Internship in Germany

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Working at a German company, getting an insight into everyday work and thus experiencing life in Germany at first hand. These are the chances an internship in Germany offers. Here you can read about the advantages of such an internship and you get helpful information on finding a suitable job and on how to apply successfully.

Internships in the course of one's studies are becoming increasingly important. Often, the focus is on the work experience, but especially during an internship abroad numerous other areas of experience join the professional aspects. Therefore, more and more students go abroad for a few weeks or months in order to find work in a company of their choice and to actively participate in the everyday lives of the people there.

When is the right time to do an internship?

You can do an internship in almost every stage of your studies. The internship can serve as a means of orientation prior to your studies and therefore help you in making the right career choice and in receiving a fundamental insight into the respective occupational field. During your studies, vacation times or a practical year offer the great opportunity to do an internship abroad. Thus, students can complement their theoretical courses at University with practical experience and therefore improve their individual working skills and deepen their knowledge. The same goal is often pursued by doing an internship subsequent to one’s studies. In this case, however, an internship is a good choice also because it helps to reasonably bridge the time gap between studying and finding a permanent employment.

In how far does an internship help me in my professional career?

An internship generally provides the perfect opportunity to gain professional experience. But it also paves the way into professional life by facilitating contact to companies, colleagues and the business world in general. These contacts can be of great benefit in the future careers. In addition, there might be the possibility of becoming employed after having successfully completed one's internship. Hence, an internship can be considered as the basis of a professional career.

Furthermore, an internship significantly fosters one's personal development. Students learn how to effectively work in a team and how to communicate; they develop self-initiative and expand their working autonomy. In the eventual professional life, these abilities are regarded as crucial preconditions for success and therefore are of great importance.

What are the advantages of an internship abroad?

Many students choose to do an internship abroad especially to enhance their skills in the respective foreign language. In the course of a company internship, the student is confronted with the formal and informal styles of the foreign language, as well as with the business language. Therefore, the intern not only improves their communicative skills but also specifically learns how to use these skills depending on the particular situation.

However, it is not only the language, but also the culture and the people's mentality in a foreign country which characterize foreign experience. During an internship abroad, the student usually has sufficient leisure time to become familiar with the country, to meet local people and to actively participate in another country's daily life. This especially applies to homestays, since hosts normally take delight in acquainting their guests with the country and its culture. Moreover, the student gains the insight that each country has its own business mentality which needs to be dealt with. Succeeding in handling all these differences significantly fosters intercultural competence, which will be necessary to maintain international contacts without major problems later on.

What are possible alternatives?

"Work and Travel" programs – as their name already implies – combine working experience and traveling in a foreign country. They are considered a special form of an internship abroad and gain growing popularity, particularly in New Zealand, Australia and the USA. If you do not want to plan a trip like this on your own, you can take one of many different offers provided by numerous language institutes and internship placement agencies. Depending on your individual time schedule, a language course of 6-8 weeks at the beginning of your stay would be recommendable. The subsequent weeks and months can be spent travelling and working, in the sectors of agriculture, catering service, at an office or else where. During this time, intensive contact to the country and its people is guaranteed.

Another special type of internships abroad are volunteer-progams, offered by language schools and certain aid organizations, especially for developing nations. These programs are about voluntary work in different projects in the fields of nature conservation, social work, health care, education and culture. Therefore, interns not only get to know the foreign country and its culture, but simultaneously help people in need and support development aid.

What about getting paid?

Since employers are not obliged to pay their interns, chances to be paid usually are rather bad. But this strongly depends on the job and the particular type of internship. A large company, for example, can possibly afford paying its interns. If that is not the case, companies or institutions sometimes offer free accomodation instead of money. Some interns, however, even have to pay for their placement and the whole stay abroad. Regarding these differences, it is important to collect and compare information thoroughly in advance.

How do I proceed?

Unfortunately, some students shy away from an internship abroad because they do not know exactly to whom they can turn to or because organizing it by oneself appears to be too complicated. Nowadays, however, the Internet offers numerous possibilities of gathering information, finding the right placement organization or getting directly into contact with companies abroad. In order to further facilitate the procedure, you can find helpful advice and suggestions here:

  1. Contacting placement organizations: The following institutions provide information on internships in Germany:
    • contact points at Universities, like the Careers Service of Münster University: www.uni-muenster.de/CareerService/praktika/ (focal point for questions concerning finding a job, applying, organizing, financing, the legal situation, evaluation etc.; they also operate a job fair for Germany and other countries) or the service of Munich University www.s-a.uni-muenchen.de/studierende/praktikum/praktika_deutschland/index.html
    • AIESEC, the world's largest international student driven organization: www.aiesec.org (AIESEC organizes professional internships abroad in the fields of economy, information technology, development assistance; partners are for example Greenpeace, Microsoft, Kraft, DHL,...)
    • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH: www.giz.de (offers a wide variety of interesting and challenging jobs in Germany and abroad; including job offers by DED, GTZ, Inwent and CIM)
    • Carl Duisburg Society International: www.cdsintl.org/ (offers mostly paid internships in many different professional fields, assistance in organizing etc.; also offers an optional cultural orientation seminar upon arrival in Germany or the enrollment in a language course)
    • Deutsche Kultur International supports internships in Germany and other countries www.deutsche-kultur-international.de
    • For law students and young lawyers in particular: The Student Training Exchange Program (STEP) of the European Law Students' Association (ELSA) offers placement organization and support during the internship; mainly paid internships in the law sector www.elsa.org
    • For internships in the technical sector: Internship placement by International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE): www.iaeste.de
    • For medical students in particular: Internship placement by the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations: www.ifmsa.org
    • Support of the exchange between Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus: scholarships of the Gemeinschaft für studentischen Austausch in Mittel- und Osteuropa (GFPS): www.gfps.org/stipendien/deutschland-praktikum/
    • For volunteer-work and internships in South Africa: Language Teaching Centre (LTC) offers volunteer placements in certain projects of development aid, as well as internship placements in the fields of tourism & hospitality, marketing & advertising and architecture & construction www.languageteachingcentre.co.za/
  2. Job fairs for internships
  3. Other options:
  4. Before your internship: The application
    • Put your goals into words: Become aware of how long your internship should take, which interests you are persuing and which company or institution would be suitable
    • Collect information...
    • Find convincing arguments concerning your reasons for applying for this job and why you are the right person for it
    • Prepare your application documents: 
      • Create a tabulated curriculum vitae including a photograph, write an appealing cover letter and attach the copies of the most relevant certificates.
      • Information on your motives and expectations should be thoroughly depicted: Why? When? What? For how long?
      • Thereby use your already collected arguments and illustrate them in a convincing and logical way.
      • You should furthermore stress relevant and specific abilities, skills and qualities. Always try to establish a connection to the respective field of work and the company or institution.
      • Pay attention to a clear and logical structure and to necessary formalities. 
    • Evaluate the conditions set by your University regarding the acceptance of a particular internship. This will also be relevant for the employer when issuing a certificate for the completed internship.
  5. Before your internship: The job interview
  6. The job interview for an internship will presumably not be as difficult as for a steady employment. However, an intensive preparation in advance is recommendable since this interview will be the last hurdle to overcome on your way to an internship.
    Recall the information and arguments you have already gathered for the application documents. A convincing self-expression as well as detailed knowledge about the company or institution are often the key aspects of a successful job interview!
    But regarding your internship in specific, you should also clear up these questions:

    • Will there be a kind of training schedule or a written form of the goals and the schedule of the internship?
    • Will there be a permanent contact person functioning as a coach during the internship?
    • Does the company have a certain program for interns?
    • Will I have a constant working place with a PC?
    • What will be the tasks after an initial training period? In how far would it be possible to do professional work or assist in particular projects?
    • Will I receive a qualifying certificate after having successfully completed my internship?
    • What about the chances of being paid?
    • Is there a possibility later on of assisting in certain projects according to one's own time schedule or of writing a practice-oriented thesis?
  7. During the internship
    • Try to gain an insight into several sectors of the company or insitution in order to gather varied experiences.
    • Turn to your contact person or a confidential person for questions, problems, or if something does not meet your expectations.
    • Be on time and pay attention to decent clothes and accurateness.
    • Show commitment, motivation, self-initiative and the ability of working autonomously.
    • Be open towards your collegues and grasp possible opportunities of professional and personal conversation. This is particularly important if you are aiming at improving your communicative skills in the respective foreign language.
  8. At the end of your internship:
  9. Ask your employer to issue an internship certificate. This is of vital relevance for the acceptance of the internship by your University and also in regard of your further professional career.

  10. Valuable advice
  11. also offers the book "Business Etiquette Germany" by Gretchen Schaupp and Joachim Graff. Here, you can read more about how to correctly behave at work, about a successful application and much more. 

    Studying-in-Germany.org, an information website about international students who wish to study in Germany.

 

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