Work & Life in New York - Interview with UAS7 Alumnus Dennis Behrens
Dennis Behrens spent one semester at the University at Albany, SUNY, in 2017 as a part of UAS7’s SIP program. After graduating from Bremen City University of Applied Sciences, he returned to the US and took a job at the German Convention Bureau in New York. He has now been living in New York for over 5 years and has been working for the airline JetBlue Airways since July 2021. In an interview Dennis looks back on his way from Bremen to New York.
Dennis, do you still remember how your semester abroad in Albany came about?
My studies at Bremen University of Applied Sciences included both a study semester and an internship abroad. My original plan was actually to study in California. However, I found out about the UAS7 program and the Massry School of Business at the University at Albany through our International Office and applied right away.
What experience from that time do you remember most fondly?
I consciously decided against campus housing and in favor of a shared apartment. So I had the opportunity to leave the “international student bubble” and was able to learn a lot about life, people and culture in the USA during that time. Of course, far more than I knew from my previous vacations. At the university, I particularly liked the wide range of extracurricular activities, which we unfortunately don’t have that much in Germany.
Why did you decide to go back to the US after graduation?
By chance, actually. I participated in the Greencard Lottery for fun and, to my surprise, I won. The timing was quite inconvenient, as I had just started my studies in Bremen. But my semester abroad was a good opportunity to get an idea of life in the country and I was offered a job right after graduation thanks to my internship in New York.
Please tell us a bit about your career from 2017 to today.
After my graduation in Albany I completed a 6-month internship in the sales and PR department at the German Tourism Board in New York. While I was still an intern, I was offered a job at the German convention bureau. So I started writing my bachelor’s thesis during my time in New York. Then I flew back to Germany for my last semester. Four month later I was back in New York with my degree in my pocket and started the job. I worked there for over 1.5 years. I realized during my studies that I really enjoy analyzing data and numbers. So I tried to use the Covid pandemic wisely and took some online courses in data science. I’m a big aviation geek and I’ve always wanted to work for an airline and actually got a job offer from JetBlue. There I manage a portfolio of flight routes and am responsible for the revenue performance. So I have the opportunity to combine my interest in numbers, economics and aviation, which I really enjoy.
What do you enjoy most about life and work in New York?
Definitely all the opportunities. In the US people don’t pay attention to what certificates you have. I have noticed that you don’t get anything for free in New York. But you have the opportunity to develop yourself and I have the feeling that you are much more likely to get a chance, if you work hard for it. I think, in Germany, it’s more difficult to change industries or career paths. New York has a lot to offer (even on a small budget). There is always something new to discover, be it a broadway show, a new bar or exhibition.
What is the biggest difference regarding the business culture between Germany and the USA?
That’s an interesting question and I think it depends on the company and the colleagues. At my current company they pay much attention to the company values. There are 5 of them and each employee is expected to integrate and live these values in their daily work. Basically, I think the hierarchies are flatter than in Germany. There is usually an “open door policy”. Small talk is also an important component in the business etiquette and it is considered rude if you start a meeting right away (except perhaps in New York, where people are a bit more direct).
Is there anything you should pay attention to, or do you have tips you would give to others who plan to move to the US?
In any case, you should get to know the USA before you emigrate. The USA is more diverse than you might think. Life in New York is very different from life in Miami, Los Angeles or Dallas. In addition, you should know that the U.S. is not waiting for you. Especially at the beginning, you should think about your demands and definitely have a good plan. You work much more here than in Germany and you are really responsible for yourself. You won't find a social network like at home. It's really important to have good health insurance. There will be situations that you can't prepare for and it's important to keep calm.
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in New York?
They say that the best things about New York are: 1) leaving New York and 2) coming back. I have to say there is some truth to that. I'm always happy to escape NYC for a while, but nothing compares to the skyline when flying back in, either. I think I'll stay in New York for now. I feel at home here and I really enjoy my job. So I have no reason to turn my back on New York at the moment. But I can definitely imagine moving to another part of the U.S. at some point.