My name is Angela Nikolova, I am an electrical engineering student from North Macedonia and through the Internship Programme of German Business, I had the wonderful opportunity to do my internship in SMS Group in Duesseldorf, which is a company primarily focused on metallurgy.
When I got accepted for the internship, I was nearing the end of my third year of university and since this was going to be my first-ever internship, I didn’t have a clear image of what type of work I will be doing in my profession. I truly went into the whole experience with a blank page of expectations, which by the end I can assure you were completely filled. I worked on different programs in the field of automation and in different teams of people which were all my mentors for their specific areas.
The first few months were training months for me in which they introduced me to global industry standards in automation and trained me on how to program components of the production lanes and how the same is done on such a large scale. The rest of the internship was probably my favourite part, and that was the time I was placed to work on real current projects that the company was dealing with. All of my colleagues were incredibly supportive and incorporated me into their work time routine, and I must say that even now I miss the lunchtime breaks and walks to the Test Field, the building where I mainly worked. If I had to choose again, I would still pick this way of mentoring, placing me in different projects, over a dedication to a specific subject because as I had previously mentioned, for someone with no expectations-
I tried to learn from every field so I could conclude which one fits my capabilities and interests the best. I personally don’t think that such flexibility is often offered at companies and I am truly thankful to SMS Group for helping me define my future professional domain. At the beginning of the Programme, it was mentioned that in those six months we will create lasting friendships, which frankly, I didn’t think that was going to be the case for me. I am happy to claim that I couldn’t have been more wrong. As someone who considers themself as more introverted, it was really easy to connect with everyone from the Internship Programme and I think that was the case because we all deeply share the same core values. The friendships I have created there I have brought back home. Some of the people have become part of my everyday life and I am happy I made those friendships.
I am also fond of the moments spent traveling with close friends and I would say that maybe a third of the time that I was there was spent on trains, traveling either to work or exploring new cities. Either way, those train hours were well reserved for my readings, which fit the scenery from the countryside too perfectly. There is a Jack London quote: I would rather be ashes than dust. I understand the meaning as I would rather live my life to the fullest than remain stagnant.
I feel that this quote adequately encapsulates those six months. There wasn’t a moment that wasn’t experienced to the fullest on my behalf, even the mundane daily tasks of cooking, commuting, watching movies with my roommates were all filled with the aura of fulfilment. Fortunately for me, my roommates for those six months were all part of the Internship Programme of German Business and being in the same situation as young interns in a foreign country, it made figuring out life in Germany all the more enjoyable. There was always someone to talk to after a tiring workday, and someone to go out with if anyone was up for going out. We tried shopping for groceries together (but not very successfully because our food preferences were entirely different), we travelled together and most of all if anyone needed anything, there was always support just a few meters away.
Aside from the struggles of navigating life in a different country, another maybe more solvable but still burdensome struggle was trying to figure out administrative tasks. Administration in Germany as in any other country is a phenomenon which is known for being stubbornly difficult and at times inefficient. A great preparation for what was to be expected was covered in the introductory week which proved to be one of the most necessary steps which helped me figure out how to deal with problems from administration to landlords and taxes. I can happily say I got all of the support needed from the project team and the alumni community which is always present as a support system in every step of the way, even after the internship is over.
In closing, I am immensely grateful for the Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme of German Business for the Countries of the Western Balkans and the opportunity it provided me. My internship at SMS Group was a transformative experience that deepened my knowledge in the field of automation and helped me steer my professional life in the direction in which I want to continue. Even though the moments spent during the Programme were only six months, it’s impact on me is everlasting.
Thank you for reading,
Angela Nikolova, generation 2022