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Intern Abroad

Kategorie: ‘Spain’

Internship in Madrid

January 24th, 2024 | by
  • Political Science Ma.
  • Spain, Madrid
  • Goethe-Institut Madrid
  • 09/2023 – 12/2023
  1. application process

    © Dinah Schmidt

I started learning Spanish during my bachelor’s degree and had long planned to spend some time in Spain. In September 2022 I applied for the three-month internship in the cultural department of the Goethe-Institut Madrid. The online application consisted of my CV, a certificate of study, and a letter of reference from one of my professors/lecturers. In addition, i was required to answer a few questions about my previous experience, my interests, and my ideas. Then, in December, I received my acceptance on time as a Christmas present. Since then, I have been improving my Spanish skills with language courses and looking forward to my stay. In the summer of 2023, as the start of my internship approached, I started to prepare myself more intensively. Among other things, I studied the history of the city and the cultural offerings and scenes. Then it all started in mid-August! I combined the outward journey with a road trip through Belgium, France, and Spain. Over three weeks, we explored the coastal strip from Bordeaux to Llanes and then travelled through the mountains to Madrid. The traffic on Madrid’s motorways is a definite turn-off!!!

  1. Accommodation and Living Expenses

I knew from other reports that it would be very difficult to find accommodation and that I would have to be careful not to get screwed. As I didn’t have time to travel a few weeks before the start of the internship to look for a flat on the spot (or preferred to spend the time travelling), I used the Spotahome app. This gave me the certainty that the flat definitely existed and the deposit was only transferred to the landlord after I had given feedback that the flat looked as advertised.

© Dinah Schmidt

Of course, this security also came at a cost. In hindsight, I would recommend looking for accommodation locally rather than from Germany – but it was important for me to have a firm commitment for a room before the start of the internship. I lived in a shared flat with four people who were all only in Madrid for a few months to study. The flat was on the edge of a very nice neighbourhood (Salamanca) on a large roundabout – fortunately in the back building. My room was very small but nicely furnished and had a window. The flat only had a small kitchen, was very noisy and all in all was not in very good condition. The rent was 570 euros per month (!!!) which is very high for this property compared to German rents. Especially when you consider the difference in income between Germany and Spain. In the end, the decisive factor for me was that the Goethe-Institut was easy to reach from the flat. It was just under 25 minutes on foot and a quarter of an hour by metro without changing trains. The cost of living was not much lower than in Germany, only bar and restaurant meals were slightly cheaper.

  1. Everyday life/the internship

The working hours at the institute were Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 18:00. As part of the cultural work, events were regularly scheduled in the evening, which provided a great deal of flexibility in terms of time on site. On the one hand, the internship involved several continuous tasks and,

© Dinah Schmidt

on the other, offered me a wide range of opportunities to get involved in events. One regular task was to fill the Goethe-website-programme with content and revise it. I also provided support in the areas of communication and social media presence. This included creating events, application posts and reminders, but also conducting interviews with various artists/residents. Another very enjoyable and exciting task was looking after the residents and the institute’s guest flats. I had an overview of when an artist was arriving and departing and was able to welcome them. As a result, I got to know many artists (dance, theatre, cinema, sound, painting, …), theorists and researchers from all over the world during my internship. As part of the FLIPAS-project, workshops on a wide range of topics were made possible through the cooperation of several European cultural institutes in Madrid, cultural institutions and social organisations. These workshops took place in social organisations, museums or other institutes and focused on enabling young people in difficult circumstances to take part in cultural projects, establish contact with international artists, get them excited about the topics and create a great group experience together. As part of this project, I was able to take part in almost all the workshops and assist with translating and documenting them. This allowed me to get to know cultural and social centres, visit theatres and museums in Madrid’s city centre and the surrounding area, and network with a wide variety of people involved in cultural work.

  1. Free time & tips

The weather in Madrid was wonderful. We could sit outside until the beginning/mid-November and even in winter it was light until 6 p.m. and most days were characterised by bright sunshine. People’s rhythms start and end later than in Germany. The attitude to life is more relaxed and people get together longer in the evening and eat later and more extensively. I can definitely recommend the tapas culture. At the institute, six of us shared an office and were able to spend our breaks together and explore the city. We visited the large and smaller museums in Madrid and took the opportunity to visit some theatres and information events on various topics via the institute. The Reina Sofía Museum has a collection of recent Spanish art and exhibits documents from Spain’s history of protest – I was very impressed. I should not forget to mention the beautiful Retiro Park and the very picturesque and culturally interesting

© Dinah Schmidt

neighbourhoods of Lavapiés, Malasaña and La Latina. Madrid never sleeps – In the evenings and at the weekend, I visited some of the countless beautiful bars and clubs. (Favourite bar here: La Venencia – a quaint pub with an interior from the last century, where the Republicans met during the Civil War, with good sherry and delicious tapas) On the long weekends, I went on a trip to Valencia with friends, hiked the mountain regions around Madrid (Navacerrada was very nice), visited the nearby city of Toledo and the historical memorial site “Valle de Cuelgamuros” (also highly recommended). I really liked the Tío Pío Park in the Vallecas neighbourhood for its beautiful views over the city and, of course, the views from the various rooftop bars.

 

  1. Conclusion

To summarise, I can definitely recommend an experience abroad in Madrid and an internship in the cultural department at the Goethe-Institut Madrid. I really enjoyed it and the tasks I was given enabled me to surpass myself and make lots of contacts in Madrid and Spain. This experience abroad has also made me want to take on more projects abroad in the future, especially in Spanish-speaking countries. Finally, I have grown very fond of the people I met in Madrid, and I look forward to maintaining these contacts.

Research Stay in San Sebastián

January 24th, 2024 | by
  • Teaching and Research Logopedics M.Sc.
  • Spain, Donostia-San Sebastián

    © Anne-Kathrin Mahlke

  • Basque Center on Brain, Cognition and Language (BCBL)
  • 09/2023 – 12/2023
  1. Application / Finding an Internship

Finding the group and supervisor, and even deciding to do an Erasmus+ research stay abroad was a total stroke of luck. I knew that I wanted to look into young children’s language development in my master’s research project and had been searching for suitable research groups within Germany. By chance, another student who had just returned from her own Erasmus+ research stay at the BCBL in San Sebastián in Spain reported about it in a colloquium – and talked about doing exactly the kind of research I knew I wanted to do. Then it was just a question of being brave enough to send an e-mail to the leader of the group she had worked with, asking about the possibilities for a research internship. After sending my first e-mail, I did not hear anything back for over two weeks – and almost gave up on the whole idea. Only thanks to my partner’s relentless encouragement did I bring up the courage to send a reminder – and to this day I am deeply greatful for his engouragement! I heard back from the supervisor almost immediately, and she was very open to me visiting her group!

© Anne-Kathrin Mahlke

After agreeing on a time frame for my stay, extensive preparations began: we started discussing possible topics for my research project, which mostly meant a lot of paper reading on my side. I also asked one of my professors in Germany for his co-supervision, as this is required in my program. In parallel, I started the application process for the Erasmus+ support. After reading all the information on the application, this took time, but was fairly easy. I was lucky that all people involved – my supervisor in Spain, my supervisor in Germany, and the adminstrators involved – were extermely helpful and available for any questions or requirements I had.

  1. Accomodation & Living expenses

Although it is a smaller city, unfortunately, San Sebastián is one of the most expensive places to live in Spain, and finding accomodation is not easy. Single rooms in shared appartments can easily cost 400-600 € per month. Fortunately, my supervisor was able to connect me with a Guest House for visiting researchers, in which I not only found accomodation quickly, but which would also become the place where I found some of my closest friends during my stay. The high housing prices meant that basically my whole Erasmus+ funding went towards rent during my stay. Luckily, I had some additional funds saved, and the cost of food and everyday life in Spain is quite low.

© Anne-Kathrin Mahlke

  1. Everyday life / The internship

As I had done a lot of theoretical preparation for my research project already in Germany, I was able to jump straight into work at the institute. Still, there was a lot to learn. I was assigned days on which I was required to help in the BabyLab, and in the first few weeks spent any free minute there in order to quickly get to know the different experiments and methodologies. Even though most families visiting the BabyLab spoke Spanish and/or Basque, and I am not fluent in either of these languages, I could quickly pick up many of the more technical tasks, or entertain the babies, for which language is not too necessary. Since I was conducting an EEG study, I also started learning the necessary data analysis methods. Between regular meetings, presentations, reading, writing, programming, and lab duties, I quickly fell into a busy, but extremely productive routine.

The group and my supervisor were great at welcoming me and including me in the proceedings at the institute. Since the BCBL is a small, close-knit community, many people came up to me, introduced themselves, and asked about my plans for the stay.

© Anne-Kathrin Mahlke

Interacting with so many people who are all interested in the same topics I am interested in, and hearing about all their amazing research was probably one of the greatest experiences during my stay at the BCBL.

My supervisor made sure to give me a lot of freedom and simulteaneously providing enough guidance for me to successfully progress through my project.  I also received a lot of support from other members of the group, and have formed some great friendships. Since the group is rather new and mostly made up of PhD students and young postdocs, we were all in similar situations and could help each other, which created a great atmosphere. I am very much looking forward to watching all of them grow throughout their academic career and to meeting them at many conferences to come!

  1. Free time / tips

Although still relatively unknown, the Basque Country is an amazingly beautiful place with a very high quality of

© Anne-Kathrin Mahlke

life. This is especially true for San Sebastián. Donostia (as it is called in the Basque language) has one of the highest densities of Michelin stars per inhabitant in the world, and it is hard to find a bad restaurant in the city. The culinary speciality are Pintxos, small bites of food that are usually taken with a glass of local wine. San Sebastián also provides a lively cultural scene, with exhibitions, concerts, sports events, and much more. Some of the highlights during my time there were a rowing regatta which basically became a big festival, and the San Sebastián Film Festival. A big international community provides cultural diversity, while at the same time the Basque culture and language are ubiquitous and greatly influence everyday life. Furthermore, San Sebastián has great public infratstructure with a well working and cheap public transport network and quite well connected bike lanes (even though the mountains make these a tiny bit less attractive).

For me, probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of San Sebastián and the Basque Country are its landscapes. With the atlantic ocean on one side and impressive mountains on the other side, the area provides endless opportunities for outdoor activities. Hiking, surfing, climbing, swimming – even though I only managed to do a fraction of the things I had planned to do, I enjoyed every single outing.

© Anne-Kathrin Mahlke

Even just hearing the waves and seeing the mountains on the horizon on my way to work made every day life a little bit better. One of my favourite things to do when stressed was to walk down from my appartment to the coast and watch the waves for a little while. Now, back to living in Cologne, I deeply miss the sea, the mountains, and the fresh air they bring.

  1. Conclusion

All in all, my stay in San Sebastián and at the BCBL was an extremely valuable experience. Even though it came about almost by chance, I now see it as one of the most important times during my studies, with regards to both my personal and my academic development, to the friendships and connections I have made, and to the impact it has had on my plans for my future. It is a place I will definitely return to – for holidays or even for a longer stay – and I hope to keep the connections I have made alive. I am also very happy to have helped create and uphold the connection between the BCBL and the RWTH Aachen – as I am writing this, the next student is planning her stay there – and I hope that this will become a long standing and fruitful tradition.

Wonderful Erasmus stay in Madrid

January 3rd, 2024 | by
  • Chemistry M.Sc.
  • Spain, Madrid
  • Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC/INTA)
  • 09/2023 – 12/2023

Application/Finding an internship

I wanted to go for astrochemistry. That’s the one thing I had in mind when going through all sorts of research institutes in Europe which promised somewhat better weather than Germany. Then, a warm autumn night in Spain must be the perfect addition for stargazing. Eventually, I wrote an email to the Center for Astrobiology (CAB) in Madrid, where I reached out to the Head of the Interstellar and Circumstellar Medium Group. He happily accepted my application and offered me to stay for a research internship in his group. The CAB is a subdivision of the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial INTA, a state institution. There, lots of paperwork and filings were required, but eventually, my stay was official and my badge was ready. Now let’s go, from Aachen to Madrid.

 

Accommodation & Living Expenses

The campus of INTA and CAB, positioned in the far outer circles of Madrid, and more close to the smaller towns of Alcala de Henares and Torrejón de Ardoz, made me take a 45-minute bus ride from Madrid every morning. I could have chosen to live in the smaller towns. but would I want to miss, living in the centre of one of the biggest metropoles of Europe? Definitely not! I got myself a flat via the local agency viveyestudia.com, which focuses on accommodations for international students. I had a good correspondence with their agent and got a good comparable price(485€ per month). I went to live with 3 other students from all over the world and immediately made good friends with them.

Madrid itself is huge. I may repeat this, Madrid is huge. Even if the Madrid Metro system is one of the best I personally know, it is still good to live in a well-accessible area. My flat was close to Plaza de Manuel Becerra, a crossing of two highly important Metro lines (2 and 6) and a lively but not hectic area. Perfect to reach everything and still not drowning in the noise of the city. Additionally, the metro is wonderfully cheap and extremely powerful to get everywhere, even far outside of the city with no further expenses (Toledo, El Escorial or the Sierra de Guadarrama) Get yourself a Personal card (TTP) as early as possible and pay 8€ or 20€ per 30 days to get pretty much everything!

To taste some of the best local Spanish culinaries I often went out to pay the extra money but never felt overwhelmed by any prices for food or drinks. Especially for buying groceries and cooking in our own kitchen seemed wonderfully inexpensive (at least in comparison to Germany)

The general culture in Madrid is perhaps the best aspect regarding money and expenses, as most museums, palaces, or other cultural sites are either free or highly subsidized.

 

Everyday life/ the internship

The Glass Palace
© Timon Francis Kielgas

Every morning, during weekdays, there was exactly one bus to get me to CAB. 7:15 in the morning gloom, was when I hoped on to snooze for another bit until I started my day in my Lab at 8. My days either consist of planning or analyzing data from experiments or emptying cups of coffee while letting a simple question about space evolve into a one-hour discussion remotely tangential to my research. Then, perhaps my biggest personal cultural shock, we had lunchtime at 2 p.m., way too late in my opinion, but that’s the Spanish way I was told.

On days when I was absent from the CAB, the weekend and luckily lots of Spanish holidays late in the year, I was adamant, that it is impossible to see everything in Madrid in just three months. After three months this still held true. I spend days on end wandering through Retiro Park, the Prado Museum or the endless bars and tapas places of Malasaña, always finding something new.

 

Free time/tips

One of the most important things, and as said before, get a Personal card (TTP) for the Metro, as early as possible, because it is that damn good to get around with. To get a great first impression of Madrid I highly recommend the Faro de Moncloa, a tower with a breathtaking observation deck, from which all the important sites of Madrid and its surroundings are visible. Another thing is the Gran Via, which itself is no secret tip because it is THE tourist hotspot. But you have to look up the dates of some special occasion when the Gran Via is closed down for cars to have pedestrians walk all over the place. It’s a wonderful way to observe the vibrant road in a completely different way.

While walking the streets of the Spanish capital, at no point you will go sparse on Spanish European culture. Especially then you have to keep in mind that Madrid is also strongly connected to all the other countries in the Spanish-speaking world of Latin America. If, like me, who has not been to South America before, Madrid is a wonderful place to dive into these cultures as well. Order some Pisco Sour in a Peruvian bar, get a plate of the best Columbian dishes to fill you up or try all the empanadas you can find.

 

Conclusion

Madrid is a beautiful city, with beautiful weather and wonderful research and researchers. Perhaps my most ambiguous but most remarkable impression was, that everyone I met was super friendly and a joy to be with. While the culture is bright and interesting and the city life is vibrant and beautiful, it was the people I got to work and live with, who made this whole stay the best. I can not tell if it is the field of Astrosciences, if it is the attitude or the people there in Spain, or if it is just pure coincidence, but doing research in this group at CAB just felt good!

I hope others will come to Madrid, have a wonderful Erasmus stay, and share my experience.

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.

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.

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.

A great experience in Madrid

December 5th, 2022 | by
  • Architecture M.A.
  • Spain, Madrid
  • b720 Fermín Vázquez Arquitectos
  • May – October 2022

 

Living and working six months in the vibrant city of Madrid was a lot of fun for me. I did my obligatory internship in a rather small architecture studio in the northern central part of the city – close to the Bernabeu stadium. I shared a flat with two people in Hortaleza, which is in the north-east between the inner and outer ring, therefore a little bit far from the lively city centre. But it was within a good distance for the everyday commute and for an affordable price. One very important thing to know about living in Madrid is that the public transport system is working really well and if you live close to a metro or cercania station you can move very quickly within the city. If you are under 26 the monthly ticket is more than affordable.

My colleagues at the architecture studio were nice and welcoming. They offered me to speak in English but I asked them to only talk in Spanish with me as I wished to learn as much Spanish as possible during my stay. Even though I did not understand everything on my first days, it did not take long to get used to listening and speaking Spanish all day long. This way I learned a lot and could integrate well in the team. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend a good level of Spanish if you would like to do your internship in Spain.

I have spent the summer term in Madrid to enjoy the nice and hot climate. If I could choose again, I would probably prefer to do an internship of six month in the winter term for two reasons. First, in July and August, it got very hot. Maybe this year has been extreme, but we had a couple of weeks with temperatures above 35 degrees – up to 41 degrees on peak days. Even though every office is supposed to have air conditioning, mine did not because it was broken. As it took until the end of August until someone could fix it, we had to sweat quite a bit. Second, if your office does not make an obligated summer break you are probably to stay while everyone else is leaving Madrid for three or four weeks of vacation. And as people are taking turns, you can find yourself with only very few other co-workers in the office. When everyone came back from vacation, the social life outside the office started to pic up. Not only among the colleagues but also in the whole city. A lot of events happen in autumn in Madrid. So, when the time came that I had to leave, I really did not want to.

Madrid’s social life is inexhaustible. There are always things to do and always events happening. It is almost impossible to find a moment when the streets are empty. Concerning parties, it is probably impossible not to find a bar or club where you can listen to the music you like. You can find all kinds of parties in town. (Even though there is a lot of reggaeton, which was in my favour.) I enjoyed most going out in Cuenca and Malasaña – day and night. Also, even though the river of the city is rather small, Madrid has a lot of parks. I loved spending time at the Retiro Parque and Casa de Campo. But because I lived rather far away from these central parks I often went for a run to Parque Felipe VI. Probably no location where you would go to if you do not live close by, but I liked running there a lot because I had a view of Madrid’s Skyline as well as the mountains in the north of the city. If you search for a nice sunset location, I would not recommend Templo de Debot because it is always too crowded, but rather go to the Lookout at Tío Pío’s Hill.

Madrid is Europe’s highest capital city with about 600m above sea level. I noticed this the most due to the high temperature ranges between day and night. Therefore, it is always recommended to bring at least a light jacket. If you do not need it in the morning, maybe you will need it inside if the air conditioning is too cold.

The last thing that I would like to mention about Madrid is that I appreciated its geographic location within Spain a lot. It is very comfortable to travel from and to Madrid. The distances to all points of interest in all directions are more or less equal. If you book your AVE (the fastest trains in Spain) in advance, it is affordable and allows you to go – sometimes even non-stop – to either Sevilla or Barcelona within two hours. The bus takes about five to six hours depending on traffic conditions.

To put it in a nutshell, I can highly recommend Madrid (and for architects also my studio b720) as Erasmus+ location. I enjoyed the six month there a lot and I hope that I can go back soon. The people I met were wonderful and the food I ate delicious. I have learned a lot in language, professional and intercultural terms.

Toledo- an old city with a lot of Spanish flair

October 25th, 2022 | by
  • Biology M.Sc.
  • Spain, Toledo
  • Hospital Nacional de Paraplejicos
  • 04.05.2022-30.09.2022

 

My name is Anna, and I have been studying at the “Hospital Nacional de Paraplejicos” in Toledo from May to October 2022. I study Biology in my Masters. In the following, I will try to share knowledge with you that will help you to make the best out of your stay.

The preparation for my internship focused on transport, insurance, and housing. For my research internship abroad, I travelled to Toledo by plane. I arrived at the airport in Madrid and travelled from there to Toledo by train. If you do not want to go by plane, you can also go by railway. This takes a little bit longer, but you can combine your travel with some stopovers in other beautiful cities. Further you save some CO2 and secure the additional Erasmus funding for a green travel back home.

The health insurance is very simple. If you didn’t already have one included, you can ask your insurance to provide you with a European health insurance card. Keep in mind that most insurances do not cover rescue or repatriation in case something goes wrong on a hiking trip for example. You should ask your insurance about that.

I started to look for a flat or a room in Toledo approx. one month in advance. I made some visiting appointments for the first few days. During this time, I was living in a guest room in the professor’s house. The apartment search turned out to be very difficult. I tried to find a flat with the website “Idealista”. Many accounts didn’t even answer or other flats where small or dubious. Also, the language barrier was a big problem, due to the reason that the most landlords did not speak English. I would recommend all students doing an internship in Spain, to practice some Spanish before your internship abroad. Without the help of my work mates most of the viewing appointments were not able. Further I would recommend structuring your profile on those websites so personal as possible. If you apply for an apartment, you should always bring some personal stuff inside the texts and maybe take up some points of their advertisement.

After visiting some flats without any success, one of my workmates had the idea to look for a room in a student’s residence. I found a place in the “Residence María Immaculada Toledo”. Here I lived in a single room in the casco of Toledo. The rent for one month was 520 euros including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This room was only available for 1 month, so I had to look for another flat in the meantime. Happily, I found my perfect flat quickly. It was a shared flat with three other Spanish girls in the age between 25-30. All three of them were as well working in the hospital. The flat was just perfect, with a large living room, a large kitchen, and a swimming pool. It was also near to the hospital, so I could walk every day by foot to the work. The rent here was 250 euros excluding extra costs like water and light.

My first impression of Toledo was impressive. It is an old city with a lot of Spanish flair. Exactly what I had expected from Spain. I applied for a position in the “Hospital nacional de paraplejicos”, to do my practical course of my master thesis there. The hospital and the investigation have their focus on spinal cord injuries. The hospital is very new and modern, and my work collogues were helpful and nice from the first moment on. I really enjoyed the work in the hospital. The willing to help was so large from all my work mates, and they integrated me into their team very quickly. I learned a lot of new techniques important for my further working live. I was working on my own project. Although the working language in the laboratory was English, it turned out to be a little bit tricky to communicate. The English knowledge of most of my collogues was rather bad. On the other hand, my Spanish knowledge was not the best. So I decided to learn a lot of Spanish int the next few weeks. The understanding was getting better from day to day. As well in English, but also in Spanish. Quickly I was able to follow conversations in Spanish and to talk some basic sentences.

With the girls of my flat I made friends quickly. They took me on hiking tours, we all signed in for the gym and they told me how to play padel tennis, a very popular sport in Spain. On the weekends we normally went out together and they introduced me to their friends. They took me to cultural events in Toledo and told me which places are worth to visit. Another positive point is the close distance to Madrid. It is only 30 minutes by train, so you can also explore the capital of Spain on the weekends.

Going to Toledo was one of the best decisions of my life. The “Hospital nacional de paraplejicos” is a great hospital with nice work mates and a great investigation department. On top, Toledo is a nice, typical Spanish city with endless opportunities and a close distance to Madrid. I hope that my short report gave you some insights into these opportunities.

Writing my master’s thesis in Almería, Spain

October 25th, 2022 | by
  • Energy Engineering M.Sc.
  • Spain, Almería
  • German Aerospace Center (DLR)
  • March 2022 – August 2022

 

The Institute for Solar Research, which is part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), maintains a research site in Almería in the south of Spain. I spent six months at this location to write my master’s thesis.

Preparation and general tips:

I applied for the master’s thesis in November 2021 and received an invitation to an online meeting with my supervisor quite quickly. After I had the acceptance and we agreed on a topic, I applied for the Erasmus scholarship in January 2022. In February 2022, I booked my flight and started looking for an apartment. The apartments and shared rooms in Almería are cheaper compared to Germany. I found my apartment through “idealista” and had support from people who also worked at DLR and already lived in Almería. Since you can find an apartment quickly, you can also move into a hostel for the first few days and start looking locally.

I recommend looking for an accommodation in the Centro (near the bars and restaurants) or in Zapillo (near the beach), because you can get everywhere quite quickly from there. Most of the landlords do not speak English, so you should write your requests on “idealista” in Spanish. From a language course, I already knew some basics in Spanish, but I mostly got by with an online translator. Also, if you start at DLR, make sure you get a rental contract, as you will need it for later registration with the authorities.

Job and everyday life:

Some students had to take the bus to the Plataforma Solar de Almería (PSA) in Tabernas (about 45 minutes). I worked in the office in the center of Almería. It is surrounded by many different tapas bars and restaurants. We made use of this with the colleagues and usually went out during our lunch break. Eating tapas in Almería is comparatively inexpensive.

In the office we communicated in German or in English. In everyday life, however, you need Spanish, because most of the local people do not speak English. Thus, one learns the most important basics quite quickly. If that’s not enough, you can take a language course (there are several language schools in Almería) or participate in the events of the Erasmus Office to find a language buddy.

Almería is a small town but has everything to offer what you need. Plenty of supermarkets, a nightlife and larger shopping centers a little outside. The university is also located a bit outside but is easily accessible by bus. Almería has an airport, but unfortunately there are no direct flights from Germany.

Leisure:

© Rafal Broda

© Rafal Broda

The weather in Almería is great. After work, I often met up with my colleagues from DLR, my roommates or other Erasmus students. We usually met on the beach to play beach volleyball. In the evenings, you can go out for tapas in Almería or go dancing in one of the music bars. I have found that it is quite difficult to socialize with local people, mainly because of the language barrier, but since there are a lot of international students coming to the university, it is overall quite easy to make new contacts. On some weekends we made trips to the nearby nature park Cabo de Gata. There you can hike, snorkel or just relax on one of the many beautiful beaches. I can highly recommend a visit there. On long weekends, you can also take a trip of several days to Granada or Seville to explore Andalusia a bit. From Almería, you can also take a ferry to Morocco. If you are interested, remember to bring your passport.

Conclusion:

Overall, I had a very nice time in Almería. I can definitely recommend doing an internship or thesis at the Institute of Solar Research in Almería. I experienced a lot during this time, met many nice people and improved my Spanish.

Living in Sevilla

August 25th, 2022 | by
  • Architecture M.Sc.
  • Spain, Sevilla
  • Vázquez Consuegra
  • April 2022 – July 2022

 

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

© Smilla Schäfer

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

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

© Smilla Schäfer

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

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

© Smilla Schäfer

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

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

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