Germany has officially hosted me for a month now and the memories, times, work, and friends have been incredible. Despite having a few doubts before embarking on this internship – looking back this experience is becoming immensely more important for me personally and professionally each day.
Above all, Köln has surprised me in how multicultural and open it is – with festivals almost every weekend. Highlights of the past two weeks have included the Cologne Pride (CSD day) where 1.2 million people attended, and the Kölner Lichter Fireworks show. The investment that the city is putting into making these majestic events such a success is truly remarkable and have made my weekly schedule filled with fun social opportunities. Weekends have been reserved for seeing more of Germany, traveling to other cities including Bonn, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, and more to come. Although sometimes exhausting, traveling is fueling me with new power and energy that makes work-life balance so much more efficient. I’ve learned the importance of letting myself fully immersed in the freedom of exploring, not knowing where exactly my path will take me or what the plans are for the day, while also always embracing the local culture and trying new things. This mindset is something that I really want to take back with me to the United States.
Another important aspect of the German experience for me has been the openness to shared learning. Not only in terms of cultural events, Köln is similarly dedicated to encouraging this shared space in the more professional realm. An example can be the Nacht der Technik hosted at the end of June. Open to the public and attracting both young and old, the night was an incredible opportunity to travel around the city and see the showcasing of underground tunnels, aerospace engineer work, university research, and hospital technology in action. In addition to being inspired, it was also a nice time for our lab to showcase our virtual reality retail work and for me and another intern to see the city from a technical perspective.
Work-wise the internship has been proceeding well and fully challenging. We are adapting our timeline to holiday breaks, student exam schedules, and coding progress, but overall it is heading towards halfway completion. Coding for me in a new language has been a lot harder than what I had anticipated and I am struggling to be as optimistic as I usually am about bearing through hardship to recognize the full potential of figuring it out. Because computer programming, in general, is new for me and it’s a must to design code that is at the level necessary for professional research, the pressure has been pushing me further than I had expected. Although at this stage it is unclear how much we can achieve within a month’s time, I am already feeling the reward of doing things that I would have never been able to do if not for this lab and the opportunities the internship is providing me.
And this feeling, the unique reward from the extreme challenge, is what makes the internship experience so different and powerful compared to at the academic setting. As a student, there are always other motives such as grades, time management, and future employment that steer the focus from the goal of learning and challenging oneself. If school is easy, you say thank you and continue with another subject, if it is hard you accept a bad grade and try better next time. In the actual work environment, you are trying to achieve something that can be done in multiple ways and you must navigate your own path within pushing yourself, doing the best work, and maintaining relationships. The learning process is so much more focused and freeing than a college setting, but it is also more demanding. I hope that I will be able to incorporate, maintain, and grow this while finishing my studies at Brandeis University.
– Shai Dinnar ’20