t really get the chance to work on the research projects actively. But since the projects were all carried out in Catalan, I could only actively assist in a few steps of the research process. I understand that I couldn’t be integrated into every part of the work due to the language barrier, but I still had hoped that I would learn more about research methods during my internship – also because my supervisor told me before starting the internship that I would definitely get the chance to do so.

© Caroline Scherer

© Caroline Scherer

Besides the internship I enjoyed the time in Barcelona – it never gets boring because there is so much to see and to experience! I personally found it hard to get to know other people, mostly because I didn’t attend university classes on a regular basis and besides the doctoral student with whom I shared the office, the members of the research group were all a lot older than me. I used mobile apps to find people to meet up with, and eventually I got to know other students – some other internationals, but also Spanish people. I used the weekends to visit different places in Barcelona, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends. On Sundays I often went to museums because some of them can be visited for free on Sundays after 15 pm. Of course, I also went to the beach every once in a while, but especially on weekends the beaches in Barcelona are very crowded and I couldn’t enjoy them so much. If you have the time, better take a bus or train and visit a beach outside of the city! One sight-seeing highlight for me was a trip to Tibidabo, an amusement park up on a mountain at the edge of town. Even if you don’t wanna pay the entrance fee, you can still walk around parts of the area and enjoy the amazing view over the entire region!

© Caroline Scherer

© Caroline Scherer

I had to adjust a bit to the life in Barcelona, for example it took me some time to get used to having dinner late in the evening. But one thing I really liked was that the city was always alive, and especially in the evenings I enjoyed to walk around the district because I loved the atmosphere when so many people were still outside enjoying food and drinks with their friends. If you’re interested in cultural activities, just keep your eyes open because there are many public events in all parts of the city, one day I went to a presentation of the Castelleros, for example. The weather was mostly really pleasant, especially in May, but since I have very fair skin, I had to be quite careful and I avoided to go outside around noon. But as I wrote before, you can really enjoy the evenings in Barcelona, so I didn’t feel like I missed out on much! In June it was very sunny and hot most days – I personally didn’t enjoy the heat much and was glad to return to Germany before it got even worse in July and August. But if you like sun and a hot climate, the summer in Barcelona is definitely perfect for you!

In summary, I enjoyed my internship in Barcelona, it was a great experience to live and work here for a while. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t learn so much about research methods as I had hoped I would, but I learned many other things during my internship, improved my Spanish skills a lot, I discovered interesting places in Barcelona and made new friends!

My internship in Norway at Kverneland Energi

30. Juni 2022 | von
  • Norway, Kvernaland (living in Stavanger)
  • M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering
  • 04.04.2022 – 30.06.2022

 

On April 1st I arrived in Norway and my first day of work was the 4th of April.

Kverneland Energi is a company that installs PV-systems, plans and installs battery systems and develops the software for projects that either just rely on generators and batteries or additionally use PV panels. My entry in the company started with learning the basic installation process of PV- systems on three different kinds of roofs:

1.flat roofs, which are mostly seen in industry applications

2.steel roofs often used in agriculture; a very interesting sector with wide availability of space for PV- systems and interest in the investment mostly to self-sustain the farmland; and

3. the classic gable roof with tiles, which can either have a hook-system to install the panels ‘on top’ of the tiles or alternatively the pricier option of an embedded PV-system

I worked for the first half of my three months stay in the installing sector of the company and got to know the difficulties and intricacies, which each different kind of project presents. The weather in April in Norway is tough
to predict and I experienced pretty much every time of the season in those 6 weeks –

© Adrian Bodamer

© Adrian Bodamer

starting with snow in week 1 of work and ending with summer like conditions in May, the part that needs most getting used to is the 8-hour work in constant rain. Stavanger is notorious for being city being blessed with rain, but thanks to the golf stream the extreme temperature drops are not too common there and therefor snow is rare. A one-hour drive to Sirdal is not only one of the most impressive road trips I have ever taken, it also completely changes the scenery and climate – presenting itself with at least half a meter of snow in the around easter.

That being said, I got quite lucky, and we mostly worked in sunny weather conditions – with wind presenting the biggest challenge. Carrying and installing the panels in these conditions can be very tricky and presents the engineers with the challenge of providing a system that is able to sustain all kinds of weather challenges on a constant basis.

After 6 weeks outside I joined the software programmers in the office space in Kvernaland, around 30minutes outside of Stavanger. There I worked closely with Andreas, an electrical engineer on a project which runs off grid. The cabins located in ‘Stranddalen’ are about a 1.5h hike away from the next closest village and require an energy system without a grid connection – relying on a generator and sunlight.

With a combination of a large generator, solar panels, and a battery system the cabins can self- sustain for the
3-4 month opening period, starting

© Adrian Bodamer

© Adrian Bodamer

in the middle of June. During the winter, the batteries are discharged and must handle temperatures around -10°C over weeks, the panels need to sustain meters of snow pressing down on them. All these extreme weather conditions make this project incredibly exciting! 

This project started as the bachelor thesis for Andreas, and my job for most of my time in the office was to program a updated plan to improve the efficiency of when the generator needs to be active, and when the PV-power and battery system can supply the cabins without the use of fuel. Challenging in that was the variation in consume, produced PV current and request of the customer to not run the generator from 9pm to 8am. The battery system is the most important thing to avoid running the generator too often and use unnecessary fuel. Working with data collected over the last 2 years and realising patterns about consume and production, Andreas, Sjur and I implemented the new code created in TIA portal by visiting the cabin and accessing the electric system at the cabins.

Before the visitors and personal come to the cabin, the new system needed to be implemented. A 2-hour hike with increasingly more snow on the path the further we went up the mountain in the middle of June was one of my most surreal

© Adrian Bodamer

© Adrian Bodamer

experiences and showed me (once again) the stunning beauty of Norway! And the 2-day stay with my two Norwegian co-workers that I had to this point known for only a few weeks was amazing and I always felt very welcome – and that was the case pretty much everywhere I went in Norway. 

Without ERASMUS, this trip would have not been possible for me – it was tough to find a place to live for short term rent that was also affordable. Same goes for every day needs like groceries or public transport tickets – everything is more expensive here, without exception. If you plan on having a less stressful time in Norway, then a good approach would definitely be to make a spending plan before arriving. And if you have a car, I would very much advise you to drive it up to Norway if you want to see much of the country as public transport is definitely improvable to say the least. My 17-hour trip from Aachen to Stavanger by car was exhausting but the best decision I made coming up here – though not very sustainable I have to admit. If you ever get the chance to travel to Norway: take it, it’s absolutely worth it!

My experiences in Trondheim, Norway

17. Juni 2022 | von
  • Trondheim, Norway
  • Business Administration and Engineering Materials and Process Engineering, M. Sc.
  • 01.04.2022 – 31.05.2022

My experiences:

I am solely responsible for the content of this report.

During my master thesis which I am writing in collaboration with the NTNU in Trondheim and RWTH in Aachen I spent two months in Trondheim.

Preparation

Since I was already in Trondheim the semester before as an exchange student, I was quite familiar with the city, university as well as with the application procedure. During my exchange semester I attended the course MFA I (Material Flow Analysis) with Prof. Müller and decided to write the upcoming master thesis together with him and the RWTH.

After gathering some information, the application was very easy and quick. The next step was then the application/registration at the NTNU to get the student rights etc. and to be also able to apply for student accommodation through SIT (the organisation which provide the accommodations and other things in Trondheim). I received the confirmation of both in time so I could plan all the rest.

© Moritz Langhorst

Office routine

During the two months I felt very welcome at the department and was able to work in the study room with all the other students writing their master thesis. This was a good way to get to know them and to see on which topics the other students and researchers in the group are working. My weekly meetings with my supervisors could now also take place in person, which was very helpful for the working progress. I could also participate in the regular group meetings of the research group where the researchers of the group are presenting their work.

Leisure

Because I still knew some people from my exchange semester, it was very easy to find a lot of activities for the time besides the thesis. On weekends we went on a lot of cabin trips in the surrounding area, spent evenings on the fjord to watch the sunset, went bouldering or in bars. Trondheim has especially for students a lot to offer. A very nice coincidence was that the 17th of May, which is the national holiday in Norway, was in my time in Trondheim. This was a perfect opportunity to get to know the Norwegian culture, starting with a brunch and parades in the city.

© Moritz Langhorst

© Moritz Langhorst