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Intern Abroad

My practical year in St. Johann in Tirol, Austria

February 6th, 2023 | by
  • Medicine
  • Austria, St. Johann in Tirol
  • Bezirkskrankenhaus St. Johann in Tirol, department of “Allgemein- und Viszeralchirurgie”
  • 11/2022 – 01/2023

 

© Angela Kurz

© Angela Kurz

Preparation

I applied around ten months before the start of the Practical Year (called Praktisches Jahr (PJ) in Germany or Klinisch Praktisches Jahr (KPJ) in Austria). However, most places at the hospital “Bezirkskrankenhaus St. Johann in Tirol” are already taken one and a half to two years in advance, so it makes sense to call first and ask if there are still places available. The contact person is the “Sekretariat Ärztliche Direktion”, whose contact details can be found on the hospital’s website. They will also tell you which documents you need for the application. The hospital is a teaching hospital of the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna. I would recommend contacting Ms. Lemos, the coordinator for study abroad of the medical faculty of the RWTH Aachen University, in time for necessary formalities.

Accommodation

There is a house right next to the hospital where students who are interns at the hospital can stay for free. Each student has their own room and bathroom. The kitchen is shared and is a great meeting place for communal meals and game nights. You also get free breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the hospital. However, the number of rooms is limited, so you should register for this in time. Since there wasn’t a room available at first, I lived in an apartment in the neighbouring town for the first two weeks. Then I was able to move into the student house for the remaining time. I would recommend checking regularly with the secretary’s office, as there are often vacancies in the house at short notice. I found support in finding a private apartment at the secretary of the hospital and the tourism association (Tourismusverband St. Johann in Tirol), each of which sent me a list of contact details of private landlords via e-mail.

Traineeship

On the first day of my internship, I had some organisational tasks to do: I reported to the secretary’s office, received work clothes, a staff ID card, and keys. Then I introduced myself to the surgical department. The working day began daily at 7.15 a.m. with the morning meeting. Afterwards, we medical students took some blood samples on the ward or assisted in the operating theatre. The rest of the time we accompanied the doctors in the surgical outpatient department. The day ended around 4 pm after the X-ray discussion and the ward rounds – on Fridays, usually a little earlier. As a medical student at the hospital in St. Johann, you do two night shifts a month, one during the week from 4 pm until the next morning and one on the weekend. The tasks include taking blood samples, setting up intravenous lines and assisting in the operating theatre if necessary or helping in the emergency room. I would recommend rotating also to orthopaedics/trauma surgery as part of the surgical tertial if possible.

© Angela Kurz

© Angela Kurz

Free time

The region around St. Johann in Tirol is situated in the middle of the mountains and offers many great leisure opportunities. There are many ski resorts nearby, e.g. St. Johann itself, Kitzbühel, Saalbach/Hinterglemm or Ellmau/Scheffau. In some of them you even get a discount with your employee ID card! In other seasons, of course, there are also wonderful hikes to be done. The cities of Kitzbühel, Innsbruck and Salzburg are also not far away. In December, the Kitzbühel Christmas Market is definitely worth a visit!

 

 

Conclusion

I really enjoyed my time in St. Johann in Tirol and can recommend a PJ tertial in this great area. I made many new friends, and we made great memories together in the hospital and during our weekends in the mountains.

Getting to know a different culture

February 6th, 2023 | by
  • Mechanical Engineering B.Sc.
  • France, Signy L’Abbaye
  • Beuret Sarl
  • 09/22 – 12/22

 

My internship in France

The company I worked for produces agricultural equipment and steel structures for buildings. Since the company moved to a new location recently, they needed new custom equipment like tool cart for storing and moving heavy tools. I spent the majority of my time developing, designing in the office and manufacturing this equipment in the factory. Having the responsibility for those projects and completing them was a truly rewarding experience.

Even though I did not work on the division of the company that was responsible for the buildings they let me go on the respective construction sites a few times during my stay. Although this was not at all part of my internship, I still enjoyed discovering the big machines and assembly techniques they used to join the massive components that were previously prepared in the factory.

Working in a small company (about 10 persons in total) helped me to get to know all the people very quickly. I had a great relationship with both the employees and the supervisors from the beginning on which made my time in the company really enjoyable.

I worked a total of 40 hours a week which is not necessarily typical in France. Many people only work 35 hours. This makes room for other activities after work. Also, the meals have a much greater importance than in other European countries. Lots of companies have 60 to 90-minute lunch breaks and it is common for grocery stores and other shops to close during midday. But many stores make up for this by opening their doors on Sunday morning.

 © Dimitri Robert

© Dimitri Robert

Luckily, on Fridays I only worked till 12 pm which made it possible to plan longer activities for the weekend. I tried to discover as much as possible of the “Champagne” region. It’s especially known for its production of champagne and its vineyards.

On another occasion I had the opportunity to travel to the beaches of the Normandy and admire the breath-taking landscape. These places are not only beautiful but also have an undeniably interesting historic relevance.

Travelling to these different destinations by train is difficult and takes a lot of time. In addition, the company I worked for was situated in a very rural area. So, having a car was a necessity in this region of the country.

 © Dimitri Robert

© Dimitri Robert

Something you need to get used to when you live in France are long and late dinners. Most of the time, they start with the well-known “apéro” where you have a few drinks and snacks before beginning to eat your meal. I really enjoyed those convivial evenings. I also observed that drinking wine at dinner was a lot more common than in Germany. Even a lot of young people enjoy drinking a glass of wine instead of beer. In general, the locals are proud of their local wine and especially champagne.

 

Helpful information

 Good news is my phone worked without any issue thanks to EU-Roaming. On the other hand, German mobile network operators have put in place a limit of months that you can spend abroad. Exceeding this time limit will result in them charging you extra roaming fees. Luckily, many French carriers provide very generous offers for the first year of contract. Combined with a pricing that is generally much lower than in Germany, getting a mobile plan with a lot or even unlimited data becomes very affordable. Your mobile plan can even replace Wi-Fi. So, if you plan on staying more than a few months in France, I would definitely recommend getting a French mobile plan.

Same thing goes for your bank account and credit card. You should check with your bank if the card you plan on using works abroad. Opening a bank account was not necessary for me but it made withdrawing money free of charge and receiving my salary was also easier this way.

 Keeping in mind that finding a fitting internship and going through the application process would take a bit longer than in my home country, I started to plan my stay more than 6 months ahead. This gave me enough time to prepare everything properly and I would recommend this to anyone who wants to go abroad. All in all, my internship abroad was a great experience for me. Getting to know a different culture and improving my language skills while completing a mandatory part of my curriculum was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to do so.

My internship in Bilbao

January 31st, 2023 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering
  • Spain, Bilbao
  • FEV Iberia SI
  • 10.10.2022-15.01.2023

 

Preparation:

When it comes to preparing for a stay in Bilbao, the most important thing is housing. In general, finding a place to live in Bilbao is not as stressful as in other cities. The best place to look for housing is “idealista”, a Spanish online real-estate marketplace. Prices obviously differ, but finding adequate housing for around 500 Euro/month is possible. Especially, when you can communicate in Spanish and also stay for at least half a year. Also, there are Erasmus Telegram and Whatsapp groups (you can find them on Instagram or in the Internet) where rooms are offered as well. Besides to look for housing, this is also a great way to make first contacts in the city. Another important preparation would be to look for health insurance. I had the luck that it was organized by the company.

Finding an internship:

In my case, I was a working student in the Aachen Office of the company I then worked for in Bilbao. Generally, going for an international company is the easiest way to find an internship abroad and that’s also how most people I talked to did it. Especially, when you are not fluent in Spanish, a regular local company will be tough to convince to take you.

Culture:

Most people have been to parts of Spain before, so I guess a Culture shock is not to be expected in

 © Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

© Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

that case. However, Bilbao is part of the former Basque-county. Even if it is technically Spain, the people are often quite proud of their heritage. Some might take it as an insult, if you call them Spaniards. Additionally, the Basque language is very prominent. You will hear it on the streets and read it a lot on signs. It is very different from Spanish, so don’t be fooled thinking it is just some form of dialect you might be able to understand! All in all I must say, people were very welcoming and most of the time happy to help and communicate, even if there isn’t actually a common language between you. The level of English capabilities is very low in that area, so basics in Spanish or Basque can be very helpful.

Day to day life:

Coming from the culture, food plays a very significant role there. Pintxos (A slice of bread with ANY savory toping you can think of) might be the most prominent one. You can take them for lunch or in the evening with some drinks. Since the city is next to the ocean, fish and other seafoods are integrated in a lot of dishes. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, it might be hard for you. In more traditional restaurants the vegetarian dish is just a salad or something along that line, so you might want to go to more modern places.

When it comes to going out in the night, Bilbao has a lot to offer. Especially in the casco Viejo (old town) the bar density is very high. But also throughout other parts of the city, you will always find a nice place to grab a beer or a Kalimotxo (popular Basque drink, red wine with cola) and some Pintxos. The club landscape is definitely more restricted. For most clubs, you have to love reggeaton, since it will be played the whole night. But there are also some clubs, where the music choices are more diverse (strong recommend for “Sala Sonora” for Saturdays).

 © Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

© Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

Public transport is ridiculously cheap and easy in Bilbao. You go to any bigger metro station and buy a “Barik Card”, on which you then can load money. From then on, you just touch-and-go for trains, buses and the metro for prices mostly below 50 cents per ride. The metro also goes all the way to the ocean. Plentzia and Sopella are the beaches reachable by metro I recommend the most. If you want to explore the area, for hikes or to visit other towns nearby, going by bus (Asta or bizkaibus) is a very good option. Most beautiful places I have seen are: San Sebastian, Gangekogorta and the Urdaibai area.

When it comes to work life, in my case it was very similar to my experiences in German companies. Similar working hours, with maybe a longer lunch break and in my case an amazing office climate. My co-workers were always happy to help with tasks or problems at work, but also with recommendations what to do in the area on weekends or which restaurant to go to.

An incredible experience in Norway

January 31st, 2023 | by
  • Psychology M.Sc.
  • Norway, Tromso
  • The Arctic University of Norway (UiT)
  • 12.09.22-01.12.22

 

My experiences:

I recently completed a three-month internship at the UiT in Tromso, Norway during the fall. Overall, it was an incredible experience that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for an opportunity to gain valuable work experience while immersing themselves in a new culture.

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

One of the biggest challenges I faced during my time in Tromso was finding social connections with native Norwegians. The city is quite small, and many locals tend to stick to their own social circles. However, I found that joining clubs and organizations related to my interests was a great way to meet new people and make friends. Additionally, the university has a very active international community, so it was easy to connect with other students from around the world.

 

The weather in Tromso can be quite challenging, especially during the fall when the days are short and the nights are long. However, the natural beauty of the area more than makes up for it. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and there are plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors. One thing to keep in mind is that the lack of sunlight can be quite difficult to adjust to, so it’s important to make sure to get outside and soak up some sun whenever possible.

The university itself is quite international, with students and staff from all over the world. This made for a very diverse and stimulating learning environment. The work I did during my internship was very interesting and I felt like I was able to make a meaningful contribution to the research project I was working on.

As a secret tip, I would highly recommend visiting the PUST sauna in the harbour. It’s a unique experience where you can jump into the icy Arctic sea after sauna, it’s a great way to invigorate the body and mind.

In conclusion, my internship at the UiT in Tromso was an incredible experience that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a unique opportunity to gain valuable work experience, immerse themselves in a new culture and enjoy the beautiful nature. The difficulty to find social contacts with locals can be challenging but with a bit of effort it’s totally worth it. The weather and nature are beautiful, but the lack of sunlight can be challenging. The university is very international and the work you did was very interesting. And don’t forget to check out the PUST sauna in the harbour where you can jump in the arctic sea.

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

© Anton Koger

 

My stay in Vienna – a truly transformative experience

January 23rd, 2023 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering: Mechanical Engineering B.Sc.
  • Austria, Vienna
  • Austrian Institute of Technology
  • 09/22 – 12/22

 

My name is Eva, and I spent September till December 2022 in Vienna doing an internship at a non-university research Institution, in the area of energy technology.

My half year Erasmus experience in Vienna was an incredible journey that completely exceeded my expectations. I arrived in the city in September, feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness. I didn’t know anyone in Vienna, and I was worried about how I would make friends and adjust to living in a new country. But from the moment I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and friendly everyone was. I really fell in love with the beautiful city of Vienna. To be honest, I was obsessed to do my internship in this city. I have never been there before, but my sister who is currently living in Zurich (I am a bit of a fan of this city as well) told me it is almost as beautiful and a lot cheaper. Spoiler: it is definitely more livable as a student because you can actually afford activities. The cost of living is not as cheap as in Aachen, but still within the range of big cities like Munich or Hamburg.

One of the first things I noticed about Vienna was its stunning architecture. The city is filled with gorgeous buildings and landmarks. I spent many afternoons wandering the streets, taking in the sights and soaking up the rich culture of the city.

© Eva Paeffgen

© Eva Paeffgen

In Vienna there are no kiosks, so everywhere are little “Trafiks“ which look really cute. If you want to get a beer in the evening, it is difficult, because supermarkets are closing at 8 pm. But you always can get one at a Würstelstand. My favorite one is the `Wiener Würstelstand´ in Pfeilgasse crossing Strozzigasse. I can recommend the vegan bosna. On the weekend they do organize little events with pretty cool live music.

I was really lucky! In my office I sat only with interns, bachelors students, masters students and PhD students. So it did not take long till we went on for a beer or other activities. My colleagues and I went bouldern. The company were paying half of the price to support sport activities. We also went for paddle, weird sport.

It was also really affordable to do some yoga, in the “oneYoga“ studio it is possible to test all classes for 30 euro for one month after that it costs 90 euro what’s still okay if you go three times a week.

© Eva Paeffgen

© Eva Paeffgen

I was living in a shared flat with another girl, I found the place on WG-gesucht. It is not easy to find something, but that’s only because no flats are rented with furniture. Everyone else I have met said if you are staying longer, the market really is alright because of social housing. Our flat was in the 8th Bezirk Josefstadt, I would recommend living in the area. It took me 35 minutes to work by train but only a 10 minute walk to get in the city or in the 7th Bezirk which is absolutely my favorite. Full of little restaurants, cute boutiques and nice bars. Maybe a few recommendations:  Bars: Espressobar, Cafe Anno, Cafe Benno (they have a lot of games, and you can eat really good kasespätze there). Breakfast: Cafe der Provinz, all you can eat for 18 euro, with a good quality of food, most of them vegetarian and a lot of vegan stuff. Party: there is a website called Vienna wurstelstand -making the most out of Vienna and life. Every month they make recommendations about cool events. My friends and I did a lot of it. Went to art galleries, little concerts or parties. It is also nice to get to know Vienna, so take a look. Restaurants: pizza bussi ciao, mamamon thai or nguyens pho haus.

The picture on the left was taken from the top of the “Haus des Meeres“, you can get up there for free, but it is also possible to have a drink or eat something there. I would go up for the view and get a beer in the area, there are a lot of little cute bars around.

© Eva Paeffgen

© Eva Paeffgen

If you are also going in winter, you should take a walk on the Kalenberg, it is not far from the city and for me, it was really important sometimes to get some nature and fresh air between all these massive and impressive buildings. There are a lot of Heurigen (vine farmers that are selling between their fields) you can drink „Sturm“ and with good weather you get a beautiful view over the city.

I also had the chance to travel on the weekends. I went to Bratislava which is worth a visit, it is only two hours by train and the city has much to offer. Budapest is a four hour trip, in my opinion you have to stay overnight to make it worthwhile.

Last thing: withdrawing money costs fees, but you can get it for free from the supermarkets.

Overall, my half year Erasmus experience in Vienna was a truly transformative experience. I grew as a person and learned so much about myself and the world around me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do my internship abroad and to have had the chance to live in such a beautiful and culturally rich city. I will always treasure the memories I made in Vienna and I hope to visit again someday.

 

My experiences in Oslo

January 16th, 2023 | by
  • Molecular and Applied Biotechnology (MA)
  • Norway, Oslo
  • University of Oslo (UiO)
  • 01/10–30/11/2022

 

I completed a two-month research internship at the Department of Biomaterials of the University of Oslo (UiO). In the following, I would like to tell you about my experiences before and during my stay.

Finding an internship and an accommodation

Although my home university, RWTH Aachen University, does not have an Erasmus partnership with UiO, I came into contact with the institute through my student assistant supervisor, who completed his Bachelor’s thesis there. After a lot of back and forth about the date and topic of the internship, writing a project plan and applying for accreditation of the internship at my home university, the big challenge of finding a place to live began. Unfortunately, my application for student accommodation with SiO, the student organisation in Oslo, was rejected – probably because of my short period of stay – and I had to look for accommodation on the private market. I sent many requests on finn.no and hybel.no, most of which I didn’t even get an answer to, but in the end I had found a room in a 2-person shared flat and nothing stood in the way of my internship. To get there, I decided to go green and first took the train to Copenhagen, where I had a one-day stopover, and then continued by Flixbus through Sweden to Oslo.

The internship and my working environment

My workplace was the Department of Biomaterials at the Institute of Clinical Dentistry, which is part of the University of Oslo. It was essentially a research laboratory of the dental clinic, and most of the research conducted there had to do with dental implants in the broadest sense. I was warmly welcomed and integrated into the team from day one. We were an international research group with a few Norwegians and many scientists from all over the world. Apart from me, there were two other interns, a German and an Italian, and both were Master’s students just like me.

Compared to my experiences in Germany, the hierarchies at our institute were quite low and hardly noticeable, and social interaction was very important: Not only did we have lunch together every day, but we also had many nice conversations, especially on the days when someone had brought a cake or something typical from their home country after visiting or receiving visitors. Sometimes we also organised social events – for example, an international lunch on United Nations Day on 24 October: Everyone was assigned a country from which they had to cook and bring something typical. My country was Tanzania and I made vitumbua (coconut rice pancakes), a popular street food. Before Christmas, socialising became even more important, so on the last day of my internship, I sat in the lunch room with my supervisor, my professor and some other colleagues and folded paper Christmas stars while eating homemade gingerbread.

Although the working atmosphere was quite relaxed, we not only took breaks and drank coffee (which, by the way, was free for all employees, including interns), but also worked in the lab and were very productive in conducting experiments. My project was about validating a method to study cell adhesion to different surfaces. Since my internship was comparatively short, I already started to conduct my experiments independently after a one-week introduction. I had quite a tough schedule and on some days I had to give up my lunch break for the sake of the experiments, but my colleagues always supported and motivated me, so I was able to overlook this and very much enjoyed going to work. In the end, I had a lot of useful results that hopefully contribute to the progress of research on this topic. However, I did not only work on my project alone, but was also part of a project group in which my internship project was embedded. We had weekly meetings and one week we even had a two-day meeting with partners from other countries, where we shared results of previous research as well as ideas about future research tasks and planned the next steps. Of course, social events were also part of it, and so it happened that we not only played minigolf together, but they also took me to a fine dining restaurant, which was the first time in my life.

Entrance of the Institute of Clinical Dentistry © Friederike Götz

 

Pond right next to my flat © Friederike Götz

Financial considerations

The cost of living in Oslo, as in all of Scandinavia, is quite high. My room rental was only two-thirds covered by the Erasmus+ funding, and the costs for daily needs such as food had to be paid on top of this, of course. At first I was a bit shocked by the prices in the supermarkets, which were sometimes twice (or even more) as high as in Germany. I didn’t go to restaurants often, which would have been even more expensive, and I didn’t buy alcohol – thanks to the high taxes on alcohol (and sugar) in Norway. But I have also found some ways to save money in everyday life: In the supermarkets, “Tilbud” is the word that indicates special offers. The weekly offers are often already sold out at the beginning of the week, but if you have the opportunity, it is worth taking it and getting groceries as well as cosmetics and other products much cheaper. Another insider tip is Grønland Frukt Og Grønt (located in Smalgangen 2), a shop where you can buy fruit and vegetables, but also spices and other foodstuffs at reasonable prices.

Free time in Oslo

At the beginning of the internship, the weather was still quite nice and I often explored the city after work and at the weekends. I had a student travel ticket that allowed me to drive all around the city and explore the city centre, the many parks, the harbour and lots of other sights. Since I love sports and play tennis in Germany, I didn’t want to give it up in Oslo either. There was a Facebook group to find tennis partners – which I made use of. Since the court rental was quite expensive, I often played in the morning before work, because then the prices – especially for students – were considerably cheaper. Although my institute had a small gym that I could use, I signed up for SiO Athletica, the student organisation gym that has several locations all over the city. I participated in some courses and on Sundays sometimes in walks that started in Kringsjå, the part of Oslo where the largest student housing is located. There is a beautiful lake there called Sognsvann with many hiking trails around it.

As my internship progressed, the days became noticeably shorter and the weather no longer invited me to spend too much time outside. These times were perfect for sauna visits. Together with some colleagues and friends, I booked a private group sauna that swam in the Oslo Fjord, with a beautiful view of the opera and the possibility to jump into the fjord if it got too hot inside.

 

Sognsvann© Friederike Götz

Sognsvann © Friederike Götz

Sauna in the Oslo Fjord © Friederike Götz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our weekend trip to the Nærøyfjord

One weekend, I went on a trip to the fjord scenery of Norway together with some of my internship colleagues. We rented a car (which was more difficult than expected, as we needed either a credit card or a Norwegian bank account, which neither of us had) and drove almost 8 hours to Voss, a municipality near Bergen. The drive took longer than expected because there was heavy rain that day and several times we came to places where a Norwegian stood next to a car with hazard lights on in the dark in the rain and told us that the road was closed and we had to take another route. In the end, we arrived at our accommodation right on the lake – which was now more or less in the lake, as our basement was flooded. Fortunately, the water had not damaged much and the upper floors were enough for us to sleep. So we were able to enjoy our weekend including an acquaintance with the unpredictable strength of Norwegian nature and a ferry trip on the Nærøyfjord, one of the two UNESCO fjords in Norway. The ferry went from Gudvangen to Flåm, a village famous for its railway, and was pleasantly empty as we were there outside the main season. Although the weather was not the nicest, the view was fantastic and I took many impressive photos that will always remind me of this unique experience.

On the ferry in the Nærøyfjord ©Friederike Götz

View of the lake at our accommodation in Voss © Friederike Götz

View of the Nærøyfjord from Stegastein viewpoint © Friederike Götz

Waterfall in Nærøyfjord © Friederike Götz

 

My experiences in Sweden – enriching on a professional and personal level

January 9th, 2023 | by
  • Construction and Robotics M.Sc.
  • Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Volvo Group
  • March 2022 – December 2022

 

My decision to seek out an internship abroad was motivated primarily by the opportunity for professional growth. I was motivated to join my host institution- Volvo group in the department of Volvo trucks, for digital and flexible manufacturing plant, for several reasons: Firstly, it is a completely international organization, bringing together diverse collaborations between researchers from all over the world. I was very excited to gain diverse, international, and interdisciplinary perspectives on manufacturing and computer vision as I believed this could offer me a new kind of comprehension of global opportunities. I was also looking forward to building connections with colleagues from my host institute and experiencing first-hand how they approached their work and how their daily working life looked like. Secondly, the fact that the institute was in Gothenburg, Sweden appealed to me as I felt that the new context could offer me unique insights into the research field of Digital productions in real scale industry.

On a personal level, I also believed doing my internship abroad could provide me with the challenge and room for growth offered by new and different surroundings and the opportunity to meet new people. I knew Gothenburg has a beautiful historical center and I was excited to explore the architecture and history of the city. After several months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I found the prospect of new experiences especially energizing and fulfilling.

During my internship I was entrusted with a research project on Computer vison for overhead cameras and AGVs and received the opportunity to work as a researcher with doctorate students and professors from Chalmers University, Gothenburg. Research projects provided me with extremely enriching and fulfilling experiences, in which I learned even more than I could have imagined.

Within the scope of the multiple projects, I explored different methodologies to be able to quantify effectiveness of ARTags- Apriltags, ArucoTags considering light effects, occlusions, speed of detection and tracking. This entailed discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each tags with my team members, critically reviewing and presenting about previous research and learning to practically apply the methods. I worked on strategies for image fusion from multiple cameras and segmentation models as well as computer vision for distributed systems.

Besides cultivating fundamental research competencies, I also developed various soft skills. I cultivated professional and communication skills by interacting with colleagues on a daily basis and working closely together with team members. In doing so, I learned a great amount from my colleagues and their experiences. I both received the opportunity to hold presentations but could also attend lectures given by my colleagues to directly learn from them how to communicate ideas and research findings in an optimized way. I also learned when it was important to ask for help from others and became more confident in taking initiative and contributing my own ideas to the project. By juggling between different tasks and projects, I was able to improve my time management skills and set priorities to become more organized. This also helped me to optimize my work efficiency but also recognize my limits and learn to communicate if I wouldn’t be able to finish a task in the allotted time.

I very much appreciate the large amount of support I received from my host IAESTE and Volvo. I met with my supervisors at least twice a week, sometimes even more frequently and they took a lot of time to guide me and integrate me into the working group as much as possible. My supervisor also often asked me for my opinion and my ideas, which I cannot thank her enough for. Being able to voice my own thoughts and viewpoints proved to be an invaluable opportunity to self-sufficient and independent creative thinking.

Finding accommodation in Gothenburg was most likely one of the most difficult parts of my stay abroad. It was very difficult to find an apartment through online websites from Germany – most of them were in Swedish, many proved to be scams and non-existent and the rest were very expensive. My host institute and IAESTE Gothenburg helped me. My advice would be to start searching for accommodation as early as possible and ask for help from others who are living there.

All of my colleagues at the Volvo trucks are very welcoming and friendly, allowing me to feel completely included and happy during my time there. I gained the opportunity to meet and spend time with many new people. I learned a great amount from them and cherish the memories I have with them. I did get the chance to meet many local people outside of my internship and I was still able to explore a large amount of the city life and surrounding areas with my colleagues, which made me feel more connected to the place I was living in.

 © Gaurav Makwana

© Gaurav Makwana

In my free time, I would meet with friends from my work and explore the city. I enjoyed going on bike and scooter rides, exploring islands, visiting different historical sites, going to local cafes and restaurants to enjoy FIKA culture, finding the tastiest croissants and travelling to nearby cities or villages. Gothenburg is also close to the sea so I would strongly recommend to head down to all islands and go hiking and swimming there in some of the bluest cold waters you can find. I found the public transport system in Sweden to be very useful for short trips and affordable.

The living costs were in my experience higher in Gothenburg, as compared to Germany. I am therefore very grateful to Erasmus+ for giving me the opportunity to pursue an internship abroad and financially supporting me.

I attended an intercultural seminar and found this to be very helpful to get into a mindset that allows you to make the most out of your time abroad. It also teaches you that any difficulty or hardship that you face in the process can be a valuable learning opportunity. For these reasons, I would recommend it to other students, especially those who have never been abroad before or are looking to gain new insights and perspectives onto their upcoming journey.

My studies and previous research experiences provided me with foundational tools and background knowledge that I could draw from throughout my internship. By being able to apply these skills and competencies, I was able to strengthen and build on to them. This allowed me to cultivate essential research skills and grow confidence in putting them to practice.

Due to the rewarding and fulfilling experience I had during my internship, I feel highly motivated to pursue my studies and to maximize the insights I gain from my courses and professors. The experience also incentivized a future career in Computer vision and Digital manufacturing. Through my internship I realized how important it is to approach a digitalization topic from different angles and perspectives in order to fully understand it and to be able to implement efficient and safety policy measures aiming to mitigate the problems. This taught me how diverse the field can be and how important it is to think creatively and maintain an open mindset for learning from others, regardless of the stage you are in in your career. This reinforced and strengthened my motivation for pursuing a career in global Digitalization strategies.

In summary, while my expectations that I would learn a great amount about the field of Computer vision and develop professionally were fulfilled, my experience abroad also turned out to be very enriching on a personal level – far more than I had anticipated. During my time in Gothenburg, the new people I met, the unique and historical surroundings of the city and the positive and challenging experiences I was confronted with paved the way for growth and self-development. It also made me more open and adaptable to setbacks and helped shift my perspectives to ones in which I could more easily cope with and learn from mistakes.

I believe challenges during an experience abroad are inevitable but that they ultimately prove to be valuable learning opportunities. As eliminating them is not an option: to reduce problems, I believe it is important to plan as much as possible. In my opinion, however, it is more important to anticipate that unexpected outcomes, both good and bad, are bound to come your way and that the way you deal with them will shape your experience.

If you receive the opportunity to do an internship at the firm like Volvo for Research, I would highly recommend to grab the chance. Volvo for Research is a very open-minded and welcoming institution, tailored towards international cooperation. It is a place that fosters growth and openness. I am very thankful that I was able to spend my ten month internship there and would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor and colleagues at the Volvo trucks, as well as to those at RWTH Aachen supporting the Erasmus+ traineeships abroad.

Writing my master’s thesis in California

December 13th, 2022 | by
  • Environmental Engineering M.Sc.
  • Berkeley, California, United States of America
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • January 2022 – August 2022

 

My stay abroad at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (California) was 8 months long, from January 2022 to August 2022. During this time, I was doing research for my master’s thesis (Process Engineering) and did not collect any CPs as a student at UC Berkeley.

Preparations:

I started contacting professors from UC Berkeley, asking for an opportunity to research on my master’s thesis without having a concrete topic. Through several emails and zoom meetings I was invited as a “visiting student researcher” at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the equivalent to the “Frauenhofer Institut” in Germany. I had to apply for a J1 Exchange Student Visa, which meant filling out many documents and a lot of planning. In total, this process (called Free Mover) took almost a year before I was able to fly to San Francisco International Airport to start my research beginning of January 2022.

Living:

I found a shared apartment via craigslist close to my work and close to the campus. Do not underestimate the costs of living in the Bay area. For my room in a normal sized apartment with three housemates and a garden I paid $950. Food is as well a big expense, for example, a loaf bread costs $9 compared to a German 3€ loaf. Expensive is as well eating out (Pizza $15 compared to 5€) or having drinks (Beer $10 compared to 3€). But the food scene in Berkeley/Oakland/San Francisco is very versatile and vibrant, which surprised me. This all-year-great weather leads to people being active and sociable no matter how expensive life is.

Culture:

Near Berkeley is Oakland, a larger city that has become very attractive to the middle class. In Oakland, you can witness the process of gentrification, which means that the wealthy young generation is taking over an entire neighborhood from the poorer population. Oakland has a vibrant, fascinating culture on one side and crime and poverty on the other. To the west of Berkeley is San Francisco, which can be reached in about 20 minutes by BART, the local subway (cost $5, use ClipperCard). Berkeley is rather a quiet

University town, whereas SF is a magnet for tourists. The best places in SF are the Golden Gate Park (in the center of the city), the Dolores Park (a very crowded park, full of locals), Chinatown and Ocean Beach, there are as well great bars and festivals all year round. North of SF you can go hiking along the coast (Marin County, Point Reyes). In the south is Stanford University with a beautiful campus (Palo Alto). Must-see are as well: Napa Valley and Sonoma County (the wine regions of CA, 1 hour car ride from Berkeley), Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and Big Sur (each 3 hours car ride from Berkeley).

Daily Life:

Since I was not an official student of the UC Berkeley, I was not able to create a membership for the on-campus gym. Instead, I got a membership at the YMCA gym in Downtown Berkeley, very close to my apartment. I spent the day in the lab working on my research, ate lunch there with colleagues, and then went to the gym. In the evenings, I often took walks to the Rose Garden in Berkeley, hiked around the Fire Trails, watched the sunset at the Berkeley Marina or on top of the Indian Rocks in Berkeley. When spending the weekend in Berkeley, I usually went to: University Ave (Downtown), Southside (the equivalent to the Ponte in Aachen, in South Berkeley), to Temescal (South Berkeley, on the edge to Oakland) and Solano Ave (on the edge to Albany). When I was writing for my thesis, I enjoyed going to the many libraries the campus has to offer (the best being DOE library) and cafes, like Strada, Blue Bottle, Berkeley Espresso and Yali’s. Other things I liked to do: Yoga at Ohlone Park, Sunday food at “Thai Temple” (Wat Mongkolratanaram from 10am-1pm), biking to Lake Temescal.

© Emna Aidi

© Emna Aidi

Last Advice:

You will need at least half a year to plan such a research stay abroad. I created a one-page leaflet about my idea to work on my master’s thesis, listing my relevant coursework I took at the RWTH Aachen University and my interests in which I would like to work. I sent it to professors, who seemed to work on similar topics, and kept asking them to help me forward my email to others as well. Apply for scholarships since the research stay will be very expensive (Auslandsbafög, RWTH Research Ambassador, Promos DAAD, GIZ).

View: At the LBNL (located on a hill) overlooking the UC Berkeley campus and San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

My experiences in the Netherlands

December 13th, 2022 | by
  • Biomedical Engineering M.Sc.
  • Netherlands, Utrecht
  • UMC Utrecht
  • 01.06.2022 – 16.11.2022

 

Preparation:

To give myself some headroom to deal with the difficult housing market, I started looking for positions about nine months before the planned starting date. By the time I had found a position it was just four months to the starting date so that also had some implications on the available options in the housing market. A lot of general information pages about going abroad in the Netherlands recommend housing agencies like SSH to find student or some form of affordable housing. However, some of these agencies rely on a long waiting list, where it is more likely to get a housing offer the longer you are on the list. So, if you are running low on time, you can probably skip these options and look for alternatives, which saves you money in the process. This is another peculiarity of the Dutch housing market. While the German housing market is fairly accessible through online portals where you can see most of the available housing for free, the Dutch housing market is essentially locked behind a paywall, where most services require a subscription to contact any of the landlords. I found housing through the university hospital, which was by far the cheapest option compared to the private market. I was also required to make an appointment with the municipality for the registration purpose well in advance. I was able to get an appointment about four weeks away from the date I was looking on.

Commuting:

The Dutch system called OV-chipkaart makes commuting easy. It is essentially a prepaid (or bank account linked) public transport ticket which allows you to take every bus or train by simply checking in at the station or in the bus when you get on and checking out when you leave. It may be a little intimidating at first because you are always second guessing yourself if you have checked out correctly, but you can also register your chipkaart in the NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) App where you can check your latest chipcard activities. You can either order a personalized (bank account linked) card online, which takes about two weeks, or get a prepaid one at your local supermarket like Albert Heijn or Jumbo. I took the prepaid option which was still very comfortable because recharging stations are readily available at all train or bus stations and even some other locations like supermarkets. However, commuting by bus may become a noticeable financial burden because every trip you take has a flat base fee plus a per kilometre fee. Especially the base fee becomes very noticeable on short distances common inside the city.

With all of that said though, the obvious choice for commuting in the Netherlands is naturally the bike. Especially in Utrecht the bike infrastructure is exceptional. There are well maintained bike paths and bike storage everywhere which makes commuting by bike a treat. I took my bike from Aachen to Utrecht by train which is easy via the NS intercities.

Every-day life/internship:

Life in the Netherlands isn’t really all that different from life in Germany. Supermarket prices are a bit more expensive in some categories but are generally comparable to the ones you would fine here. This also applies to your average take out service, where a decent portion of fries will set you back about 3 € and a high-quality pizza is about 10 €. Payment services are also a non-issue in the Netherlands if you have a German debit card. There are very few places, if any, where you will encounter the need for cash because everything is paid by card, and I haven’t had any issues with my debit card (no extra fees or anything).

The Dutch working culture is also kind of similar but one thing I have encountered during my stay is that they put less emphasize on the lunch break. The lunch breaks were generally quite short (often just shy of 30 minutes) and primarily focused on food consumption. However, this may be attributed to the group I was working in. My internship was in the neuro engineering department of the Medical Centre Utrecht, which was a very international and highly goal oriented, so I spent a lot of time working.

Utrecht as a city also offers great recreational opportunities in forms of parks and proximity to farms around the campus. I regularly took strolls along the fields after work. If you take a bike, there are also a lot of historical landmarks within reach, including a lot of different forts and castles.

Conclusion:

While the housing situation and cost of living may be a little overwhelming in the beginning, the Dutch culture is very approachable and welcoming. The country offers a great experience in terms of travel, be it by bike or by public transport, which was a welcome change from the car centrist life in Germany. The university hospital in Utrecht is very well equipped and offers knowledge in a wide range of topics.

Go abroad. Go to Sweden.

December 13th, 2022 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering: Materials and Process Engineering B.Sc.
  • Sweden, Helsingborg
  • RKW Sweden AB
  • April – October 2022

 

Ah, what a great summer…looking back now, it feels more like a big vacation than a semester of working. Maybe because I did so many great after- work activities, maybe because my internship itself was nice or maybe because now this time is over and it is winter in Germany. 🙂

I arrived in the middle of April and at first, things started off medium well. My room, rented by the company, was in the basement of a villa with quite a few alcoholics in the building. They were all nice to me, but this was something new and scary to me. Over time and with changing apartment mates it got better, but the first months were a bit hard because I did not feel at home there.  Here we already have a few learnings about Sweden; first, almost nobody in Sweden rents apartments, so rental websites are a bit weird and mostly people in unstable points of their lives or students rent apartments. Also, Sweden has super strict laws and crazy prizes when it comes to alcohol, you are for example not allowed to drink alcohol on the street.

Let’s get to a more fun topic, work 😉 For me, working at a Swedish location of a German company was great. The atmosphere was good, the people were really nice and everyone spoke English well. Another great thing about Sweden is, how far it is in all terms of equality. If I was a woman or a man, the site management or the little intern, I felt like everyone was equally important and valuable. This is not the case in all companies or countries and so it was very interesting to have the many times stressed and not so relaxed German part of the company in comparison to the Swedish part I was working at.

If you want to experience a great working atmosphere, try working in Sweden. 🙂

One thing about the chill atmosphere, which almost irritated me, was the amount of Fika (coffee breaks) they take. Sometimes 45 minutes per day made me feel a bit unproductive, but many of my colleagues there were very comfortable with that. Another thing I had heard about before, is the swedes awkwardness when it comes to small talk. My own experience was, that if you have any connection to the person, small talk is fine and they will be really nice. They won’t go out of their way for you, like speak English during the entire lunch because you don’t speak Swedish, but someone will try to integrate you a bit. If they don’t know you at all, they will try not to talk to you at all, in public for example.

I did have a bit of problems in the beginning to get involved socially, but through my hobby sailing, some colleagues and Facebook, things slowly picked up. Facebook is actually one of my biggest recommendations for anyone going to Sweden. If you are trying to rent an apartment, inform yourself on clubs or social groups. If you want to find friends, look there. What works really well is hiking groups. I found that the people there are usually very open, come from everywhere and on top of that you are exploring the area. What happened to me is that one girl saw one of my hiking plans in one group, texted me and we became friends. We even made a trip to Stockholm together in the last weeks of my time in Sweden!

Now let’s come to my specific Skåne recommendations:

© Kuhlmann, Selma

© Kuhlmann, Selma

-Kallbadhusets, beautiful saunas at the sea, where you can switch between bathing in the cold sea and sitting in the sauna. Very relaxing and not very expensive. (about the price for a cup of beer in Sweden;))

-Venn island in the middle of the Öresund, a beautiful place with fun yellow tandem bikes for exploring the nature.

-Kullaberg. An awesome hiking spot northern of Helsingborg.

-The bakery två systras in Helsingbog. They have a lot of awesome traditional Swedish Fikabröd like Kardemummabullar or Vaniljhjärta. My personal cake favorite: the Budapest.

-The Vasa museum in Stockholm. We were also a bit unsure of going because it does cost some money, but it was all worth it. Such an interesting and greatly made museum!

My conclusion: Go abroad. Go to Sweden. Start somewhere new. Learn more about yourself.