Categories
Pages
-

Intern Abroad

Kategorie: ‘Mechanical Engineering’

Research stay at the University of Oxford

January 4th, 2024 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering Mechanical Engineering M.Sc.
  • United Kingdom, Oxford
  • University of Oxford
  • 04/2023 – 06/2023

 

Application/Finding an internship

During my master’s studies I developed an interest into various mathematical tools to model economic processes. Since I also wanted to take the chance to spend some more time abroad at the end of my studies, I decided to look for interesting chairs and institutes that align with my research interests to conduct my master thesis. Since the topic I was looking for was rather niche, there weren’t that many opportunities available and I quickly stumbled upon a research group at the University of Oxford after simple research on recent publicati

The reading room in the Old Bodleian Library.
© Jonas Schmänk

ons in my area of interest. With some background information on the coursework I have done previously and the research questions I was interested in, I reached out the administration of the institute. Luckily, two researchers reached out to me afterwards, stating that they have received my inquiry and would be happy to support the research for my thesis. After that, only some simple formalities had to be done for me to get an access card (“Bod card”) to the Universities’ libraries. I decided to physically stay in Oxford for the duration of one trimester (~2 months) since this didn’t require me to pay any fees to the University. This was a specific characteristic of the program of the receiving institute and does not necessarily hold true for other faculties as far as I know, so that should be kept in mind. The more “official” framework in which research stays in Oxford are processed through is the status of being a “recognised student”, which does require the payment of significant fees.

Accommodation & Living expenses

The University of Oxford consists of various colleges that typically provide for accommodation and food. Since I was a visitor to a specific institute and not a recognised student, it was unclear in the beginning whether I could make use of these services. Therefore, I decided to look for private accommodation. My receiving institute provided me with a short list of some possible opportunities and I decided to stay at the Commonwealth House, a well-located shared house affiliated with a local church at the rate of roughly 750 GBP a month including a simple but totally sufficient breakfast during weekdays in a common room with other tenants. While this seemed very pricey to me initially, this rate is more at the cheaper end in the center of Oxford and is similar to the ones that are paid for for college accommodation. Overall, I was content with the accommodation but for a prolonged period one might be better off with a different place, since the sanitary facilities and the kitchen were often in rather poor condition. As I found out later, often enough colleges do have some limited availability of rooms for non-members. To find out about that, a short email to the responsible person at the college is sufficient.

The dining hall at New College.
© Jonas Schmänk

As mentioned, breakfast was included most of the time at my accommodation. For lunch, one typically went to one of the very beautiful dining halls at the colleges, where a meal was available for between roughly 3.5-5 GBP. Groceries in the supermarket were available for a small premium compared to German prices. Overall, the ERASMUS scholarship made up for any additional expenses compared to my German student life.

Everyday life/ the internship

During my time in Oxford, I was highly flexible regarding my schedule. Typically, I started working at around 9:30 am and left at 17:30. While I had a work desk available at my institute, I often went to one of the beautiful old libraries Oxford has to offer. Since I worked on a rather programming-heavy task which didn’t require any other infrastructure than my laptop I was very flexible on where to work. Once a week, I met with my supervisors to discuss my progress and any open questions. Apart from the thesis-related tasks, I was able to join the seminars at my group, which included visits from various academics or presentations from group members regarding their current research.

Free time/tips

The possibility of activities outside of studying are almost overwhelming during term time. For once, there is probably a student society for any kind of interest. Let it be the Wine Society with frequent wine tastings, the Diplomatic Society with visits from international diplomats or the German Society with Germany-related pub quizzes, there are plenty of things to do. Furthermore, one should look out for associate memberships at one of the

Punting through Christ Church Meadows.
© Jonas Schmänk

colleges if one is not affiliated with any of them as a regular or recognised student. The colleges offer further social activities, that are split between undergrads in the Junior Common Room (JCR) and grad students in the Middle Common Room (MCR). To find out about possibilities to join them as an associate member, one should look for the respective constitution by just googling a specific college + “MCR” [or JCR, depending on where you are in your studies] + “constitution”. Luckily, I had the chance to join New College as an associate member and therefore gained access to their activities as well, with the most noteworthy being the chance to attend their formal dinners. While these came at a cost of roughly 25 GBP, they provided a three-course meal of very high quality and the chance to mingle with other people and bring friends from other colleges. Typically, a suit or cocktail dress was obligatory for these dinners. Also, the colleges often have their own sports grounds where one can play tennis, squash or even rent a boat to go punting. The latter is something that is definitely to be done when in Oxford. The many canals and rivers provide a very scenic view on the city and the nature surrounding it.  Furthermore, the University itself has a vast array of interesting talks and speeches by renowned academics which opens up further opportunities to spend free time on.

If one finds time for other things to do, Oxford also offers many nice museums, medieval colleges and pubs (my favorite being The Old Bookbinders) to explore during the day or in the evening. Also, the surroundings are worthwhile a visit. London is only a 1.5-hour bus ride away as well. I personally found it hard to find time for activities outside of Oxford during my limited time there, since the city itself has so much to offer.

Conclusion

Overall, I can highly recommend an academic stay in Oxford. Not only does the renowned university attract interesting and diverse people from all over the world, but the city also has a unique charm with its medieval colleges and libraries, creating an unparalleled atmosphere.

 

Research stay at Georgia Institute of Technology

November 3rd, 2023 | by
  • Aerospace Engineering M.Sc.
  • USA, Atlanta
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Aerospace System Design Laboratory (ASDL)
  • 05/2023 – 09/2023

Application and Preparation

There has been a long-standing relationship between the Institute of Aerospace Systems (ILR) and the renowned Aerospace System Design Laboratory (ASDL) in Atlanta. Due to my activities as a bachelor student and as a student assistant for many years at ILR, I was given the unique opportunity to spend a research period at ASDL and to work there. The cooperation exists between the professors at both institutes.

Tech Tower of Georgia Institute of Technology
© Johannes Götz

In November 2022, I started planning and approached ILR about my desire to go there. Due to the choice of my area of work – the ASDL has six great research branches – the visa issuance and the related working documents took a few months. In May 2023, I could already start working remotely and got to know the team. From July until the end of September, I was on site at the Laboratory and worked there as a research assistant. Since I worked in a project belonging to the Defense & Space division, I had to wait some time for my DS-2019 (important work permit).

Accommodation and Living Situation in Atlanta

Finding housing in Atlanta is proving to be difficult. You must be careful at what time you are there because the semester times are very different from ours. In the summer, it is relatively easy to get an apartment for subletting. Facebook groups are excellent for this purpose. However, as always with such portals you must be warned of potential scammers. I first moved into a shared apartment and later into an Airbnb because the semester starts again at the end of August and the apartment search is extremely difficult then. The rental costs are at least about 1500$ per month. Georgia Tech supports you with the purchase of a monthly ticket for the local bus and train transport, called MARTA.

View of Atlanta Midtown from Piedmont Park
© Johannes Götz

These cost $66 per month and the network is well developed by American standards. From time to time, buses and trains are cancelled, but with the appropriate apps and enough scheduled time, I had no problems moving freely in Atlanta and the surrounding area. At night, however, you just must watch out and always be aware of your surroundings. Atlanta can be dangerous at night but also very beautiful. Common sense is highly recommended here and in case of emergency, you should always use services like Uber or Lyft. On Georgia Tech’s campus, there are several bus lines that make regular stops during the week, so it’s easy to get anywhere. I don’t recommend biking because of the traffic and the heat in the summer, though of course it depends on how far away you live.

The Work

I was working in the Defense & Space division on a project that dealt with the active removal of space debris and developed corresponding systems. My activities included work with complex FEM software, simulation of spacecraft control and simulation of the satellite systems and practical tests on tensile testing machines as well as larger test environments for validation and verification of the performed simulation work. It was a joint project between different laboratories and research institutes. NASA engineers were consolidating every couple of weeks.  Various other institutions were involved in the project besides the

View over south campus from Georgia Tech’s library. Left side view is Downtown, right side is the Coca-Cola headquarter.
© Johannes Götz

Aerospace System Design Laboratory. The most important were Georgia Tech Research Institute, Space System Design Laboratory, various NASA labs, and Georgia Tech’s College of Design. Because of this diversity of partners, meetings were always necessary to keep each other up to date. I worked together with 8 other Graduate Research Assistants. In parallel to my work, I was still working on the DLR Design Challenge remotely. My working hours were 9am-5pm and I spent every day at the institute but was also able to work from home at times. The project does not fall under US export control yet, which made it possible to work in this sector as a foreigner. So, it was a unique opportunity to get to know US work in the space sector.

Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world. A must-see!
© Johannes Götz

Free Time and Tips for Atlanta

Atlanta offers a wide range of activities, all of which are accessible by bus and train. Besides the famous attractions like the Georgia Aquarium, Hall of Fame College Football, the World of Coca-Cola and the huge Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there are also beautiful parks. Take a walk through the Botanical Garden or visit the photo spot in Piedmont Park overlooking the Midtown skyline. Many series and movies have been filmed in and around Atlanta, including Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. Some movie locations exist in reality and can be visited. A trip to Hawkings Lab from the series Stranger Things, for example, was very memorable. At the Mall of Georgia, movies are shown in real (!) IMAX format. A trip there to see Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer was very worthwhile. A trip to Buckhead to visit the design and art museums and see the town there is also ideal for spending free time. For American football, field hockey or – the Americans call it soccer – football fans, there is a wide range of things to do, and watching an authentic football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was an unforgettable experience. For connoisseurs and lovers of the famous Rocky Horror Picture Show I can only recommend to experience it with authentic disguises and get a quasi-4D cinema show.

High Museum of Art in north Midtown
© Johannes Götz

The food scene in Atlanta is diverse and a culinary feast for the eyes. Excellent fried chicken, barbecue and coffee shops make you forget the hot summer temperatures there. Rooftop pool parties and cooking together as well as barbecuing together were also part of the everyday unwinding after work.

Typical college football game at GT’s home stadium. Go Yellow Jackets!
© Johannes Götz

Conclusion

My research stay in Atlanta was a great enrichment for me personally and an optimal opportunity to apply what I had learned at RWTH and to actively participate in a professional work environment. In addition to the linguistic education, I was able to learn a lot of positive things about American culture. There, a healthy competitive spirit, and a positive attitude towards passionate ambition prevail. These attributes are much more practiced in the U.S. than I thought. The idea of a life’s dream or achieving a good life’s goal is strong there. The students see themselves together in a team, and they also encourage each other to overcome difficult phases in life. I will carry this optimistic and motivating attitude forward. It is a great opportunity for a RWTH student to be able to do such research stays and to represent RWTH and Germany abroad.

Writing a master thesis at KTM Forschungs & Entwicklungs GmbH in Austria

October 31st, 2023 | by
  • Automotive Engineering and Transport M.Sc.
  • Austria, Salzburg
  • KTM Forschungs & Entwicklungs GmbH
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

During this summer semester I did an internship at KTM in Mattighofen, Austria to work on my master thesis. It was a great experience and I totally recommend both, Austria and the company KTM, for an internship abroad.

Application process

In November 2023, I started looking for job postings for a master thesis for the summer semester 2023. I did not particularly look for advertisements abroad, but it was always an option to write my master thesis abroad. Writing your master thesis in a company is an excellent way to recommend yourself for a future employment. At the time of my application, KTM did not offer any master thesis in the relevant fields in their job portal. So, I decided to write a speculative application. I can recommend everyone to do the same if you are interested in a specific company. Often, the departments already have ideas for topics for a thesis, but these have not yet been published as a job advertisement. A few days after my application, I was contacted by the HR department to make an appointment for an interview. At this appointment, the company presented several topics that would have been possible for the master’s thesis. The application process was clearly structured and the HR department always kept me updated.

After finding a company for the master thesis, you need to find a supervisor at university. This can be very challenging. I could not accept an offer from another company be

View on Attersee and Mondsee from Großer Schoberstein
© Lukas Rehermann

cause I could not find a supervisor at the university in a reasonable amount of time. In general, I would advise you to ask multiple institutes for supervision at the same time. Even tough I study automotive engineering, my master thesis was not supervised by one of the institutes, which are directly related to automotive engineering, but by a more general mechanical engineering institute. For most institutes, you can see their detailed research fields on their website. The fastest way is to contact the research assistants of the relevant research field directly.

For the Erasmus scholarship application, you need a learning agreement. When I had to submit the application, my learning agreement was not signed by the faculty yet. I could hand in the learning agreement afterwards. In general, applying for the Erasmus internship grant requires less effort than applying for an Erasmus semester at a university. This is mostly related to the recognition process at your faculty.

 

Accommodation and Living Expenses

After the acceptance by the company, it was time for me to start looking for accommodation. Since Mattighofen is a relatively small town, I looked for shared apartments in Salzburg. The commute from Salzburg to Mattighofen takes about 45 minutes by car or one hour by train. In general, the accommodation search in Salzburg was rather difficult. Especially the fact that I was looking for a room for half a year led to one or the other rejection. I only found a room in a shared apartment a few days before starting work, even though I started looking for a room almost 3 months in advance.

In general, living expenses in Austria are a bit higher than in Germany. Buying groceries and eating in restaurants is more expensive. If you have a car, you can drive to Freilassing in Germany to buy cheaper groceries there. For my room in a shared flat I paid 500 € per month including utilities.

The salaries in Austria for interns are usually higher than in Germany, especially if you already have a bachelor’s degree. Then, the company has to pay you a minimum salary defined in the relevant Kollektivvertrag (collective labor agreement).

 

Everyday life/the internship

I worked in the vehicle dynamics team at KTM. Of course, most of the time I worked on the research topics of my master thesis. In addition, my colleagues and my supervisor showed me their work, so that I can get a broader overview what the vehicle dynamics team is doing overall. For example, I could sometimes join them on the test track. I felt very comfortable in the team. If I had any questions, everyone took time to help me.

In addition, I was very satisfied with the supervision by university. When writing an external master thesis, it is your job as a student to reconcile the requirements of university and the company. This was eased by the approaches of my supervisors. We agreed that the company was responsible for the research scope requirements and that the university was in lead for the requirements about the documentation. Nevertheless, the university’s supervisor contributed many helpful ideas and provided approaches to solve problems during the research.

Some words about the working conditions: my full-time contract included 38,5 hours per week. I had flexible work time with core times and could take days off using overtime (maximum one day per week). You can work from home maximum 2 days per week. Of course, this also depends on your tasks. In Austria, you usually have 5 weeks of holidays per year. KTM offers many additional benefits for their employees.

View on the city of Salzburg from Gaisberg
© Lukas Rehermann

Free time/tips

Austria in general is a great destination for an Erasmus semester or internship if you are into outdoor activities. The landscape in the area around Salzburg is amazing! Almost every weekend I went hiking, mountain biking, or similar. I would definitely recommend doing some hikes in Salzkammergut and combine this with swimming in one of the lakes afterwards.

Salzburg is a beautiful city with an amazing old town. There is always something to explore. In addition, many students live in Salzburg. If you try to connect with other people outside work, contact the ESN Salzburg even though you are not an Erasmus student at University of Salzburg. They organize many events, and you can try to connect with other Erasmus students via their WhatsApp group chat.

 

Conclusion

All in all, I am super happy with my decision to write the master thesis in Austria. I enjoyed the stay there and made many new friendships. I would recommend this to everyone who is interested in going abroad. In the end, I continue working at KTM after finishing my master’s degree.

It is to mention, that an Erasmus internship is a completely different experience than studying at university abroad. Before going to Austria, I already did two Erasmus semesters at universities. When studying, you are way more flexible in planning your free time, for example for travelling. But of course, this does not mean that you do not have any free time during an internship. Especially if you have flexible work time, you can find enough opportunities to extend your weekends for travelling and exploring the country.

Writing a master thesis at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg

October 31st, 2023 | by
  • Chemical Engineering M.Sc.
  • Sweden, Gothenburg
  • Chalmers tekniska högskola
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

Application/Finding an internship

The interest of going abroad was raised in a presentation of my home institute AVT, when they presented their different possibilities for exchange programs in other countries. And since I still wanted to live in another country for a period and improve my English skills, I haven chosen for Sweden. Sounds weird in the first place because Sweden is not officially an English-speaking country. However, I knew that almost all Sweds can fluently speak English. Therefore, I applied at AVT for the exchange of writing my master thesis at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The exchange between AVT and Chalmers is not a typical type of exchange program that is embedded officially in a Erasmus+ program, but more an agreement between both AVT and the Energy Technology Division of Chalmers. After a while I received feedback from AVT that I can go there in Summer 2023.

Deers in my backyard.
© Jannik Bothe

However, since the Professor of Chalmers, who has organized the exchange in the past, has left to another University, I had to apply informally to one of the professors at the Energy Technology Division. I then sent my application to a professor who luckily accepted me as well and so the first step of organizing my exchange was done.

Accomodation & Living expenses

As I already read that finding a good accommodation for a reasonable price can be difficult in Gothenburg, I immediately started to queue in for student housing at the student union. For Chalmers, there are the SGS and Chalmers Studentbostäder, which both offers single and shared rooms for students for low prices. However, the queues are extraordinarily long so that normally students must wait for more than one year to get the chance of renting such an accommodation. Therefore, the hope was not too high to get such a chance, and in December 2022 the hope was completely gone as I heard from my Professor at Chalmers that I won’t be enrolled as a student at Chalmers during my exchange. Unfortunately, Chalmers changed some of their regulations for exchange students that are not in an official exchange program, so that officially I was at Chalmers just as an intern. And interns can’t apply for student housing.

The tropical house in Universeum.
© Jannik Bothe

I then started to search for private accommodation on housinganywhere.com and eventually got lucky with a room in a shared flat with three other people. Housinganywhere is a platform designed for exchange students coming from other countries. When renting a room or an apartment, the first rent is paid to Housinganywhere, and they are sending it to the landlord. In any case something went wrong, or one is fooled by the landlord, Housinganywhere will give you the money back for the first rent, which gave me a good feeling since I had to rent this room without visiting the house or seeing the room in advance.

The room was fully furnished and around 16 m² big. Together with three other students I shared the ground floor with them. We had a very nice and well-equipped kitchen and a – I would say – pretty nature-like garden. It was not a typical student house with many flat, but more a house, which might be built and used by a family in the past. The house was in very calm housing estate in the south-east of Gothenburg called Lunden. In total, my room was 6000 SEK per month, which was around 530 € at that time.

The living cost are generally higher in Sweden than in Germany. However, prices were not that high as I expected them before I came since the prices in Germany for example in the supermarkets got already high due to inflation. In total, I would say that living expenses were around 20 % higher compared to Germany.

Seeing moos in Slottsskogen park.
© Jannik Bothe

Everyday life/ the internship

After arrival, I went to the university the day after and was kindly welcomed by my new colleagues at the division. My supervisor showed me everything important at the division and has already organized me a desk in advance. From then on, I started to dive into my project with reading into literature and defining the scope. I had the possibility to work from home. However, since the working atmosphere was nice, I went to the division almost every day. Therefore, my every-day-life was more like a typical working-life with a good structure. And since I did not have to take any other courses, I had enough time during the week so that I had not to work on weekends during the whole period of my exchange and was still good in time. In general, I must say that the support my supervisors at Chalmers and my supervisor from AVT was excellent. I never had the problem of not making progress or going into a completely wrong direction. I also have to say that the colleagues of the Division of Energy Technology at Chalmers are so kind and helpful. Everyone offered my help in any case, and I always felt welcome there.

Seeing one of hundreds of lakes during a hike around Gothenburg.
© Jannik Bothe

Free time/tips

For me, free time was highly influenced by the people I me there. Due to my flat mates, I already had a group of people who I shared my free time with. We often were out for a BBQ or on parties, enjoyed the nature or city together or just hang out. Besides spending time with my friends, I enjoyed nature either while running or hiking in the woods. Around Gothenburg there are mainly two long hiking paths called Bohusleden and Gotaleden, which I can highly recommend to everyone who loves nature. The track can be found online, but navigation along the track is not needed since there are sings every 100 meters. Besides hiking, Gothenburg itself offers many possibilities to spend time. My favorite places were the park Slottsskogen where you can see Moos, Kafé Magasinet (delicious pizza & beer), Universeum and Liseberg. Additionally, one should look out for concerts which might take place during the stay. In the stadium Ullevi, many great artists show concerts, and I visited Coldplay there, which was breathtaking. Below, you can find some impressions of my free time in Gothenburg.

Conclusion

Coldplay concert at Ullevi.
© Jannik Bothe

Summarized, the stay in Gothenburg was a very nice experience and a good way to end my whole student life. Even though I sometimes missed my friends and family, I enjoyed my time there, met and got nice friends and can always remember back with a smile on my face. I can recommend Sweden and particularly Gothenburg to everyone who wants to make a new experience outside Germany.

Internship in Bilbao

October 2nd, 2023 | by
  • Automotive Engineering and Transport M.Sc.
  • Spain, Bilbao
  • FEV Iberia SI.
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

Application

I wanted to join the Erasmus mobility internship program with the primary goal of gaining international and intercultural experience. An important aspect of my application was that there was no formal process needed, as I had been working with the host company, FEV Consulting GmbH, for approximately half a year as a working student prior to this experience. This established connection eased out the process and facilitated my placement abroad. The choice of Bilbao, Spain as my destination was motivated by my desire to explore a country I had barely visited before, offering me the opportunity to dive into a new culture and language. Moreover, the presence of a FEV Consulting GmbH office in Bilbao made it a fitting location for my internship.

Accommodation and Living Expenses

Finding accommodation in Bilbao proved to be an interesting challenge, as my internship did not align entirely with the typical Erasmus semester. Student accommodations were already occupied, leaving little available options. Luckily, I found a shared apartment on idealista.com, where I lived with young professionals from Spain between the city districts Sarriko and Deusto. The apartment, although located slightly outside the city center, provided a comfortable place to live at a cost of 500€ per month, which included all expenses and even a cleaning service for common areas. It was recently renovated, though my private room was not particularly spacious, and the flat lacked a common living room outside of the kitchen. For future participants seeking accommodation in Bilbao, I recommend joining Facebook or WhatsApp groups for Erasmus students in advance to explore shared housing options. Alternatively, living in a hostel for an initial month while searching for a permanent flat is a viable option. Being present in the city allows for more convenient flat viewing. Important to highlight is not to search for a flat south of Calle Autonomia and the city district San Francisco. Crime rates a quite high and walking in the streets at night can be dangerous as many people get robbed there, even at daytime. Regarding living expenses, I found that approximately 350€ per month covered food and going out. Food prices were comparable to Germany, while drinks in bars were notably more affordable in Spain.

Internship

During my internship, I had an official eight-hour workday contract, although my effective working hours exceeded that throughout the entire internship. Within the consultancy firm, my responsibilities primarily involved desktop research and preparing presentations for the strategic management level of our clients. A significant highlight of my internship was to write my master’s thesis during a customer project, where I developed a Microsoft Excel model for assessing the cost of the battery recycling ecosystem. I also had the opportunity to give presentations in front of the customer, taking on additional responsibilities. Surprisingly, I found no significant cultural or professional differences when compared to the German offices of the company. This allowed me to seamlessly integrate into the work environment while making friends with my Spanish colleagues. The key takeaways in terms of work were advancing my proficiency in Microsoft Excel and internalizing the tools of a consultant. As the corporate language of the company is English, I couldn’t improve my Spanish language skills in the everyday work environment. Therefore, I remotely attended an intensive Spanish course at RWTH Aachen University with a scope of three hours per week, targeting language level A1. I highly recommend attending language courses in case the skills cannot be improved within the work environment.

Free Time

Bilbao offers several free-time activities, including visits to the beach, surfing, and hiking. The city’s closeness to nature and the well-established public transportation system with a metro and buses make these activities easily accessible. A must-visit are Sopelana Beach and Artxanda Mountain in particular. Additionally, I participated in cultural events such as the Pamplona bull run and city festivities that spanned 1.5 months, starting in early July. In Bilbao it is essential to know the Spanish language very well to make local friends, as most Basques do not speak English fluently. Furthermore, the attitude of the Basque people towards foreigners is rather closed, making integration into the society hard. To have a fun time, one should seek for making international friends which is quite easy when meeting other Erasmus students, as most of them have an open-minded attitude. Besides, it might be a good idea to search for tandem partner for both improving the language and getting to know local people. For exploring Bilbao, I highly recommend strolling around the city and visiting many different Pintxo bars. Besides, Bilbao has three main spots to go out. Calle Poza, Calle Ledesma and Casco Viejo. Calle Poza attracts mainly students and young people with its variety of bars. Calle Ledesma is a little bit more expensive and fancier, and the average age of people who go out there is slightly higher than at Poza. Casco Viejo is the old town of Bilbao. It’s very touristic and offers several interesting bars and restaurants at niche spots. Most common to go out are Plaza Nueva and Barrenkale. For those exploring Bilbao’s surroundings, I highly recommend visiting for example Pamplona, San Sebastian, Pikos de Europa, Bermeo, and Gernika. Being in Spain also offers the opportunity to visit Portugal or even Morrocco.

Conclusion

This Erasmus mobility internship experience has left a significant mark on my personal and professional development. I have integrated the lightheartedness of Spanish culture into my everyday life and mindset, which has brought a valuable perspective to my approach to work and life in general. Moreover, I learned the importance of balancing a busy consultant’s lifestyle with enriching free-time activities. This Erasmus+ mobility has further encouraged me to continue exploring foreign countries and cultures in the future. It has consolidated my belief in the great value of international experiences in shaping a well-rounded and adaptable individual.

Research visit at Cornell University

August 7th, 2023 | by
  • Mechanical Engineering, PhD
  • USA, Ithaca
  • Cornell University
  • 03/2023 – 05/2023

 

  1. Application/Finding an internship

Since the start of my Ph.D., I planned to do a research visit abroad, and I was constantly looking for research questions that were suitable for it. Even though my ideas did not really convince me, I scheduled a meeting with my Ph.D. advisor. In this meeting, we discussed possible research groups which fit my research topics. Based on this, I picked a research group and developed a work plan for the stay. With that plan, my advisor contacted the guest professor, which agreed to the exchange. The next step was the official application as visiting non-degree graduate student. I got an administrational contact person that help me with the application. Besides typical application documents like certificates and a statement of purpose, proof of financial resources is required. A fellowship granted by Cornell University covered my tuition fee, so I only had to proof financial resources for living expenses and obligatory health insurance. Once the application process was completed, I received my admission letter and the I20. Both documents are required to apply for a visa. I started the application process 3.5 months before the start of my visit. In the end, I almost ran out of time and received my visa just a week before departure. Hence, I recommend starting the application process earlier.

  1. Accommodation & Living expenses

The beautiful campus of Cornell University lies on a hill above the city center of Ithaca. In close vicinity to the campus is College Town, which is the main area for student living (like Pontviertel). The convenience comes at a cost. In my experience, prices are quite high and conditions low. I spent 800$ on a small (12m2) room in a six-bedroom apartment with only one bathroom. Luckily, there were only three of us living there. To find an apartment, I asked the administrational contact person for help. Even though that provided some opportunities, I took the room that I found online on apartments.com. In general, I think it is not necessary to live in College Town. The local buses, which Cornell University operates, are free of charge for students and cover the city well. Living expenses are, in general, higher. For lunch on campus, you have to spend between 8 and 15$. In particular, groceries are substantially more expensive than in Germany, making it almost as expensive as going out for food.

  1. Everyday life/the internship

My everyday life was similar to my life at RWTH Aachen University. I got an office space in Upson Hall, which is one of the engineering buildings. The group that I visited covered two office rooms plus the office of the guest professor. My office space was within these office rooms, so I was fully integrated into the group. The group was very kind and made me feel very welcome. We went together for lunch or had dinners together. A small difference to my everyday life in Aachen was the more spontaneous interaction with the guest professor. He was basically every day available for discussions, which he showed by leaving the office door open.

  1. Free time/tips

Ithaca is smaller than Aachen but provides enough things to spend your free time. In addition, I highly recommend renting a car to discover the surrounding countryside. To keep this easy, I list my highlights in Ithaca and the surrounding countryside:

  • Watkins Glen State Park
  • Cascadille Gorge Trail
  • Taughannock Falls State Park (The park at the lake is also very nice)
  • Ithaca Farmers Market
  • Ithaca Beer Co, Liquid State, Garrett, Salt Point (Breweries that serve delicious beer and tasty food)
  • Rhine House (Best bar)
  • Dos Amigos (Best burrito)
  1. Conclusion

My research visit at Cornell University was professionally and personally a success. I substantially advanced my research, bringing me a step closer to my Ph.D. Moreover, I gained helpful impressions about the American academic system, which are helpful for planning my future career. Finally, I met so many nice people that I look forward to seeing again.

Writing a bachelor thesis in Barcelona

July 18th, 2023 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering: Mechanical Engineering B.Sc.
  • Spain, Barcelona
  • Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
  • 02/2023 – 06/2023

Finding an internship:

I started about 6 months in advance to search for an opportunity to write my Bachelor´s thesis abroad. I study industrial engineering (specializing in textile engineering) at RWTH Aachen. Through one of the plenty international contacts of the ITA, RWTHs textile institute, I was accepted as a research intern at the INTEXTER (textile institute at UPC university) in Barcelona. Officially, I was an intern there and not matriculated as a student at the university. In reality, I conducted the experiments for my bachelor thesis.

Accomodation and Living expenses:

Alright, listen carefully: the industrial engineering campus at UPC, where my institute was also located, is not really in Barcelona. It is in a small town nearby called Terrassa. From the city centre it is a 45 min train ride, so not too far away. The whole trip might take between 70-90 minutes in total, depending on how far away you live from the train station in Barcelona, if you decide to live in the city. I thought I would not have to go to the laboratory every day (little did I know…) so I decided to move to “l´Eixample “, one of the most beautiful and best neighborhoods to live in in Barcelona. I really enjoyed the location. Everything is built in squares here, each block has its own bakery and supermarket and the area is super walkable and has great public transport as well. Definitely recommend the area, even though it is a little more pricey than others!

My flat however, was a nightmare for me personally. I started searching for an apartment way too late because I had heard it was super easy to find a flat in Barcelona. Truth is: it is-but only if you are willing to pay super high prices! I ended up being forced to rent a room through an agency, that charged one month´s rent as a service fee and you could not even visit the flat before signing the contract. So I had to sign the contract and pay the service fee, the security deposit and the first month of rent (1800 euros) to get the key. It was either this or another month at the hostel, so I decided to take the risk. This was certainly not the smartest choice. I loved the location of the flat, but the flat itself was super dirty, filled with hardcore Erasmus students that treated the flat like an open air festival ground. It was the most disgusting place I ever lived in and had I visited the place before, I would have ran as far as I could. The price for a tiny room in a 7 bedroom flat with one shower was 600 euros. That´s why I would recommend starting to search early: Use apps like idealista and start at least three months in advance to find a decently priced accommodation in a good location because those do exist!

Now, at the end of my stay, I also do not know if I would choose to live in Barcelona when having to drive to Terrassa every day. I spent almost 3 hours commuting every day, on average 8 to 12 hours at the lab and then 1.5 hours at the gym. That meant that I literally had zero time during the week to take advantage of the nicely, very overprices location of my flat. Therefore, I recommend you to be sure you know exactly where you will be working or studying before you decide where you would like to live.

The highest expense was certainly my monthly rent. I signed up for a gym which was about 50 euros a month, way pricier than what I was used to from Aachen. I did not find a huge difference in the prices for groceries, going out could be really cheap or also super expensive so it really depended on where you went. What is super cheap at the moment is public transportation. If you are below 30 years old, you can buy a T-Joven ticket which allows you to take all sorts of public transport in 6 zones (about 1.5 hours outside of Barcelona) for about 40 euros for three months! I drive three zones every day to Terrassa, so without this discount ticket it would have been super expensive.

Everyday life / the internship:

Working at a textile/chemistry lab is very different from a German lab… The whole concept from a research institute is very different from what I was used to at the ITA. I do not want to go into too much detail, but here one of the core issues as an example: The laboratory did not have enough money to repair the AC, which lead to us doing experiments at 20 °C in spring and at 33 °C in summer. Are the results comparable? Of course not, I mean there are typical laboratory conditions for a reason, but you must find your way around it and be creative to find solutions for problems you would not expect to occur in a normal research laboratory. Even though the money issues were a great disadvantage for the research there, my laboratory had one huge advantage compared to other institutions: The world´s best and most dedicated professor you could imagine! The laboratory manager was a professor for chemical engineering and textile engineering at UPC. He managed the research lab on the side, receiving no extra money for it and having a lot more work and responsibility. He worked on the weekends to keep up with the workload and have time to meet about one hour with each of his students every week to guide their research. I am beyond thankful for how much time this professor invested into explaining basic chemistry to me (he convinced me to do experiments in a very chemical field even though I had not even basic chemistry knowledge), suggesting new areas of research and analyzing my results with me. With another supervisor who wasn´t that dedicated, I would have never managed to do these experiments. It was a very valuable but also exhausting experience, I am thankful to have had the chance to experience this.

Due to the rather long commute and the long hours, I spend at the lab, there was not much more for me to do during the week other than going to the gym.

 Free time/tips:

My weekends I got to spend with some amazing friends I met during my first week when I went to Erasmus Events. I highly recommend visiting those gatherings at the beginning, because it is super easy to find friends from countries all over the world. I would go out for Brunch with them on Sundays (there are some amazing places in l´Eixample) and do some sightseeing and when it got warmer go to the beach or visit other beach cities on Costa Brava. If you are in Barcelona in February, go check out the carnival in Sitges, a small town 30 minutes by train from Barcelona. Blanes is also a beautiful beach town north of Barcelona, best visited in summer.

For anybody who loves to party, Barcelona is a dream. I did not go out much, but my flat mates went out at least 5 nights a week to different bars and nightclubs. It is also not too expensive, since every night there is a different club or bar with special offers. The ESN has an instagram channel that shares a lot of tips regarding parties and places to visit in Barcelona.

Conclusion:

I really enjoyed my time in Barcelona. The sun shines almost every day, it is a beautiful city and its by the sea – simply amazing. I could have enjoyed it more if I had studied as a regular Erasmus student and not dedicated so much time to my thesis, but if I had done it in Aachen I would not have spent my weekends at the beach so I can not complain. If you want to go to Barcelona to learn Spanish, it´s not the best idea. At the laboratory, I asked them to speak Spanish to me but they preferred to practice their English so I became their English teacher which was fine, but I ended up paying for private tutoring classes online to improve my Spanish because in my daily life I did not use more than hola and gracias and simple stuff to buy a sandwich at the bakery.. In Barcelona, everyone speaks English. At restaurants I would try to order in Spanish but they would automatically switch to English sometimes. So do not worry if you don´t speak Spanish and want to live here, it is really not necessary. In Terrassa, however, people would talk Catalan with me, which was kind of difficult to understand since it is a mix of Spanish, French and Italian.

Writing my Master’s thesis in Paris

June 20th, 2023 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering: Mechanical Engineering M.Sc.
  • France, Paris
  • Neoen SA
  • 10/2022 – 03/2023

I had the opportunity to write my external Master’s thesis at Neoen in Paris and had a very positive experience. I generally recommend gaining experience in a company, whether in your home country or abroad, just before the end of your studies, as it helped you better understand the sector and learn a lot. Neoen SA is a French company that operates in the renewable energy sector and was founded in 2008. The company is involved in the development, construction, and operation of wind, solar, and energy storage projects and is headquartered in Paris. With over 6 GW of renewable energy projects worldwide and a strong focus on sustainability and innovation, Neoen is a key player in the renewable energy sector.

© Marie-Sophie Braun

It was much easier than I expected to find a PhD-student willing to be my responsible party from university side to supervise the thesis. None-the-less it remains a lot of extra work in terms of organization and also identification of a topic that will meet all the needs. Also, you do have to acknowledge that at some points, you will have to help out with non-thesis related tasks at the company: It will be a strong learning opportunity, but requires a lot of self-organization, especially in a foreign country.

The experience of living in France was particularly emotional for me because of a close connection to France from my childhood and family bounds. I thoroughly enjoyed the purely French environment and appreciated being able to speak the language in a work context. I do emphasize that a solid language level is a prerequisite for most of the French work environments. Even if the official language in companies could be English, I guess you could be the odd-one-out if you are the only person in the company not speaking the countries language and while it would be a problem for work-related topics, it might be difficult for a chat at the coffee machine.

© Marie-Sophie Braun

The parisian work environment is very chic and neat. Jeans or sneaker were not seen. Guys weren’t allowed to wear polo’s at work and this will go without saying. Good clothing and good food are important in France in gereneral, I assume: This includes long breaks for lunch and an additional espresso after the meal. Even though, people are very chic, everyone was very friendly and open-minded.

© Marie-Sophie Braun

I lived in Batignolles, in the 17th arrondissement and fell in love with the part of the city. It is a very nice, safe and friendly neigboorhood. Additionnally, I was able to get everywhere quickly by bike, which is the best means of transportation in Paris. I also recommend cultural centers (tiers lieux) and state museums, which are free for people under 26.The night life in Paris is very dense and differentiated. Depending on where you go it will be different. Less touristic parts of the city can be found for example in the 11th or 12th arrondissement and also, you should watch the sunset from the top of the parc de Belleville there. People more often meet outside then inside because appartments are small and the French terrasse-culture is very strong. In all seasons, you will find people outside and in a good mood.

In conclusion, I strongly recommend to anyone who speaks good French the opportunity to write their Master’s thesis in Paris. I had only had the best emotions. Although Paris is not a cheap city, I was able to pay the rent with the company’s expense allowance and overall had a very positive experience.

Writing my thesis at the Imperial College London

June 6th, 2023 | by
  • Chemical Engineering M. Sc.
  • United Kingdom, London
  • Imperial College London
  • 10/2022 – 04/2023

Preparation

Preparing for my time in London was simultaneously very easy and very stressful. For context I had 2.5 months time between my acceptance to the Erasmus scholarship and ICL and the beginning of my time in the UK. For most topics, such as getting a visa, finding a RWTH advisor, getting to London, etc. it was fairly simple to organize every thing. The most difficult task was in fact finding an apartment in London. As this probably takes the most amount of effort, I will start here.

Put simply, the London housing market is very expensive and the number of people searching for apartments seems to far outweigh the number of apartments available. Depending on the location and the size of the room, apartments seem to typically cost between £700-1200 per month, with the average being around £860 based on what I saw and heard from others. I had the most success finding an apartment via the websites Spareroom  and Spotahome . If you already have a bachelors degree, Gradpad  is another good place to look for apartments. The best method is to start messaging potential landlords early and to try and not be too picky with the offers you get. Many landlords are flooded with requests and will frequently not answer. In such a large city, it is normal to have a commute of 20-30+ minutes to the university, but due to the great public transport, living farther away from the campus should not be too much of a problem. The ICL campus I was located in is found in South Kensington, so I would base my search in the surrounding boroughs (districts). A cheap way to get to university is to take a bike, and the tube is also always a viable (although somewhat expensive) option.
I lived in Battersea and took a bike to and from university everyday which worked really well for me, although cycling in London is not quite as comfortable as cycling in Aachen.

For the duration of my stay, I was informed by the ICL International Student office that I needed to enter the UK under a standard visitor visa which allows a student to study in the UK for a period of up to 6 months. As a EU citizen and German national, I was not required to go through any formal applications or receive any formal documentation as there is an agreement which allows EU citizens to enter the UK as standard visitors without a visa.

Filling out the Traineeship agreement was fairly simple, I wrote a draft version for the agreement myself which I believed best fulfilled the requirements and sent this to both my RWTH and ICL advisors. I would recommend do this yourself and then possibly correcting the agreement as opposed to waiting for this to be done by someone else.

Finding an internal RWTH advisor was done by getting in contact with the Erasmus team from my institute (AVT). I then sent a description of the work which I wanted to do at the ICL (which had been agreed upon with my ICL advisor) and then a suitable advisor was found.

Arrival

Getting to London is fairly simple. There are a large number of airports to fly to, although it is likely the most comfortable to fly to London Heathrow. If you want to take a train, there is also a good train connection to get to London from Aachen. I personally drove my car to London via a ferry from Calais to Dover which allowed me to take a few more things with. This was also surprisingly easy. Important if you choose to drive in London: there is an Ultra Low Emission Zone for which you need to pay to be allowed to drive in London. By simply googling the Ultra Low Emission Zone and how to pay for it, you can save yourself from being fined. As usual with any sort of travel booking earlier is always better.

Living in London

London is a wonderful city to live in full of exciting things to do. No matter what it is you want to do, there is guaranteed to be at least 3 different places where you will be able to do it. There are a lot of opportunities to go out during the day or in the evenings with your friends. Sports, bars, clubs, museums, parks, the list goes on and on. Three things I personally took advantage of were the great selections of musicals that you can visit for a relatively affordable price, the great salsa/bachata dancing scene, and the wonderful green parks.  However, being such a large city with so many things to do also means that traveling between locations often takes a significant amount of time (I felt like everything was always at least 25-30 minutes away from wherever I was). My way with dealing with this was to ride a bike between locations and then jump on the tube as necessary. Riding a bike in London requires a certain amount of confidence in your biking skills. The drivers in London are not very good and they tend to pay less attention/respect to cyclists than in Germany. So people won’t be running you over, but you also should be confident in taking space as it is available. Otherwise cars will try to squeeze by you which can become dangerous. That being said, the city is always improving for cyclists and there now exist a number of bike lanes which significantly improved the safety of riding through the city. I rented my bike from Swapfiets which was a great deal for just £19 per month with all repairs etc included, however there are also many Santander rental bike stations spread across the city with which you can also travel.

My impression of living in London is that the city has a lot to offer, and it is up to you to take advantage of it. I was almost always busy thing evening plans. But if you don’t actively look for things you want to do and make plans to do them, then London can quickly become a oversized and anonymous city which is not the best to live in.

Studying at ICL

As a Master’s student writing my master’s thesis, I was left with a lot of independence on how I wanted to study at the ICL. I worked in the Sargent Center for Process Systems Engineering and I was immediately integrated into the center as one of many other researchers. PhDs in the center work in large office spaces with individual desks, which gives a nice mix between social interaction amongst colleagues and still the privacy of your own work space. I was treated no differently from a PhD student and had my own desk from which I could work.

Being at a foreign institute, you are forced to take a lot of responsibility and initiative into your own hands. The professors at the ICL are some of the best in their fields, however they are busy people and expect you to be able to make steady independent progress. I had a weekly-biweekly meeting with my advisor where I could show my progress and get input on problems I was having. But as one would expect of a Masters student nearing the end of their degree, it is mostly up to you to solve small problems and come up with the direction of your work. I found this style of advising similar to my experiences in Aachen, so I do believe that RWTH students are well prepared for this style of work.

It’s important to keep an eye on what you need to do for the RWTH, such as the Erfassungbogen, etc. as the professors in Imperial will likely not know about these things and you will have to help shape your thesis so that it still fill the expectations of the RWTH.

Final Impressions

Overall I absolutely loved my time in London. Imperial is a world renowned university and things I learned have certainly helped me develop in new ways beyond what I learned in Aachen. I would highly recommend anyone thinking about traveling to London and the Imperial college to do so.

My stay in the modern town of Delft

June 6th, 2023 | by
  • Robotic Systems Engineering, M.Sc.
  • Netherlands, Delft
  • Delft University of Technology
  • 08/2022 – 02/2023

I am a master student from RWTH Aachen, Germany. My first impression of Delft was that it is a very clean and modern town, which is reflected in the clean and tidy train station. The greeting drivers on the bus, the friendly waiters in the restaurants and the passers-by who welcomed me to Delft all proved the warmth of the people there.

Culture shock

The biggest culture shock was the heavy use of bicycles. In Aachen, bicycles are not the most dominant mode of transportation, probably because the city is not very big and some of the roads are not smooth. But Delft has a surprisingly large number of bicycles, and it certainly is the most dominant form of transportation in Delft. There are two-way bike lanes on both sides of Delft’s roads, which provides a huge convenience for cycling. Therefore, if you are coming to the Netherlands for an internship, my most recommended mode of transportation is by bike. Another culture shock is the book bags hanging in front of many houses. I didn’t know much about this phenomenon at first, but after asking friends and checking the internet I realized that hanging school bags is how Dutch students celebrate graduation. Another interesting phenomenon is the way people relax

© Disen Wang

on weekends, which is boating. This is a phenomenon that can only be seen in parks in China and Germany. Probably because there are many rivers in Delft, I found that many families have their own boats and have the habit of boating, which I think is a very interesting way to have fun. The most comfortable thing for me is the widely use of English and the cashless shopping, which is not available in Germany. The English language is so widespread in the Netherlands that you can live in the country without any problems even if you don’t speak Dutch. I don’t need to carry a lot of cash every day because of the wide use of cards payment. One thing I don’t quite understand is that when it comes to cash transactions, the smallest unit is 5 cent, and they won’t give back any change less than 5 cent. I hope you won’t stand at the counter like me and wait for them to find the money.

© Disen Wang

Health insurance

As an international student with German insurance, it is not difficult to visit a doctor in the Netherlands and you do not need to apply for new insurance. You can use your German insurance to visit a doctor in the Netherlands, but the process is a bit different than in Germany. The German insurance card cannot be used directly in the Netherlands, so you need to pay for your own medical expenses first and then fill in the reimbursement information on the German insurance company’s website. I went to the dentist in Delft, and I was able to get reimbursed by my German insurance company for both the doctor’s visit and the medication. However, not all medications are reimbursed, and some may not be covered by insurance. My total cost was 97.11 Euros and was finally reimbursed 92.11 Euros, and the result of the review was issued within a week, which was acceptable to me. Of course, I still hope you won‘t get sick!

© Disen Wang

Travelling

First of all I would like to start with a few words about train rides. Unlike Germany, you need to go through ticket machines to enter and exit the stations in the Netherlands. In addition, the ticket prices in the Netherlands are fixed and do not change with the date of purchase like in Germany, which is very friendly for people who do not like to plan their trips in advance. I also highly recommend getting an OV chip card, which can be used for most trains and buses in the Netherlands, so you only need to swipe it when you get in and out of the station, no need to buy tickets online. Rotterdam is a very modern and clean city with a lot of skyscrapers, which is not like a typical European city. The Kinderdijk, located near Rotterdam, is one of the most impressive tourist attractions for me. The beach in Den Haag is very beautiful and I like it best in the evening, when the crimson sunset shines on the beautiful clouds and the beach, and you can see some boats and windmills in the distance. Amsterdam is also a city I really like, it is more historitic compared with Den Haag and Rotterman. The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is gorgeous. The Van Gogh Museum and the Dutch National Museum are also well worth a visit. Another point worth mentioning is

© Disen Wang

that most of the attractions in the Netherlands have audio guides in several languages, including but not limited to English, Chinese, Dutch, French and German, which is really friendly to foreign visitors. The following pictures were taken by myself. The first three are in Delft and the last one is in Kinderdijk.

All in all, I really enjoyed my visit to the Netherlands. If you also like to explore different cultures, please don’t hesitate to come to the Netherlands, you will never regret it.