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Intern Abroad

Kategorie: ‘Mechanical Engineering’

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.

Internship at Bosch in Austria

June 6th, 2023 | by
  • Mechanical Engineering B.Sc.
  • Austria, Hallein
  • Robert Bosch AG
  • 10/2022 – 03/2023

After postponing my mandatory internship for as long as I could due to the covid pandemic, as I wanted to do it abroad, I finally decided to do it during the winter semester of 2022. Since it was during winter, and I really like skiing, I decided to search for internships in Austria and Switzerland. This is where things started to get a little complica

© Ralph Rauhut

ted: The mandatory internship for the Mechanical Engineering B.Sc. degree has to cover very specific topics to be accepted as such. Only few companies have the capacity to offer all the tasks that are needed to acquire the requested experience.

I searched all over the internet for internship openings that met the needed criteria. As there were only few openings, I knew that I had to polish my application documents to even have a chance of getting the internship. I asked help from friends to improve my CV and motivation letter, and gathered letters of recommendation from my previous bosses. After a couple of negative responses, I finally got invited by Bosch in Hallein to two online interviews (for a total of four internship openings). Each interview was held by a manager from the respective area, and someone from HR. The interviews were very relaxed and felt more like a normal conversation with friends, where we talked about my background,

© Ralph Rauhut

my goals for the internship and about the internship they were offering. About a week later I got the best possible response: I was offered all four internships they were offering. After analyzing all the offers, I picked the one that matched my interests and the ones from the university the most. Now it was time to get ready to move to Hallein, a small city around 15km from Salzburg.

Through WG-Gesucht I found a furnished room in a shared flat with two other flatmates in Hallein. It is also possible to live in Salzburg and go by train to work every day, it only takes around 30 minutes from Salzburg to Hallein, but I think I made the right decision of living in Hallein and having a shorter commute time. Despite being a rather small city, Hallein has everything you need to live comfortably: Supermarkets, Gym, Restaurants, etc. The only thing Hallein lacks, is the nightlife. But thanks to the good train connections, going to bars and parties in Salzburg is not a problem. What Hallein lacks in nightlife, it has in nature. Hallein is surrounded by mountains with peaks like the “Barmsteine” and a big river, the Salzach, which crosses the whole city. Close to the city you have a lot of hiking trails into the mountains. In winter you can reach a lot of ski resorts in less than an hour by car. My favorite ski resort was Obertauern: Cheap, good snow and good slopes.

The internship at Bosch couldn’t have been better. Before my arrival they sent me a brochure with all sorts of information, including information about the city, the documents I would need, possible accommodations, how to take vacations and how the check-in system worked. As soon as I arrived at Bosch, I was assigned a tutor who was in cha

© Ralph Rauhut

rge of explaining to me how everything worked in the company. I had a lot of freedom to choose which projects and with who I wanted to work. Everyone at the company was friendly to me, and I never felt being treated differently for being “just” an intern. I had to assume a lot of responsibility, but I was also awarded the respective recognition. The company also offered a lot of benefits, like discounts on different store

s and cheap meals (3 EUR for a 4 course menu). During my internship I learned a lot and made some important connections that might help me in my future career. There were also many other interns with whom I became friends with and continue to stay in touch after the internship ended.

During the weekends I was always on the go. When I arrived to Austria I purchased the “Klimaticket Ö” which allows you to take any train or bus you want in the whole country. During the warmest months here, namely October and November, I often went hiking with friends or exploring different cities like Hallstatt, Innsbruck or Vienna. During the other months I was mostly skiing in different ski resorts around Salzburg. To go partying, if après-ski is not your thing, I would recommend going to Vienna, but Salzburg also has some decent clubs.

In the end I can say that I really enjoyed my time here in Hallein and at Bosch. The people I met in Austria were very kind and made me always feel welcome. Even though I really liked Hallein and Salzburg, I prefer bigger cities to live for a longer period. That’s why I am aiming towards getting a job in Vienna at Bosch once I finish my master’s degree. I will, however, definitely come back to Hallein to visit the friends I made during my stay and to go skiing with them on the nearby mountains.

Experience Report on my Erasmus+ Traineeship at Bentley Motors in Quality Planning in Crewe, UK

June 6th, 2023 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering: Mechanical Engineering M.Sc.
  • United Kingdom, Crewe
  • Bentley Motors Ltd
  • 08/2022 – 03/2023

I. Setup and visa

Where to begin…

This was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the entire Erasmus experience. I had my job interview in January 2022 while I was still on my internship with Porsche. During the interview I asked my interviewer and my future line-manager: “Well I really appreciate the chance to interview for the position, but do you know how we will deal with the visa requirements for the role?” to which he replied “If we decide to go with you as a candidate I will offer you all the support I can and if there is a will there is always a way”. Reason for asking this was obviously the Brexit which means that for all academic and job purposes a visa is required.

At the time of writing this there were two main visa routes to do an internship in the UK: The “GAE” visa and the “Skilled Worker Visa”. Unfortunately due to the high cost associated the latter was not an option. The Erasmus Programme generation until 2021 was a government approved exchange scheme eligible for a “GAE” visa which meant this was the only visa route I was able to take. This is why my internship was carried out as an Erasmus Placement. The subsequent Erasmus program generation is not eligible for this visa unfortunately.

You may think now “but why can you be an Erasmus student from the 2021 generation in 2023?”. The reason for that was that which generation you belong to is dependent on where the funding of the scholarship comes from. So the RWTH provided me the scholarship for an Erasmus Exchange from the budget of the 2021 program generation so I could actually get a UK visa for my placement. This method unfortunately ends working in May 2023 which is the end of the grace period given by the UK government.

For everybody trying to undertake an internship in the UK I heavily suggest getting in touch with the international office to explore options that are right for you. There is a list of government authorized exchange schemes for the UK on the gov.uk website. When you are in touch with a company you want to intern with, check if they have a contract in place with a company such as “Tier5Intern” or “ASGVisa” who offer authorized exchange schemes for foreign students. Plan at least 4 months (ideally 6) to deal with all the paperwork, errands and research required to make it happen.

It is a difficult path to be honest, but my line-manager was right with what he said to me during the interview. Best advice I can give on this matter is to stay persistent and encourage on-going communication between the international office, your company’s HR department, yourself and your manager.

II. Bentley Motors and the Quality Management role

Bentley Motors is a luxury car manufacturer based in Crewe, UK, known for producing high-end cars. The company has recently embraced new technologies and has focused on expanding its product range to include SUVs and electric vehicles. Bentley’s new strategy, called Beyond100, aims to become a global leader in sustainable luxury mobility, with a goal to become a fully electric brand by 2030 and to reduce its carbon footprint by 75% over the next decade. Key competitors include other luxury car brands such as Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, and Porsche.

As already mentioned, my placement was within the Quality Planning department. For me this role helped me expand my horizons in terms of work dynamic first and foremost. Because my previous role was production oriented, I was often pre-occupied with “firefighting” and dealing with new topics that came up adhoc. In my new team at Bentley the dynamic is very different. The quality planning department is split into two main branches. The first one is managing part approval and part maturation for new vehicle projects. The second branch primarily manages quality topics in the concept stage of a new vehicle project. Thus the work was overall more about looking ahead focusing on proactive quality management. That is why the placement helped broaden my horizon not just in terms of factual knowledge but also different workplace dynamics.

My placement project revolved around (re-)defining and writing the departments project deliverables in-line with Bentley’s new vehicle project management framework (in short PEP: “Product Emergence Process”). For this I held workshops with the relevant stakeholders to define who in the department is responsible for each activity within a certain process and then defining that process on a high level. This may sound tedious on the surface, but it was quite important since the department is measured against these deliverables as a vehicle project progresses. As part of this project I was able to improve my own project management, presentation and influencing skills.

Alongside this project I was also able to spend time in both sub departments because I made point to learn about the PEP-deliverables before attempting to define them. Thus I took part in various competitor benchmarking events, vehicle design assessments, went on supplier visits, took part in ergonomic studies, conducted maturity level assessments and of course, also spent some time with the product. In addition I got to learn about other functions such as our internal laboratory, production, product audit and the sourcing process in general.

One thing that stuck out to me is the difference in working culture between the UK and Germany. In my previous internship I found the company hierarchy to be quite steep for example. At Bentley the hierarchies are relatively flat compared to other Volkswagen group companies from what I can tell. I have also found that your formal education or position has a smaller impact on the way people treat you. In general people seem to give you responsibility and tasks purely based on your own ability which I find very positive. A lot of the people I got to meet had more varied work experiences compared to what I knew in Germany. Some of them have been in the military and then worked on the line before becoming quality engineers for example. Also there is a very large focus on upskilling in the job. So a lot of people I met worked their way into the position they are in organically, whereas in Germany people in similar roles all have B.Sc.’s and M.Sc.’s.

One thing I also quite enjoy is the “banter”. In Germany most people are very straight to the point and often quite serious. Contrary in England people tend “dance around” certain topics especially if they have a request. For example it is quite customary to have a short chat before getting to the actual point. Also people are more open to make a joke here and there to lighten the mood even at work (within reason). At first, I had to get used to these things a bit, but I find it makes day to day work much more enjoyable.

III. Experience in Crewe, UK

Bentley Motors is based in Crewe which is in Cheshire. I choose to live in Crewe during my placement year because I wanted to make sure I am close to my place of work. The reason being that even though Bentley has a flexible working system, I wanted to make the most of my time and be in the office as much as possible.

Crewe has both its good and bad aspects. I don’t want to sugarcoat it: there are probably more bad aspects than good. While it has a rich industrial history, the town has struggled with economic decline in recent years. As a result, the town may not be considered the nicest place to live by some. That said, living in Crewe is affordable, and it offers access to transportation links, making it a good base for exploring other parts of the UK and getting away from Crewe. For example it is easy to get to metropolitan areas such as Manchester, Liverpool, and London. If you are more in the countryside, it is also possible to get to Wales and various national parks such as the peak district from Crewe. Also most of the other industrial placement students lived in Crewe as well which meant it was good for my social life to not live in a prettier city nearby (for example Nantwich).

IV. Conclusion

Even though the process of getting the visa was cumbersome, the experience during the placement made it all the more worth to go through the effort. I got to meet a lot of interesting people both on and off the job from which I learnt a lot. Also I found that I quite like living in Britain in general and enjoy the culture.

In fact I enjoyed it so much I applied for a permanent position in the department I had my placement in. So with the end of my placement I started a new position in the role of “Senior Engineer – Product Quality” and ended up not returning to Germany to do my M.Sc. at the RWTH.

If that doesn’t speak volumes about how much I can recommend to anyone to undertake a similar work experience, then I don’t know what does.

V. Recommendations

In the last part of this report I would like to give some useful tips to anybody moving to the UK.

  • To get paid you need a UK bank account: For this I can recommend “Wise” since you can open an account while you are still in Germany.
  • For finding accommodation I can recommend the platform “SpareRoom” (for house shares) as well as Zoopla and Rightmove
  • If you move into a house share a lot of them are “HMO’s”. This means they are not managed by a private group of people but a company. Thus don’t be surprised if you don’t get to meet your roommates before moving in. I recommend getting a property with a low minimum tenancy length so you can move relatively soon if you don’t like your accommodation or meet other people you would rather live with.
  • Make sure to get a UK phone number as soon as possible. It will make your life much easier down the line. For a monthly contract I can recommend Smarty as a provider. Overall mobile contracts are much better and cheaper than in Germany.
  • If you company offers a pension scheme, get on it asap and keep the related documents in a safe place. In essence this is the company giving you free money to invest for your retirement. All the returns from this are tax-free for life. Over the course of your placement this could add up to well over a thousand dollars from which you only invested a few hundred pounds of your own money.

Highly recommendable internship in Liechtenstein

June 6th, 2023 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering: Mechanical Engineering M.Sc.
  • Liechtenstein, Schaan
  • Hilti AG
  • 10/2022 – 03/2023

© Phil Brune

Hilti AG is a multinational company that specializes in manufacturing and supplying construction tools, systems, and services. It is committed to sustainability and social responsibility and is known for its high-quality products and innovation in the industry.

 

Preparation:

After I received my acceptance for the internship in Liechtenstein, I immediately started looking for an apartment. Immediately it became clear that it is not allowed to live in the country itself. So, you must decide whether you want to live in Switzerland or in Austria near the border to Liechtenstein. Clear recommendation: Feldkirch in Austria. Pretty much all interns live there, and it is a very nice old town.

Unfortunately, I was quite unlucky with my first apartment. One of my roommates was very unpleasant. That’s why my advice is to find out exactly where you’re moving to and which landlord you have. Without naming names, I can advise against a few.

© Phil Brune

Daily life/Going out:

Before I moved to Feldkirch, I was worried that due to the size of the city (approx. 30,000 inhabitants) there would hardly be anything going on at the weekend. This fear was to prove unjustified very quickly. Feldkirch is a very lively and up-and-coming city. The high percentage of young people and the many bars and dance clubs made me feel at home right away.

Every Thursday, Hilti organizes an “Interns Dinner” for 30 interns in different restaurants. This way you meet new people every week and can expand your international network and make new friends. So you have a direct connection when you start new at Hilti.

 

Due to Feldkirch’s perfect location, in my opinion, there is plenty to do on the weekends, both in summer and winter. Especially if you’re into outdoor activities, you’ll love it. From hiking and biking to skiing and sledding, there is something for everyone. It’s a stone’s throw to Switzerland and Italy isn’t far either. Together with a few interns, we were in Bern, Zurich, Innsbruck, Turin and Milan, for example.

Work at Hilti AG:

Hilti has its headquarters in Liechtenstein. Both the first production facility (Plant 1) and some business units are located there. The working environment is

© Phil Brune

very international. I was able to expand my network a lot during the internship. There are about 80 interns working there, all of whom come from all over the world. For example, I was able to improve my English a lot.

Overall, the working atmosphere at Hilti is very pleasant and I can highly recommend the company. And the pay is excellent, by the way.

All in all I can highly recommend to do an internship there.

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.

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 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.

My experiences in Bristol

August 25th, 2022 | by
  • Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Computer Engineering (M.Sc.)
  • United Kingdom, Bristol
  • Infineon Technologies U.K. Ltd.
  • March 2022 – August 2022

 

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

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

© Maike van den Berg

© Maike van den Berg

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

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

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

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

© Maike van den Berg

© Maike van den Berg

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

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

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

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

© Maike van den Berg

© Maike van den Berg

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

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

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