Intern Abroad

Kategorie: ‘Environmental Engineering’

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.


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.


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.


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.


Working in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – Amsterdam

October 17th, 2022 | by
  • Environmental Engineering M.Sc.
  • Netherlands, Amsterdam
  • Metabolic Amsterdam
  • 28.02.2022 – 26.08.2022


Already four months before the planned start of the internship, I start looking for a suitable position. At this point, it is clear to me that I want to gain several months of professional experience in the field of sustainability strategies for public or private institutions. Since my studies are rather technical, a direct connection between the academic content and a practical job seems rather unlikely. Another challenge is that my idea covers a very broad area and often refers to advertised positions with very different descriptions. This makes the search even more difficult.
In my case, the path to a successful application therefore requires ambition and stamina, as I have to work my way through the long list of results after searching for “Sustainability Intern” several
times. A position at a sustainability consulting company that is looking for interns in the area of circular economy with a background in recycling technologies turns out to be promising.
As a platform to search for advertised jobs, I mainly use LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Furthermore, I would recommend going to the website of companiesthat appeal to you, as many do not upload their open positions on all job platforms. Alternatively, a speculative application is also possible at any time, as especially with practices companies are often interested.

The experience of doing an internship in another EU member country shows me once again the many advantages of the European Union. Of course, as an EU citizen, no separate visa is required for employment in Amsterdam. The employer, who is used to receiving applications from abroad, has the necessary experience here and checks this out directly during the application process. A big challenge, especially in the Dutch capital, is finding a suitable and, above all, affordable apartment. I am lucky enough to be able to go on a flat-share search together with a contact person who already works in Amsterdam, which makes this process much easier. As a recommendation, I can give at this point various online portals, which, however, must be updated several times a day in the period before the planned move to have any chance of finding accommodation. Students who decide to work in the Netherlands are required to register for a so-called citizen service
number BSN. This can be done at the local administration and is necessary for tax reasons. Furthermore, one is obliged to take out a Dutch health insurance. However, this only applies if the remuneration of the job is above the legal minimum wage. Since it is possible for students to have a lower salary, it is possible that such insurance is not necessary.

Working Environment
At this point, it should first be mentioned that my experience is not meant to be representative of a typical working environment in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, I have the impression that openness,
calmness, flexibility and flat hierarchies are standard rather than the exception. As an intern at my employer, you are usually assigned to a specific supervisor in a specific team. Since
the areas of responsibility of the individual teams differ significantly in terms of both content and working methods, the activities of the interns also vary accordingly. In general, it can be said that in most cases interns are seen as an addition to the core team and are integrated as such. At the beginning of the internship phase, a plan is drawn up together with the supervisor and with the help of the HR department, with which expectations both sides go into this temporary employment relationship. Particular attention is paid to which goals are pursued and which means are necessary to achieve them. The main aim is to address the individual strengths of the people concerned and to promote them, or to identify weaknesses and counteract them. The work of the team to which I have been assigned specializes in the direct or indirect support of private clients from industry. A large part of the work consists of analyzing products and production processes. The goal is to find leverage points by looking at the entire system in order to make it more sustainable. In most cases, this means using resources more responsibly. For example, it may involve minimizing waste streams, restructuring processes to reduce energy requirements, or revising product design to think about both materials and the product itself in cycles. During the support phase or the cooperation with the customer, it is always of great importance to let all stakeholders participate in the status of the work and relevant decisions. This is referred to as stakeholder engagement. The idea is that through analysis and suggestions from external partners, a certain resistance to this intervention can develop. However, one make the experience that a view from the outside can be quite helpful to rethink products and processes to get closer to the set goal. In order to reconcile these two sides and thus achieve the best possible and sustainable result of the
collaboration, it is very important to involve all areas of work and hierarchical levels.

Living in Amsterdam
The capital of the Netherlands, located on the Ij, is in my opinion one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Especially the famous city center with its many canals, the so-called Grachten, is stunningly beautiful. As a first recommendation from my side are therefore not any museums or special buildings, but simply a long walk in the canal belt of the city. Within this beautiful area, you should rather avoid the middle between the Central Station and Dam Square, because most tourists are here. Culturally, the city has an incredible amount to offer. It has the highest museum density in the world and contains, among other things, in the famous Rijksmuseum also many international works of geniuses such as Rembrandt or van Gogh. As another classic, the Anne Frank House is definitely recommended. The minimalist exhibition of the rooms where the family hid from the Nazis is oppressive and yet incredibly fascinating. However, early booking is necessary. If you want to spend a little more time in nature, you can explore the huge city park Amsterdamse Bos.

The bottom line is that my personal field of activity during the internship deviates only slightly from the field of activity of a junior consultant. The reason for this is that I and other interns are generally very well integrated into the work of the core team, with consideration being given to the strengths, skills and preferences of the individuals. Overall, it can be said that the daily work routine is very diverse. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the work on four different projects in conjunction with the cross-project work covers several sectors of the industrial economy as well as sociopolitical aspects. On the other hand, the work within a project consists of many facets. This includes research of relevant data as well as their processing and integration into models. This data analysis often includes the recognition of patterns and the translation into information that can be presented to the client. Furthermore, the evaluation of interventions to address different points of sustainable performance of private and public organizations plays an important role. On the one hand, this requires a clear understanding of the problem to be solved, for which a thorough understanding of the data provided is necessary. Additionally, a basic knowledge of industrial processes with the corresponding physics or chemistry behind them is necessary. Another important component of the work, also for me as an intern, is a well thought-out and transparent communication with customers and partners.