"Now I can say I have friends from all over the world"
Interning with UAS7 at a German University of Applied Sciences is full of exciting experiences: In this interview, Brian from Wisconsin reports on his internship at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. In addition to hands-on work experience, he's meeting lots of new people, eating delicious German bratwurst, and he has even learned how to drive a tractor!
Brian, you are currently doing an internship at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. When did you learn about the UAS7 program and what made you decide to apply?
Well, like many, my original plans to travel to study abroad last summer were squandered due to the pandemic. I had planned to complete an internship in a similar program in Munich. I was even more bummed to find out that the program had made the decision to cancel the 2021 internship as well. I went back to the drawing board in the early fall, speaking with my international advisors from my home University and discovered the UAS7 program! I was drawn to its strong network of participating universities across Germany and history of doing groundbreaking and sound research.
What expectations did you have in advance, and have they already been met?
I was certain that my travels to Germany would immediately enrich my life and worldview, and that expectation has more than delivered itself, with meeting such amazing individuals, traveling to some amazing places, and getting full immersion into the German culture. What I was not so certain about was what the situation would be like when I arrived. In mid-March, Germany was still experiencing high COVID cases and under a lockdown. I was fortunate that these numbers soon declined rapidly, and I have had the ability to spend time in the city here in Osnabrück and surrounding areas.
Did you prepare for your time in Germany before your stay abroad? For example, by taking a language course or something similar?
Unfortunately, I did not know I would be able to go to Germany for sure until about April. Up to that point I had thought it would be cancelled like the year before. So I didn’t get to take a German language course, but now that I am here, I’ve been studying language course books and picking up a little bit each day. My goal before I leave is to be able to hold a conversation in German!
You have only been in Germany for about a month, how do you like it so far? Are there any differences to your (student) life in the U.S.?
It is truly amazing to be here in Germany. From the beginning of my arrival, everyone I have met has been so welcoming, providing guidance, generosity, and friendship.
It has made the transition to living in a foreign country immensely less stressful. Although, I will admit I have had some tough times in the grocery store aisle thinking I had bought one item and coming home to discover it was something totally different. I am now stuck with a 12 pack of sparkling flavored water when I thought it was just regular water. Here I live in an apartment complex that has renovated from an old factory. Most of the residents are international and now I can say I have friends from all over the world. My roommates and I like to barbecue, enjoy a beverage, and watch movies together. Something that is not too different from the student life in the US at all. The bratwurst is a lot better here though!
You are doing your internship at a research lab of Osnabrück UAS; what is your research project about?
Working with the Institute for Landscaping, Outdoor Sports Facilities and Green Areas (ILOS) team here at Osnabrück UAS, we are studying types of climate resilient grass that can be used in public spaces. We are also interested in their ecological contributions. I have been a part of the project from the start; prepping the experiment field by raking and weeding the dirt, measuring the plots and seeding, and now maintaining the fields and making observations. It has been great to experience a different type of research lab than I am used to. Much of my research experience back home has been remote for the last year and a half and it is nice to be back in person and getting my hands dirty. I even learned how to drive a tractor!
What does a typical day look like for you in Osnabrück? (Can you work on-site at the moment or are you working from home? What do you do at work and after work?)
Everyday can be different! Most of the time I am out in about, either working at the experiment fields or at the research lab office on campus. Luckily my Professors gave me a bike to use while I am here. Much better than getting around on two feet! Other times I can work at home if need be. Like for instance, today it is raining, so I can stay home and complete my work. At work on the experiment fields I water the grass fields, weeding where needed, and record observations. In the office I have been writing up some literature for data we have collected in a different experiment. But overall, the work culture is very relaxed and I have had such a pleasure getting to know my Professors and coworkers well. After work, or Feierabend, is usually met with a beer! My roommates and I have been cooking together quite a bit, so we love to enjoy our meals outside in the sun. As an avid runner, I have had a wonderful time exploring the green trails and forested areas that Osnabrück has to offer.
What added value does the internship have for you? How do you think your experience in Osnabrück will influence you in the future, personally or professionally?
Besides the amazing learning and professional experience of working on a research project, I think the most learning happens outside of work. Just being here and out of my United States bubble has broadened my horizons and given me a totally new perspective. And not only from a German point of view, but entirely international from the dozens of people I have met from across the globe.
In the future, these experiences will directly influence the way I interact with people, the places I am living in, and my future studies. When I return to the University of Wisconsin – Madison in the fall to start my Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning, I will think of the amazing landscapes that German planners have created in their cities. With so much emphasis on ecological value of places here, I am paying attention to every detail and will apply these observations to my coursework. And I have heard many Germans complain about their transportation system, but to me it is something to marvel at. I hope I can transform the way we travel in the US as a future planner.
Most importantly, a crucial skill has been to have an open mind and closed mouth. It pays to listen when surrounded by such a diverse and remarkable group of people. Especially while learning German! I think for me the biggest thing I will take away from this internship is the personal connections and moments I’ve shared with the folks I’ve met here.
Brian's colleagues and his internship advisor are also impressed with Brian and his work. He also points out how important and interesting international exchange can be in a research project:
Brian has been predominantly involved in turfgrass research projects and in both field testing and report writing. We have thoroughly enjoyed having him on the team. Even with little prior knowledge of turfgrass research, we have all benefited from the great ideas and his very different academic background. - Prof. Martin Thieme-Hack