Hallo aus Deutschland! Okay that was basically the extent of my conversational German, since having landed here last month. I have officially finished my third week of work at Evonik Industries in Darmstadt, Germany, and I’m loving it. There’s just something about living in the tiny SoCal microcosm for your whole life, and then just moving to Germany for six months by yourself. I’ll admit, the day I left, all I could think was “What have I done? This is scary. Ah. What. Meh.” But as soon as I landed, I knew that it was going to be an adventure.
I am part of the IAESTE program, which is a whole network of students worldwide that participate in these engineering exchanges. So the first day that I arrived in Darmstadt, I met with Monika, who is a student at TU Darmstadt, and she helped me get my phone set up, gave me a free SIM card, set up my bank account, etc. Then I moved into my housing: I am currently living with a family in the suburbs near Evonik (which is in the main city of Darmstadt). Basically, they have this huge mansion-thing in this nice neighborhood, and they’ve given me the entire downstairs area. This includes two single bedrooms, a stocked kitchen, a living room, a dining room and a stocked bar (no, I don’t use that). The family is so nice, and they don’t speak very much English, so I have had so much fun learning German from them. It has been so nice to get immersed in the culture, but I don’t spend too much time at home since I usually go out after work with the interns.
I absolutely love my job. I am working in the Performance Polymers department, but I can’t talk about the work I do because of confidentiality stuff (which was all in German, so I have no idea what I signed). I also can’t take pictures of anything on the campus, but I will do my best to explain. Imagine the USC campus, with all the red brick buildings. Then take out the large quads and the beautiful fountains, and replace them with warehouses, machinery, pipelines, reactors, columns and factories. That is where I work. I basically can’t wait to go to work everyday because I love being able to walk around from building to building. Plus the weather is beautiful now… warm with completely blue skies and fluffy clouds and green foliage everywhere.
I already said I can’t talk about what I’m doing, but I will say: this is real-life, textbook-definition, chemical engineering. I’m working with reactors and distillation columns and heat exchangers and reboilers and all that stuff that were just symbols in my textbook. I’m using equations that I learned in Thermodynamics and Separations and (what I will eventually relearn in) Reactors. My boss is really keen on me learning as much as possible, and I can suggest almost any project and he will help me fund it and optimize it. I get to manage my own combination of working in the small-scale lab, working in the larger factory facilities, reading some academic literature, designing experiments and programming. I have also been reading lots from the Reactors book that we use at USC to better understand the stuff I’m working with. I’m going to ace that class when I take it my senior year! I’ve already outlined 3 chapters 🙂
As for the language barrier, I have been pretty much fine. Everyone at work speaks English, but they love teaching me new words. As a result, my entire German vocabulary consists of science words like MSDS (Sicherheitsdatenblatt, if you’re curious), and other completely useful words. Oh well. I’m scheduled to take a German class starting in September, paid for by the company, so I hope that I will actually start learning by then. But I haven’t had any serious miscommunication problems yet!
Sorry this blog is so long, but I’m almost done! So on the weekends, IAESTE organizes trips all around Germany and Europe for all the trainees in the region. So I have never had a weekend at home yet! The first weekend, I decided to go visit Radhika in Dresden, and we went to Berlin together #VSAsInGermany? We had a blast adventuring around and being mistaken for two fabulous Latina women (but actually, everyone spoke to us in Spanish). I’ll leave the details for another blog, filled with lots of pictures that *cough Radhika hasn’t uploaded yet cough* 😛 Just kidding! Anyway, so I have every weekend booked until September with city trips and hiking adventures all with students my age. I can’t wait to see where the next 5 months takes me! Tschues! 🙂