Germany has been on my mind for about six years now. It was so important to me I committed to studying the language in the hopes of visiting one day. After all, there is plenty to be said for the country, even beyond Currywurst and Goethe. Germany is a beautiful nation with a rich history, a vibrant present and a bright future. But while it is nice to think about all the places in the world you can visit, what if I told you living and working somewhere like Germany is not out of the question? You are right to be skeptical and I was too- until I got involved with the USAC program.
USAC offers one program in Germany that focuses on German culture and language in the wonderful city of Lüneburg and I cannot recommend it more enthusiastically. As a junior dual Global Studies and Spanish major, you may ask why I would want to study in Germany. Why not Spain? Or Argentina? Well- that is a good question but I think my study abroad internship explains the situation well enough. Thanks to Simon and other USAC staff who helped me find this job, I am working with the regional chamber of commerce at IHK Lüneburg-Wolfsburg. As a foreign trade consultant (intern) I conduct research on trade relations between Germany and the outside world, which is then used in our in-house forums and other programmes. I work in a beautiful building in the main square of the old city here, researching my favorite topics. I am not sure if I could have arranged a better deal for myself if I tried.
While I am by no means the most important person in my department, I have a fantastic bird’s eye view of the German economic machine. Want to know what businesses are big in my area? Volkswagen AG is our number one financier and based near our local branch in Wolfsburg, the richest town in Germany. Want to know who are biggest trading partners are? We hold nearly bi-weekly forums on topics ranging from investment to Brexit to infrastructure. Not all of it is riveting material, but there are enormous amounts of capital involved in the process. However, what really baffles me is that my reports actually contribute to this international process. Recently I wrote an assessment on the booming natural gas sector in a certain country my contract means I will not mention by name. That assessment is part of the information campaign the IHK leads on international investment. Every business in Germany is registered with us and the larger companies are always looking to build new bridges abroad, so that is my clientele.
The idea that my research would be influencing German trade relations and possibly even affect economic growth in a country I have never seen with the help of businesses I have just learned about amazes me. At times I feel more like an actual trade consultant than the college junior I really am. And I have learned so much. The internship is in German, which can be rather difficult at times but has been an enormous learning opportunity. If you still do not see why I chose USAC here in Germany, well consider the following: Germany is the 4th largest economy in the world and the most influential member in the EU, an enormous economic and political bloc covering much of the continent.
If I can understand what the Germans strive for, how they run their economy and how they view themselves in reference to the world, I will have done well for myself. That is what this trade consultancy internship is all about, building bonds and making connections. I get to learn a new language, a new culture and a whole new wing of the business world. USAC has been wonderful, first finding and then recommending me for this internship. USAC is a very competent study abroad program with good classes and it has taken me even further with the programs like my internship. I get to make a difference with my research and reports in a beautiful place I was not even sure I would ever see. New opportunities for employment and graduation school are becoming available because of the work I am doing here and now. Working with the Foreign Service, my ultimate goal, looks more plausible after this experience as a trade consultant. Even before that my study abroad internship has opened the possibility of a future career with the IHK’s American division or even here in Germany. None of this would have been possible if I had stayed at my home university in the US.
Want to live in the shadow of cathedrals and bell towers? Want to travel every weekend? Want to learn a new language, make a difference in global trade? Go study away, go USAC.
William Southworth attends Concordia College and is pursuing a dual degree in Global Studies and Spanish Language. You can read more about William’s time abroad on his blog, Global Athenaeum