So this is my first post on dev.to because I feel that I finally have something worth talking about. Over the summer this year I spent 3 months interning abroad in Mannheim, Germany and I wanted to speak about my experiences there.
I'll talk about what I expected about interning abroad and the reality as well as my advice for anybody looking for interning abroad.
So to put it briefly I was working for the Advanced Manufacturing Team at John Deere Mannheim, where I was working on multiple Data Science projects such as predicting the power loss of tractor drive trains. It was an amazing experience working with such a great team and I can't thank them enough for making my time so worthwhile there. I won't delve too much into my experience at John Deere as I want to focus more on the experience of living and working abroad.
Before leaving for my internship I was kind of nervous with the fact that I'll be working in a foreign country with a language that I don't know much about. Not knowing anybody already there was also disconcerting, being dropped right in the deep end as I felt 😨
When I had my telephone interview for the role, I was assured that I would be able to get by with just English in the office but it was safe to say that I had my doubts.
To try and minimise any problems that would arise from not knowing how to speak German I downloaded the language app Duolingo and tried practicing for the months coming up to my departure.
The first thing I noticed when I reached Germany was the heat! 1st of July was a European-wide heatwave with temperatures in Mannheim hitting 39°C (102°F) 😩. Coming from Birmingham,UK, I was no where near prepared for this and it took me a while to be able to withstand the heat.
This climate soon became one of my favourite parts of my internship, going to swim in the local lake after work multiple times per week!
A relief that I had was that the majority of the people I came into to contact with spoke almost perfect English, which was a shame because it meant I was not able to practice much German whilst being there. For a small minority of occasions I was forced to use German, however one issue that I came across was that native speakers would always speak far too fast to understand what they were saying 😞 (I imagine this is what it feels like for non-native English speakers when learning English.)
Working in Germany was also great fun, great transport links meant that you could get to work easily without any hassle. With the tram system in Mannheim you could travel anywhere in the region with a day ticket for around 5 euros 🤑. One big shock though was the working hours in Germany, regardless of the company it seemed that all of my colleagues arrived for work before 8am. Being in a factory, colleagues of mine were getting in as early as 6:30 😴. This meant that lunch was at 11:30 everyday which did take some getting used too.
One big aspect of living in Europe for 3 months was that I became too used to eating delicious food on the cheap, being able to buy fresh baked good and pastries from the many bakeries located on every street in Mannheim. One thing I didn't realise was how amazing Italian food was in Germany 🍕. Everybody I lived with knew how to cook as well which meant I was able to learn so many dishes ,whether it was a traditional Indian curry or Neapolitan spaghetti in a tomato sauce 😋.
Always check what the climate will be wherever you'll be working! When I was packing before I started in July the weather forecasts were showing 39°C (102°F) for the next 10 days, so I packed accordingly with only light summer clothing. But in September the temperature dropped down to 12°C (54°F) with the only warm clothes I brought being a light fleece ❄️
If you find yourself as a picky eater then working abroad is definitely a shock to the system, trying to recreate all my go-to dishes which I made back in England was not easy. This forced me to be more adventurous with my cooking and adapt to cook food which I would normally not be used to making.
...Also everything being in a different language makes it just that much harder 😂
On that note, try and learn the language before you go. Although a few months of Duolingo didn't make me into a native speaker, it made it a lot easier in sticky situations knowing even a little bit of the local language. It doesn't take up too much of your time spending 20/30 minutes a day learning a language and it's also a great life skill!
Make the most of your free time! One thing that I found was that the weekends where I didn't have any plans went by the slowest, making me want to get back to work as soon as I could. The way I tried to fill up my free time was to travel as much as I could on weekends, exploring Germany as well as surrounding countries such as Austria, France and the Netherlands! Especially if you are in Europe make use of Flixbus for cheap coach travel around the continent 🚌🚌
Making small plans with friends is always a great way to get out of the house, whether it's a meal out or visiting local attractions. I was very lucky to make some great friends from work within the first week, whom I pretty much spent all my free time with. Unfortunately making friends is hardly ever that easy, but there are plenty of opportunities available to meet new people. At work, try and find out if there are any events that are for interns such as lunches or meet ups out of work hours to try and get to know your peers. Outside of work try and find local events/meet ups on social media, this is a great way to meet new people in a similar situation to yourself as many of the people attending are also new to the area. In my first week I went to a meetup with the Heidelberg Hiking group which was a really easy way to talk to new people whilst exploring the area 🚶♂️🚶♀️
Without trying to sound cliched those 3 months were some of the best experiences of my life, teaching me countless lessons about independence and meeting some amazing people! If the opportunity is there then I would highly recommend considering working abroad, highly enough to write a post about it!
Thanks for reading my first post on dev.to, let me know in the comments if there's anything in particular that you want me to talk about from my experience 😊