About Author: Pradeep has recently graduated as a B.Tech (Electronics and Communication) student from IIT Roorkee. He interned in the Computer Science and Engineering profile with Leibniz University, Hannover, Germany in the summer of 2011.
Some people have false impressions about foreign internships specifically internship in a university that:
1. It doesn’t help you get a job.
2. It may get boring because of the language barrier.
3. It doesn’t provide you the corporate experience so it would be worthless.
I completely disagree with these points. I have been on two foreign internships in two different countries and universities. So based on my own experiences:
1. You have to have command over your internship project whether its university based or in a company. For a job interviewee nothing else should matter.
2. One out of four of the world’s population speaks English to some level of competence. So do not worry about the language barrier if you can speak English. Although sometimes accent makes it difficult to understand but believe me, people always make their way through it and this is an amazing experience that everybody should have. You will enjoy a lot exploring different culture.
3. There is not much difference in corporate and university internship experience. If you are working in technical area, you will have the technical experience which is the same, be it at a company or a university. So if you are applying for a job, companies will evaluate your technical experience. Besides, there are many benefits of interning at a foreign university. At the end of the story you will get to know.
So here is my latest experience of internship in a Research Center at Leibniz University, Hannover, Germany. I went there after completing my 3rd year. I was invited as a Guest Scientist for two months.
Phase One: My first reaction after arriving Hannover, Germany was that Utopia is not a fantasy, it is real. I said Utopia because everything was perfect and beautiful (not just only girls), weather was pleasant even in summers, public transport was well organized, people were polite with happiness on their faces and the city was flawlessly clean. It was miraculous. Technically speaking, moving from India to Hannover would be like moving from simple resolution to high definition. In the research center, I was warmly welcomed by the colleagues. Moreover, I was welcomed in different styles as the colleagues were from different parts of the world, namely – USA, Romania, Brazil, China, Germany, India etc. Then after all the ‘Namaste’/’Hallo’, I paid a visit to the university’s administrative building which was fun in itself as I met a lot of interesting people while getting all necessary id cards and signing some German letters.
Although I didn’t understand a single word written in those documents, I had heard that Germans were really honest people. Therefore, I signed all of them blindly. First day was spent this way. Now I was officially a student at Hannover University serving as a guest scientist. Administrative building was an example of excellent architecture, it was a castle before it was converted to the university building. That day I explored Hannover a little bit with my hostel mates. I visited a lot of parks, metro stations (or hauptbahnhof in German), restaurants, and super markets that day. Next day when I went to the research center, I was surprised to know that I was not assigned any work. The director (my guide) was also not there. Unfortunately, my mentor Claudiu (PhD) was also on vacation that week. So I started working with other colleagues. We discussed about the current projects and they gave me an easy coding task to do for them. Everybody had a different accent and a different persona so it was quite fun working with them.
Work – Because I was working on non priority tasks in office and having frequent tours nearby Hannover, I was enjoying my stay. Forthcoming were the busiest days. A week had gone by and my mentor returned to work. We started to work on a project. Work was amplified each day. If I completed a task before deadline I would be given double the work than before. This happened a lot. But the work environment was very flexible. Above all the friends from work were great. I had a lot of fun while working with those guys. I’ll tell you one story about our hangout. One Friday we all went to a paintball game. This club had such unlikely paintball guns that even after wearing the armor, it hurt very badly. For the next two days we were showing the bruises and red spots to each other. Coming back to work was so amazing and balanced that nobody felt stressful during work. The reason being a 3 point agenda according to my companions which were;
1. On working days (Mon-Fri) work like a donkey
2. On Friday leave office as soon as possible and plan for a party. Friday and Saturday are made for parties.
3. Sunday is the day when you take rest and gather your energy. No party and no work on Sunday because you have to work on Monday.
In spite of this great agenda what I did was:
1. On working days (Mon-Fri) work like a donkey.
2. On Friday leave office in evening and go to the party you are invited to (sometimes even if not).
3. After the party, catch the first train and leave for an unplanned trip with friends to some random European country.
4. Get back to Hannover on Sunday night.
Although the Director of the Research Center was always busy with work and travel but he spared a little time for a meeting with me where he welcomed me and we had a great discussion about the project. But after that we never had a one on one talk. Most of the time, we communicated only through the HR manager or e-mails. Anyway, the HR manager Angelika was very supportive. She helped me complete all the necessary paperwork for my stay in Hannover and even she helped me in getting Eu-rail Pass (ticket to travel in European countries).
Dormitory and Parties – The dorm was no less than a luxurious hotel. It was a dorm for students in Hannover University but most of the dorm-mates were working also while studying. I met a lot of cool people there from different countries. Fortunately, the guys on my floor were the best. They were fun loving, generous and open. To my surprise Vidit, Aruj, and Santosh were also staying in the same dormitory. They were also from IIT’s and working as interns. We had a lot of Indian cuisines for dinner and euro-trips together. In the dorm I spent my whole time cooking, talking and playing guitar (borrowed from a friend Florian). We had a number of dorm parties too. At those parties, there were awesome barbecues, drinks and stories not to tell. To sum up I had an extra ordinary time. But I couldn’t learn to speak German despite the great efforts of these guys.
Travel: Imagine a Euro-trip on every weekend, that’s what happened with me. I went to Switzerland, France, Germany, Brussels and Amsterdam with my friends. If I start on this it would be a different topic itself. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page” – Saint Augustine. Because of this internship, I was able to read a few more pages.
Phase Three: Finally my intern project was completed a week before deadline; I got my stipend, on top of that I was given a bonus, a certificate and some more task to do. I bought gifts for family and friends, which kept me occupied for an entire week. Soon it was time to bid farewell. I got some souvenirs from my dorm-mates. I was happy that the trip was superb but while boarding the plane I knew I was going to miss the summer of ’11. I learnt to balance my work and life.
And as I mentioned earlier, foreign internships in a university have many benefits such as:
1. Great work culture and flexibility,
2. Exploring different social cultures, and
3. Traveling new places
If you too have had any interesting internship experiences (in India or abroad) and would like to share it with all of us, please submit your entries here.