My summer in the heart of international mobility

If you are interested in pursuing an international career, it is advisable to get working experience abroad already during the studies. Therefore I seized the opportunity to spend the summer in Stuttgart by doing an internship.

International working environment requires good communication skills

My tasks as at the International Office are diverse. I help the local Erasmus coordinators to process applications of incoming exchange students and answer all sorts of inquiries concerning international mobility. I have been an exchange student myself and therefore it has been very exciting to be able to observe the same process from another viewpoint, the viewpoint of the receiving higher education institution.

We receive daily all sorts of inquiries per email. Students also pop in our office during office hours. Some students may not know how fill in their applications. Some may need help with formalities, like registration at the local Bürgerbüro. Some students may not have found housing for their exchange semester in Stuttgart. I have also helped a PhD student to get help for his mental health issues and investigated with another student how to cancel newspaper subscription. Good communication skills are essential in this work because you never know how the next day is going to be.

Photo: Anu Märkälä
The International Office is located in a funky concrete building. Air conditioning would be a nice asset but luckily we have often ice cream in the freezer...

Cultural differences

The first weeks of my internship were a bit hectic, like they usually are when you start a new job. There was a lot of new information and new practices to learn. The good thing was that I received all possible instructions printed and could read them every time I needed to. The previous intern had told me that all colleagues were really nice – and they are. From the first day on I felt warmly welcome at the office.

Even though I was familiar with German langue and culture, I could not avoid some minor cultural shocks. First of all, the amount of formulas and stamps is overwhelming. As a person from a Nordic county I am used to online services and to certain easiness. In Germany it seems to be impossible to announce something just by saying it aloud or clicking “yes” in an online form. Here you have to print the form first, then sing it, get it stamped and then bring it personally to the responsible person. Sometimes it is frustrating but you just have to take a deep breath and accept that there are many ways to do same things.

Photo: Anu Märkälä
A stamp holder was a totally new tool to me.

Opening hours are a bit problematic, too. Lunch hour is very important for Germans and many offices are closed during the midday. If you need to run official errands s in Germany, I would advise you plan the day well ahead! On the other side, I have enjoyed these lazy Sundays when it is absolutely impossible to do anything but hang out in a park or barbeque in garden!

Photo: Anu Märkälä
Sunday evening walk at the campus Vaihingen.

The best part of my internship has been to meet students all around the world. I have also learned many new things, especially about myself, and got to refresh my German skills. Economically it would have been wiser to take up some other summer job in Finland but I think I would not have gained experiences as important for my future as I have in Stuttgart.

Text and photos: Anu Märkälä

Photo: Anu MärkäläWorking with international mobility includes many other things than just a creation of study programs!

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