When I started the internship chronicles, many people (including myself) knew it was more like AN internship chronicle. But since I’m all about surprising people (including myself), I decided to mess with your minds (and my own) and write part 2 of the series. However, so as to not affect the equilibrium of the world too much, this will also be the end of the series.
So as you know I started an internship in January and on 31st October, it came to an end. Well, technically my internship ended in March and I’ve been working on my Master thesis but technicalities such as those don’t matter. You know, potäto potato whatever. Moving on, literally, this is the end of one of the biggest chapters in my life. The end of this internship is a sign of many things coming to an end. My masters, life as a student, and all this ending is making me very nostalgic.
Contrary to all my expectations and nightmares, my internship was the complete opposite of what I expected it to be. Most of my nightmares featured me staring quizzically at several people spoke at me in rapid German or me tripping over some wire and breaking some expensive equipment or deleting important files from the server or well, you get the picture. On the other hand, my expectation had me waking up early and going to work in formals everyday, talking in rapid German and cracking jokes along the way (I sound way funnier in my head but then again I think my German would make a few people laugh).
When I said more or less, I meant nothing like either my expectation or my nightmares. The only things that either got right was 1. I did in fact wake up early and 2. Sometimes I did stare quizzically when people spoke at me in rapid German but I snapped out of it pretty quickly. Now while I always thought of getting up early wearing formals and make up (yeah right!), that hardly ever happened. I’m way too lazy to iron my formal shirts so I took the easy way out and said I’m a student, plus I work in R&D. No one’s going to care if I’m in formals. I got that one right. So out went formals, as far as make up is concerned, I’m yet to learn the art of properly applying eyeliner, let alone perfect it, and work wasn’t the place I wanted to start my experiments with make up so that went out the window too.
Conversing in German didn’t turn out to be the nightmare I expected it to be. Despite my rudimentary skills, I was able to interact, understand and communicate. What more do you need? I’ll admit, the first couple of months were pretty difficult. I had to really concentrate to understand what someone was saying and by evening I was reduced to starring and nodding politely. Speaking a different language really takes up brain space!! Not to forget the mini hear attacks I’d have when someone spoke in Swabian or with a thick accent (look who’s talking!). But I found a way around it all. As long as you have a smile on your face and are polite, people will be patient with you. Somewhere along the line I forgot to be scared and just spoke in German. It stopped being an exercise and just became something very normal. I actually miss it now. I just hope I don’t get rusty.
As far as colleagues were concerned, I had the best. For the most part I was the youngest person in the team so I always got a bit of leeway. Everyone was very patient and friendly with me. S who was also doing his master thesis became a good friend. We had quite a few laughs sitting right at the back of the department speaking in broken German (me) and broken English (S). I can’t imagine how the others could work with a serious face during all this. It became very boring to have to sit and work alone the last couple of months since S was done. There was also Mr. L who always came at 12:30 to call us for lunch. Mr. L always had the most interesting of stories and observations to make. Being a foreigner, my country was the topic of quite a few conversations and lunch was never boring. Mr. M was always fascinated by India and by how I liked Formula 1 and could hold my own when Mr. W and Mr. K had a conversation about it. Some of the finest gentlemen I know.
On a day with good weather i.e. the Sun was out, Dr. T and Mr. L would suggest eating an ice cream or getting a cup of coffee after lunch. We’d sit and talk about uni, what they served for food at the canteen, the correct height and angle for the hedge around the house,. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had. Then there was always the walk around the building to delay getting back to work even if by just a couple of minutes. And when the topic was even more interesting we’d dawdle in the aisle between the cubicles getting in a last opinion or two before it was time for the inevitable.
One thing I’d never realised was that there’s so much more to work than just the actual work like running tests or simulations or figuring out the bug in your model. Those are things you figure out with experience or if nothing works then there’s always google. But the skill you really need is the one which helps you communicate. Not talk but actually communicate. A lot of times you say a lot of things but you can never really get across what you mean. At times like this language isn’t the barrier but your people skills are. This is probably my biggest take away from my internship. The number of times I ran around the workshop and the test bench to ask for a component to be mounted or dismounted is too many to count. I also can’t imagine how each and every one at the workshop always took the time to come and do that for me despite their tight schedules. It goes to show that anything is possible if only you’re polite to people and treat them as equals. It’s also amazing how much you can learn from them.
A smile and a hello or good morning can do wonders in forging bonds with people. Everyday that I went to work, there would be a couple of people standing outside the door smoking and I would say good morning and they would return the greeting. I don’t know these people by their names but they became a part of my day as I did theirs and whenever we met again during the course of the day they’d make it a point to say hello. Many a conversations in the lift while running from my work station to the test bench happened just because I was willing to say hello. It’s amazing how these little actions change the whole course of your day. Even at the canteen, saying “Mahlzeit” made the servers’ day and you could see how happy they felt to be acknowledged.
All in all, it’s been an eventful ten months. My brain’s a little fuller with all that I’ve learnt during my thesis, my resume has increased in length, I’ve added two letters of recommendations but most of all, I’ve made memories to last me a life time.