A sunny yet cold day was what greeted me on that morning back in March when my feet first touched German soil. I felt a chill of excitement run through me as I realized that the long-awaited day was finally here! I felt wonderfully elated yet nervous at the same time about facing this unknown place.
Before continuing with relating my experience in Germany, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Sheyna Lotun. I have lived with my family in Mauritius ever since I was born and I had never travelled further than the neighbouring islands until I came to Germany three months ago. I am currently carrying out an internship in the production equipment manufacturing department in the Untertürkheim plant as a participant on the Students Experience Programme (STEP) 2014. This programme, offered by the Southern Africa Initiative of German Business (SAFRI) in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz South Africa, has been supported by Daimler for many years. Through six-month internships in German companies, STEP provides students and young graduates from Southern Africa with the opportunity to build on knowledge gained at university and acquire specific skills for their future careers in their home countries.
I have long been fascinated by the world of automation and robotics and this is what motivated me to study for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechatronics at the University of Mauritius. It is my dream to work for a large company specializing in automation and thanks to the STEP Programme, I am on my way to realizing this! I am now more determined than ever to deepen my knowledge in this field and I am keen to pursue my postgraduate studies in automation. My department designs and constructs special purpose machinery for the powertrain manufacturing plants. My tasks involve drawing circuit designs, configuring and testing safety and vision sensors as well as writing specification and instruction sheets. I am learning to apply my theoretical knowledge as well as analytical and managerial skills in the work assigned to me. I can say with utmost conviction that I am working with the best team ever! It is a wonderful feeling to be mentored by such professionals and to put into practice what I have learnt at university. My colleagues are very friendly, patient and kind. I am always treated with a lot of respect which I surely give in return. One difficulty I have encountered has been to understand Schwäbisch and some technical terms in German but my colleagues always do their best to talk slowly or make use of English. The team spirit is indeed praiseworthy.
Besides my work, my stay in Germany is full of pleasant surprises! I cannot say that one experience stands out above all the others as everything that has happened to me here so far is enthralling in its own way. I believe that nothing can be more thrilling than visiting other European countries, making new friends and learning new cultures! My first fun experience here, the day after arriving in Germany with my 12 fellow STEP participants from Angola, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, was going to the “Faschingsumzug” (carnival parade) in Weil der Stadt where I also got to know more about the folklore of Germany. Germans who are known to be very hardworking and serious undoubtedly know how to enjoy themselves as well, whether it be at carnivals, soccer matches, the Frühlingsfest or other festivals! They value relationships which they share since they also place their priority on family, friends and time away from work.
So far at the weekends I have been on trips with my friends to Heidelberg, Ludwigsburg, Munich, Austria and France. We have visited castles, gardens and several museums where we learned more about the history of automobiles. When we were in Austria, most of us touched snow for the very first time. We have been to the Frühlingsfest in Bad Canstatt where we were ruffled and thrilled by the rides. I am confident there is yet more that I will surely experience as my friends and I are planning to visit other landmarks. As part of the STEP Programme I have met trainees from Daimler who are carrying out vocational training to become “Industrial Management Assistants with Additional Qualification of International Economic Management and Foreign Languages”. I got to know more about the educational system in Germany through them and I was able to share that of my own country. I took part in a two-day soft skill workshop which has equipped me with the tools to support my on-going development in the areas of emotional intelligence, inter-personal understanding and self-control.
Applying for STEP has been one of the best decisions in my life. I am enjoying every second of it, every day. I would strongly encourage any university student reading this blog not to hesitate to embark themselves on such a unique and interesting programme such as STEP. Germany is definitely the land where all my dreams are coming true!