My Co-op in Germany

My Co-op in Germany

By: Hubert Tam | Business Co-op Student
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Hubert Tam shares about his experience in Germany working at SAP.  Hubert is a 7th year Business student who spent 3 co-op terms at SAP.

What made you decide to do International Co-op/TaLK?

I wanted to do an International Co-op because in Spring 2012, I went on an exchange to Maastricht, in the Netherlands, and enjoyed being abroad and being in Europe so much that I wanted to go back.  So when I came back to SFU in Fall 2012, I decided I wanted to be back in Europe as soon as possible and looked into co-op opportunities in Europe.

How was your international interview unique? (How did you prepare?)

The interview was a phone interview, which was interesting because all my interview experience had mainly been in-person. I did some research on the company and what they did. A lot of my preparation related back to just asking myself interviewer-like questions (“Why do you want to go abroad? Why Germany?” etc…).

How did you prepare yourself to live and work abroad?

Since SFU has experience sending people to SAP both in Canada and in Germany there was no shortage of people I could contact about working at SAP and living in Germany. I also had some contacts from my exchange in Germany who could tell me some things I could expect. Simple google searches or looking up travel wikis will tell you a lot of things about a country or city that you’ll be living in.

Work Life

What did you do as an Intern? (Day to day tasks, how was the experience?)

My main tasks revolved around reports for other departments.  I assisted my boss with requests from other departments, and I did a lot of tasks involving Excel and number reporting.  The experience was great!  It gave me insight into a large international company and the German work culture.  SAP has a large student community as well so I got to meet a lot of people from different countries, which was a big thing for me.

How did you find it working in a different country? (Similarities/differences, different language?)

Luckily for me, the working language was English, but colleagues often spoke German with each other.  Also, some small things and applications were in German, so I had to find out how to convert it to English.  Some colleagues could speak English better than others so it required a bit more explanation or slower speech in order to communicate correctly.

Living Abroad

Was this your first time leaving the country or travelling by yourself? (How was it?)

During the year before my co-op I had spent 8 months on exchange and travelling (about 8 weeks of solo travelling).  The year I spent in Germany was great because it really exposed me to a different lifestyle compared to that of Vancouver and was a very enriching experience.

How did you gain or improve your intercultural skills?

The biggest thing would be that I was exposed to the German language in a very immersive way, and as a result I am actually learning German at SFU right now.  Another thing was that the large student community at SAP allowed me to connect with a lot of people from various countries, allowing me to interact with new cultures. I met people from Iran, Russia, New Zealand and Hungary (to name a few).

Students might think International Co-op/TaLK is all work.  Did you get time to do other activities?

It’s a strange thought considering you’re living in another country and you don’t work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Germany is rather generous with vacations and time off, so it’s very possible to do a lot of things to make the most of your time abroad.  SAP in particular held events for the employees (after-work events, cultural events, Christmas party, etc…). In Germany, the idea is that when you leave the office, you leave the work too.

Favourite food in your city/country?

It’s a toss-up between the bread and döner kebab.  The döner kebab is just miles ahead of what I’ve had in Vancouver and it’s everywhere.  Bread is an interesting thing that most people wouldn’t normally associate with Germany. There are just so many unique varieties of bread and bakeries everywhere.

Reflections

What was one of your memorable moments?

A great moment for me was when some of the students organized a trip to the Balkans region of Europe.  It was a 10 day trip that took us through 7 countries.  We got to see a very interesting part of Europe that I would have been hesitant to go see alone.  It was very nice to travel with people I had known for about 6 months!

Has this experience abroad changed your career or educational goals?

This experience itself didn’t change too much but rather solidified it for me.  I knew I wanted to be abroad following my exchange but this experience made it more certain.  I’d like to live and work in Germany, or in Europe in general, following graduation.  I’ve also considered going for a Master’s Program in Europe!

If you could describe your international experience in one word, what would it be?

Life-changing.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give to students who are thinking about International Co-op?

Just go for it!  Any inconvenience from an International Co-op is peanuts when you look at what you get out of the experience.  If you’re really focused on the career aspect, having 6 months or a year working abroad is amazing on your resume, not to mention you get time to travel and see new things!  It really is a win-win situation! Who knows?  You might decide to live there after spending time on an International Co-op.

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Posted on September 26, 2014