How an internship became a lifetime experience

The Daimler Internship Exchange Program – Arabia gives students from Arabic countries the opportunity to complete an internship in Germany. Daimler´s involvement in this program is aimed at promoting young, arabic junior talent and giving them an insight into the world of Daimler. Nasser Zalmout, the author of the following blog article was while making the internship with Daimler a student of Computer Engineering at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine.

A wise man once said: “Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it”. Put together a group of talented people who knew very little about each other, a new fascinating country with a rich heritage, a vast international company, a well structured professional program, and most importantlyan amazing staff: a recipe for a character building journey, and profound professional experience. Skills gained after the program cover many different levels; a set of skills to enrich the professional based knowledge, and international social communication skills to bridge the gaps of cultural differences. All combined to equip a group of 15 MENA region university students with the much needed professional expertise, and the confidence to dream big and aim high. No borders can limit ambition, and hard work does eventually yield in success.

It was fascinating how the program was able to mix the atmospheres of professional hands-on experience, within Daimler’s different departments, along with the atmosphere of intercultural exchange. Many of the participants, myself included, have had many exchange programs opportunities abroad before, but to mix this experience with professional exchange settings was rewarding on multiple aspects. For a given working day, the working hours were exclusive to work and productivity, whereas lunch breaks or the train rides back home were the daily periods to explore bits and pieces of each other’s culture and background, unraveling many interesting issues of totally new societies.

It was a pleasure getting to observe Germany’s rich heritage and beautiful country; the fascinating history, breathtaking nature, modern lifestyle and fine industry. Germany used to stand out in our minds as the destination of modern and efficient engineering, the heaven of the automation and automotive world as we would put it. Nevertheless, after the program, Germany now stands out on so many different levels with the title of engineering’s heaven even more enforced. Our German colleagues and acquaintances were also very welcoming and hospitable. They were open to new cultures and traditions, curious to find out more about our backgrounds and provided nice images of the German culture. A clear example was how receptive our colleagues were to the special nature of the holy month of Ramadan, they were quite understanding and helpful. This side of the program was one of the most important actually, as we had little knowledge of the German traditions, and it was quite suitable to also challenge misconceptions and stereotypes each side had about the other.

The program was also the venue for multi-sided cultural exchange. The internship was an extraordinary opportunity to explore the German culture on one fold, however, another interesting part of this program was to explore each of the participants’ own culture. Having so many things in common, one would assume that all arabian cultures would somewhat be similar, however, the program introduced us to the fine Moroccan cuisine, the Egyptian traditions and nice sense of humour, the Palestinian history and heritage, and the Emirate leaps into modernity and development; some shades of Arab cultures that we had very little knowledge about before. We began off as a group of 15 strangers, but ended up as a big family with everlasting bonds and friendships.

Impressions regarding the professional experience and work atmosphere varied amongst the participants. All participants, however, shared a common perception regarding Daimler’s huge size! The worksites and employees’ numbers, in addition to all the processes of financial, IT, marketing, managerial and all other processes that keep all of this going. Another common impression was regarding the type of hierarchy Daimler as a big company incurred, where the work breakdown and authorities delegation play a vital role in the success of the entire enterprise. It should be quite rewarding to acquire such hierarchical expertise for future career paths. Other interesting points of the program included the introduction of the Flextime work schedule. One would assume that having this kind of flexibility would somehow affect productivity and workflow, however, I believe this type of work structure is an integral component of the employees‘ success and productivity, raising loyalty and job security.

Another interesting side of the internship included the research nature of some of the training positions, where the job’s nature wasn’t all about managing or operating daily activities and procedures, but was more about planning and designing futuristic schemes and processes. It’s worth mentioning here, however, that many participants expected a practical in-factory development work nature, as we lack lots of these skills in our part of the world to some extent. In contrast to the deep theoretical knowledge we gain throughout our academic lives. But ending up with research based positions was also quite rewarding.

Towards the end of this article, to the staff and program managers we say thank you! It has been such a life changing experience in so many different aspects to cover here, the experience, friendships and memories we made in Germany and Daimler will definitely be everlasting. A special word goes to lovely Christina Joos, who was a great asset at coordinating the different events and managing day to day issues. Our gratitude is also due here for Frau Dorota Zoch, our German language instructor. We appreciate her sense of consideration and we are grateful for her efforts throughout the program. It was quite beneficial to grasp the basics of such a hard language as German. To our fellow participants we say: it was a pleasure to have this experience with all of you, you made it very special. I am confident that a very bright future awaits each and every one of you. Finally, to any potential participants reading this article we say: fasten your seatbelts people, this will be a lifetime opportunity. Our final pieces of advice would be to make each and every second count, make sure to tackle any issues you face with an open mind, try to be involved with many Daimler departments and gain as many skills as possible, but also make sure to gain as many friends and acquaintances as you can, and most importantly, enjoy the wonderful Germany.