Die Universitäten der UA Ruhr kooperieren mit Hochschulen und Forschungsinstituten auf der ganzen Welt und sind in zahlreichen Netzwerken aktiv. Um den internationalen Austausch zu fördern, hat die Universitätsallianz Verbindungsbüros im Ausland eingerichtet und 2013 ein Mission Statement verabschiedet.
Unter dem Label UA Ruhr Liaison Offices betreibt die UA Ruhr Büros in New York, Moskau und Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo. Dabei tragen die Verbindungsbüros nachhaltig dazu bei, Forschungskontakte auszubauen. Zudem unterstützen sie im Bereich der Lehre gemeinsame Studien- und Lernprojekte organisatorisch.
Zu den Aufgaben der Offices gehören zum Beispiel
- Forschungskontakte zwischen der Universitätsallianz und Hochschulen im Ausland anzubahnen und auszubauen,
- gemeinsame Studien- und Lehrprojekte (z.B. Sommerschulen, Studiengänge mit Doppelabschluss, Studierenden- u. Dozentenaustausch) zu initiieren und zu begleiten,
- bei der Organisation von wissenschaftlichen Treffen und Begegnungen Unterstützung zu leisten,
- die akademische Mobilität zwischen den Ländern zu unterstützen und damit zur Qualifikation besonders begabter Studierender und Nachwuchswissenschaftlerinnen und -wissenschaftlern beizutragen,
- die Hochschulen und die wissenschaftliche Community im Ausland über herausragende Innovationen in Forschung und Lehre innerhalb der Universitätsallianz zu informieren sowie
- die Förderung der Bindung von Freunden und Alumni des Ruhrgebiets untereinander und mit der UA Ruhr.
Auf den Internetseiten der Liaison Offices erhalten Sie weiterführende Informationen zu unseren Angeboten für Studierende, Lehrende und Forschende. Wir freuen uns über Ihr Interesse. Sprechen Sie uns an, wenn Sie Rückfragen haben.
Liveblog: US-Top students visit the UA Ruhr / Ruhr-Fellowship Program June-July 2015
Introduction Week 1
My name is Chatarin Wangsanuwat from Bangkok, Thailand. I am a rising senior in Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at Princeton University. I participated in this program because I think it will be a good opportunity for me to spend a summer in Germany, immerse in German culture, learn German language, learn German industry and university experiences and travel around Europe. I have had good experiences so far!
Week1: Dortmund, Duisburg-Essen, Bochum and Cologne
Mon Jun 1st: Moving in and welcome dinner
I arrived at Dortmund Hbf by train around 1:30PM on June 1st and was met by three German buddies (host friends) picking me up, Dennis, Frederic and Alex, who is my “Double” (specific host friend). We took the train to TU Dortmund University, and Alex showed me to my room in Emil-Figge street building 3.
I have to admit that I knew nothing about the Ruhr area before I got here. This is not uncommon, as the Initiativkreis Ruhr explained they want people to know about the area. To me personally, I expected the university to be more city-like. It somewhat is because the university is 3 train stops away from Dortmund city. However, there is a big field near my dorm, which is not what I am used to at all. I like it though: very safe and serene.
I have a single room in Emil-Figge building, which is 3 bus stops away from the main campus, 15 mins walking and 4 mins by bus. The room is really nice: much bigger than a typical single at Princeton. There is a bathroom and a tiny kitchen (with a small fridge!). I am still missing cooking utensils, a chair and a curtain, but they are coming soon!
The lock on my door is very different from any lock I have used before. Normally, you just unlock and open the door, but for my door, you actually have to turn left about three rounds and then you have to turn left a little more to the last click and push the door open right when you have that last click. Obviously, I didn’t know that and neither did Alex. So we went downstairs to ask the maintenance guy to help us. I was glad that Alex was with me because I don’t speak any German. He came to our room and very easily opened the door. He gave us one good look and then just walked away without saying anything. He must have thought we were very stupid.
Q: How many engineers do you need to open a door in Germany?
A: They can’t. You need to call maintenance.
After that we took the train to Dortmund and Laura Hope, our program coordinator, treated us to a traditional German dinner. Quite a good first day I would say.
Tue Jun 2nd: First German class, Culture and Technology class and Meetings
After a brief campus tour, we had our first introductory German class. I found the whole “sein” verb, which is an equivalence of “is/am/are” in English, very confusing. They have more in German, and they also differentiate between you-singular, you-plural and you-formal. This is going to be a challenge…
Then we joined in a regular class called Culture and Technology, which quite a few German Engineering students here are taking. Since my devices were not yet connected to the internet, I didn’t have any distraction and actually paid a lot of attention! We talked about how identity affects technological invention and distribution.
Afterwards we had a series of introductions to new people who have worked to put this program together, as well as lots of group photos: we had a lunch meeting with Dr. Ursula Gather, Rector of the university. We then were introduced to ESN (Erasmus Student Network), an international student organization that has planned a few events for us and also gave us our German sim cards, which made them very popular! In Essen at the Welcome Reception at Initiativkreis Ruhr we were introduced to the Ruhr Area and the objective of the program. We also had a group picture here. Apparently, we are going to be famous! (well, not really)
Wed Jun 3rd: More German class, opening the bank account, IKEA trip and pizza with doubles
The title pretty much sums up the entire day. We had more German class, this time from 9 to 12. We sometimes get a little off topic, but are learning about quirky parts of the German language. The most interesting one is “Die Nutella” v. “Das Nutella.” People are apparently passionate about one or the other. Out teacher, Matthäus, strongly suggests ‘Die’ because of the ending “ella” which is obviously feminine. We did end up looking it up in der Duden but it says people use both. On another day we had a small talk with a lady on the train and asked whether it should be ‘die’ or ‘das.’ She looked unsure and said probably ‘die.’ But then another lady nearby just shouted “das. Das Nutella!” So the first lady just said “das” too. I am now convinced that people are passionate about the article of Nutella.
We were also introduced to the “Mensa”, the university’s lunch cafeteria. The food is really cheap (for Western standards anyway), since it is subsidized by the government. There are generally three prices: lowest one for students, middle one for people who work at the university and the third one for guests. The student price for food is really low; I can get a full-cost meal for 2.50-4 Euro!
However, the drinks are still pricy, especially when you add on the deposit. This is not specific to TU Dortmund but to Germany in general. They are obsessed about recycling. For example, when you go grocery shopping, you should bring your grocery bag with you because usually it costs money to take plastic bags. Also, you have to pay a deposit for plastic bottles. For example, I bought a 500mL coke, and it should cost 1.10 Euro but it ended up costing 1.25 because 15 cents are for the bottle. I have to return the bottle and get a 15 cent coupon for my next purchase.
After organizing things like bank accounts and supplies for the rooms (thanks to the Ikea employee who brought us to the front of the line!), in the evening we had pizza and Turkish food with our buddies and were introduced to “Flunky ball” (actually I’m not 100% sure on the name). It was pretty fun: each team lines up and one person throws a tennis ball at a water bottle in the middle. If the water bottle falls down, people in the team can drink their beverage of choice (it’s Germany, so of course, beer) while the other team runs and sets the bottle back up. After the other team is done, we have to stop drinking. You win when everybody drinks his/her entire bottle. As you can see, that involves a lot of drinking for everybody! Also, the winners drink more, which is the total opposite of the US games!
Later in the evening, there was a school wide party because the next day was a national holiday. I went there to hang out a bit. It was quite fun.
Thu Jun 4th: National Holiday and Cologne
June 4th is a National Holiday in Germany. Surprisingly, not many people know the significance of the holiday. Apparently, “there’s something to do with Jesus,” one said. Anyway, we took advantage of the day off to go to Cologne, which can be reached by train using our semester ticket within one hour and a half. We spent our morning and afternoon there. We split off into groups because our interests were different. I went to the Chocolate Museum sponsored by Lindt, walked along the Rhine River and got up to the Köln Triangle to have a nice view of the city.
By the way, all regional trains are free because we have student semester ticket. Pretty sweet. However, we are starting to notice that German efficiency and reliability doesn’t always apply to the trains:
1.) On our way to Cologne, four of the others could not make it in time for the train so we went ahead. Unfortunately, our next train to Cologne was delayed 55 minutes and later cancelled. We had to take the same train 1 hour later, which was also 20 minutes late, so we spent 1.5 hours waiting for the train (this happens a lot). The four people who didn’t make the early train went the other way, hopped on one other train and ended up in the same train as us. They got extra sleep AND arrived at the same time!
2.) On the first day, we were supposed to take the train from the university to Dortmund Hbf. We met at the train station around 4:45PM. The person told us to get off at the next stop so we did, but what she meant was the next major stop, which was 2 stops away. So we ended up waiting for the next train, which was then cancelled. We ended up waiting for about 45 minutes at that stop; but, still, it was a great bonding time.
Fri Jun 5th: U-Duisburg-Essen, Cenide center visit
We took a morning train to visit University of Duisburg-Essen and Cenide, which is a nanoscience center at the university. They have really great facilities and not many people were there because people just took Friday off to have a four-day weekend. In the evening, we went with our buddies to West Park to have barbeque.
Sat Jun 6th: Ruhr University Bochum 50th anniversary
Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Ruhr University Bochum, and we were invited to the ceremony. The ceremony was very fancy with live jazz music and small cocktails. During the ceremony, the President of Germany gave a speech and they celebrated the collaboration between Bochum and a university in Krakow. I learned quite a bit about the history of the Ruhr area and how they had to fight to have a university established in the industrial area back in the 50s through the speeches. There was also a dance show and an a cappella group with orchestra.
Sun Jun 7th: ZOOM Zoo
One of the perks of the program: We went to the Gelsenkirchen zoo on Sunday since one of the companies in the program is a zoo sponsor and sponsored free tickets for us. The zoo contains three sections: Alaska, Africa and Asia. Almost ten of us went there together and it was amusing for me to see each of my friends suddenly get super excited about one animal for not so obvious reasons. They claimed that animal is the best or the coolest.
Introduction Week 2
Hello, My name is Youjin. I am a recent graduate from UC Berkeley, where I studied Business Administration and Education. I was born and grew up in South Korea and came to the U.S. for higher education 6 years ago. With a strong interest in German culture and its green initiatives, I decided to participate in the Ruhr Fellowship program and have learned so much over the past few weeks about the history, language, and people of Germany.
I will start each blog post with a “phrase of the day” related to what happened for the day or what I learned in German class. I have lots of stories to share, so let’s begin!
Monday, June 7th: Phrase of the day: “Das kannst du besser” (You can do better)
After learning verb conjugation and helpful phrases in our German class for three hours, we had our first visit to a partner company: Ruhrverband. Ruhrverband is a water treatment company that purifies water in the Ruhr region. Founded in the early 1900s, the company contributed significantly to the supply of clean drinking water in this heavily industrial area, in addition to supplying water to ongoing “green” projects. We first heard an introductory presentation from the company’s CEO about its services. While hearing about the political relationship between the company and the government, a number of us had questions about Ruhrverband as a public entity and its way to hold the company accountable. For example, the U.S. has encountered several issues with monopolization of public companies, and, therefore, even in the water management industry, private sectors still exist to generate competition. Professor Dr.-Ing. Bode, however, found that question rather absurd and explained the complex legal process and regulations the company needs to go through. This reminded me of other incidents I could never imagine happening in the U.S. or Korea: no gates at the train station, entering the bus from the back door, and no jaywalking. It was surprising to see that accountability can exist without strict monitoring, and I was very happy to witness that trust can replace extra security guards and gates here in Germany. Ruhrverband’s commitment towards clean environment and higher quality service was definitely visible throughout the presentation, and we were amazed by some of the cultural differences.
After the presentation, we visited the water treatment plants where we not only saw (and smelled) the purification process, but we also saw the self-fueled eco-friendly sewage treatment system. Here I was able to understand the hard work put into cleaning the water and the privilege of having such service available in the area. Apparently, in the U.S. the average person uses three times the amount of water of an average German, and consequently many states are suffering from droughts – time to learn to take shorter showers and wash dishes more efficiently!
Tuesday, June 8th Phrase of the day: “Ich liebe die Natur” (I love the nature)
We had the first cultural studies series today after lunch. It was about the deindustrialization of the Ruhr Area which used to be known for coal mining and steel production. Although I was informed prior to the fellowship that the Ruhr region is an industrial area, I still found this information to be surprising since all I have seen throughout my train rides were trees, green hills, and wide grassy fields. Consisting of 53 cities, the Ruhr Area has encountered many issues with air and water pollution and initiated green projects about 60 years ago along with increasing emphasis on higher education. Some interesting comparisons are made between the Ruhr region and Detroit, Michigan. For example, both cities are built for industries – Detroit for cars and the Ruhr Area for coal mines – and underwent major transformations with respect to demographics and urbanization. New houses were constructed near factories and life-long, multi-generation professions became a norm in both communities. Yet the change in the world supply and demand in the car and coal industries ultimately hurt the economies in both areas.. By closing the mines to improve the environment, the Ruhr Area struggled with high unemployment, low youth population, as well as unoccupied residential buildings. Thanks to various governmental employment and training programs, the unemployment rate decreased and a new job market for renewable, clean-energy industry rose in the region.
Before our dinner with Dr. Neuhaus, CEO of RWE, we were able to witness one of the green initiative projects. When I saw the surrounding area of Lake Phoenix, it was hard to imagine that it was the center of major steel production with extremely polluted water and air. The lake had clear water with many geese and people were running or walking along the trail filled with flowers, free from any trash. As discussed in the workshop, de-industrialization was visible in Dortmund, and people seemed to really appreciate nature.
Meanwhile, throughout the workshop and the short excursion, I couldn’t stop asking myself two questions: “How did people struggle with the high unemployment rate?” and
“How did the coal mining and steel production companies handle the decline of their industry and the regional trend toward green energy?” Dr. Neuhaus gave me a brief and clear answer—globalization. Although the domestic demand died out from the shift toward green and high-tech renewable energy, the international demand still remained high. For example, cheap and less processed steel would be exported to China while the U.S. would import more delicate, high-quality, processed steel. It was an unavoidable fact that the steel industry suffered and shrank as a result of the de-industrialization. The businesses found a way out and more surprisingly, the government provided essential support for the survival of those in the Ruhr Area.
During dinner, we were able to share thoughtful conversations with the CEO about the European Union and Germany’s critical role in the European economy. I found his comparison between the EU and the U.S. particularly interesting. He described the U.S. as a “melting pot” of different cultures and ethnicities, while the EU is more like a mosaic. Each country or region maintains a strong cultural identity and thus the diverse traditions and values of numerous communities make Europe a more interesting place to visit. I’m not entirely sure whether this characteristic has benefited Europe or not, but it was certainly an interesting way to view the relationship among EU countries in comparison to that of the states.
Wednesday, June 9th Phrase of the day: Der, die, das Nutella?
Today was a bit more flexible and relaxing. After our morning German class, we had the first Culture and Technology discussion section. Each of us was paired with German students for group presentations, and I met Lukas, Oliver, and Simon, who study Industrial Engineering. One side note – industrial engineering in Germany is a bit different from that in the U.S. In the U.S., industrial engineering refers to engineering within a specific field of industry, so the focus is on “engineering” even though it may be an interdisciplinary major. However, at least at TU Dortmund, it has an equal emphasis on business and engineering. Students learn accounting, finance, human resources alongside their engineering courses, and may even pursue more business-related careers after they graduate. Regarding the group presentation, my group discussed various issues both Germany and the U.S. share and decided on the topic “attitude toward renewable energy.” Perhaps because I took a course in Global Warming last semester and studied alternative energy sources to oil and gas, I shared similar views with my group regarding Germany’s green energy projects and really hope that more people become aware of the severity of the environmental issues worldwide.
For the first time, I had some free time without any traveling plans. Another Ruhr Fellow and I went to Dortmund Hbf and spent time exploring the city. We made three discoveries: 1) Primark in the Thier Galerie has very good deals – some items are cheaper than those in the U.S.! This store changed my assumption that shopping is expensive in Germany. 2) Bring bags – especially for grocery shopping. We stopped by a grocery store in the Galerie and all bags (both plastic and paper) cost an extra 10-15 cents. 3) Dortmund seems to be a small city, but it takes multiple visits to explore everything.
Thursday, June 10th Phrase of the day: kostenlose Buildung und starke Forschung (Free education and strong research)
Today’s schedule included a day trip to Ruhr Universität Bochum (RUB) for a campus tour. This visit was more informative and detailed about the origin of the university and its research projects. RUB was the first university built in Germany after World War II (which explains to a certain extent why the president visited the 50th anniversary last weekend) and has four main colleges/schools: humanities, engineering, natural sciences, and medicine. Among all the facts about the university, I was genuinely shocked by the free tuition policy – even for international students! Students pay the student ticket (about 300 euros) and housing if they live on campus, but there is zero payment needed to register for classes. Studying at a public university in the U.S., I at first could not understand the cost structure to afford thousands of student’s higher education. UC Berkeley charges domestic students about $20,000 annually and about $40,000 for international students. Sadly tuition is increasing every year, despite student protests. Yet considering the amount of taxes people pay, it made more sense as to why education can be subsidized more in Germany, compared to California. I heard that research budgets are often tight, but it was still incredible to think that German universities can support highly technical and innovative research studies solely with the government funding.
The research labs were also fascinating. We saw everything from energy-efficient lights for automobiles and wind tunnels for bridge construction, to ice cream making with liquid nitrogen. The tour took approximately six hours. I would say that it was not easy to completely understand the physical theories or engineering concepts while visiting several labs, but as someone who studied education policy, Germany’s financial and intellectual support for students continuously amazed me. I really liked the idea of voluntary education where students can “freely” choose to purse higher education and the consequence of not pursuing it does not necessarily limit one’s future career.. Also, the broad access to higher education seemed to resolve the unemployment issue in the Ruhr Area and encourage students to become more specialized in their field of interest, free of charge.
Friday, June 11th – Sunday, June 12th Phrase of the trip: eine Stadt, zwei Kulturen, vier Länder (one city, two cultures, four countries)
I had my first weekend trip to Berlin with four other Ruhr Fellows. We took a Flixbus on Friday and arrived in the late evening after a 7-hour ride. The area we were in was very peaceful and uneventful – not necessarily a good place to find a restaurant at night, but I appreciated the undisturbed sleep.
On Saturday, we joined a walking tour led by a Greek guide, Arthemis. I found out “Alexander Platz” is the only non-German Platz in Berlin, as it was named after a Russian King. Although this was done to maintain a good political relationship with Russia, it did not last long, and thus the name did not serve the purpose in the end. . Next stop was Museum Island, which is surrounded by water – in fact, there are boats sailing around the museums – and is home to famous museums (the old and the new museum, Pergamon Museum, the German history museum to name a few) and a church. We were lucky enough to see the beautiful view of the fountain and other architecture. After walking for a few minutes, we got to Humboldt University of Berlin, one of the oldest universities in Germany. As tuition is free, this university is extremely difficult to enter and has many Nobel laureates as alumni and faculty members. We were also told that all the books related to the Jewish culture were burnt in the university during Holocaust and we were able to witness the importance of education from the empty library bookshelves.
We also visited Checkpoint Charlie, Topography of Terror, the Holocaust Memorial, and Brandenburg Gate. Unlike many other places, Berlin has numerous memorials and museums on the Holocaust and the Berlin wall. It feels as though Berliners consciously attempt to remember the tragic past and communicate the horrors of war to today’s society. I was moved by their effort to raise awareness on why we should avoid wars by revealing their own painful history, and I praise their bravery and leadership. Accountability, trust, and transparency – I am now getting a better sense of why people come to love Germany so much.
On Sunday, we started our tour at a flea market. There I met a Korean chef who was making traditional Korean dumplings and pancakes based on his mother’s recipes. The brief conversation about Korea and Germany reminded me of how privileged I am to be able to go back home more often and keep the connection with my old friends in Korea. Later we went back to Museum Island and went inside the cathedral. Very detailed sculptures welcomed us at the entrance and each step gave me lessons about Germany’s religious history and the Prussian Empire. The view from the top was gorgeous.
As we arrived at the East Side Gallery, the ambience changed and the type of art and architecture shifted as well: the surroundings looked more residential, fewer people were present on the street, and the people sounded different (I don’t understand German, but phonetically or attitude-wise the language sounded different). I learned more about the German history, the art seemed to describe the emotional pain or chaos people underwent forty years ago and the silence in the eastern side represented the unseen cultural separation between the two “sides.” I wish I would have had more time to explore East Berlin but, this gives me an excuse to visit Berlin again.
Introduction Week 3
My name is Charles Du. I’m originally from Excelsior, Minnesota, and currently a rising junior in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology, studying Computer Science and Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Thanks to the Ruhr Fellowship, I will be spending 4 weeks at TU Dortmund and 6 weeks at Deutsche Bank.
Hungary for Adventure: Soccer, Coal, and Budapest
Hungary for Adventure. I know, I know. It’s a bad pun, and definitely overused. Still, in my opinion, it is the best way to summarize a week of adventures around the Ruhr Region and a weekend trip to Budapest.
When I came to Germany, I told people my proficiency in German was equivalent to 300 EXP in Duolingo. I knew maybe 30 words - a few verbs, a few nouns (mostly animals and foods), and how to say hello. Now, after my third week of German classes, I know enough general phrases to ask where the bathroom is, introduce myself, and order food at a restaurant. I’m making progress and can’t wait until I can tell jokes in German!
I’ve also realized that when I say “Hallo!” really confidently and with a big smile, people will think you’re fluent in German. Unfortunately for me, it’s not the case –I’m just happy to see them and be here in Germany. There have been multiple moments where I greet some Germans only to have them find out moments later, that I can’t put together more than a few basic sentences. I’ve had a few awkward encounters, but oh well. It’ll get better. I know it will.
Signal Iduna Park
After class on Monday, we stopped at Signal Iduna Park, home of BVB, Dortmund’s soccer team and the largest soccer stadium in Germany. The stadium is always sold out and the majority of the fans are season ticket holders. Apparently, the entire city wears yellow on game days, and there isn’t an atmosphere like it in all of Europe. I only wish I could’ve come to Dortmund sooner or stay later to see BVB in action.
We started the tour with a stop at the gift shop, where many of us picked up BVB jerseys. We went through the pressroom, locker room, and finally onto the soccer field. The end result was a number of epic pictures and a newfound interest in soccer.
As a sports fan, I’ve always loved basketball and American football. I’ve never been a huge fan of soccer and I’ve watched at most two complete games in my life – both during the recent World Cup. However, after this trip, I definitely would not pass up an opportunity to go to a game at Signal Iduna Park. Who knows? I might just start watching it at home. But seriously, no promises. Sorry Dortmund. Sorry Germany. Sorry Europe — I haven’t been converted… yet.
On Tuesday we visited the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, a research lab affiliated with TU Dortmund. At the Fraunhofer Institute we saw some pretty cool robots, drones, and different projects related to autonomous systems. My understanding of it was that one day, companies will be able to ship packages and manage their inventory using only machines.
Meeting of the Minds: Red Dot Design Museum and Essen Philharmonic
The next day we had the Meeting of the Minds, which is a fancy title for an event that brought all the American students doing internships in the Ruhr Region together. There were students from the Ruhr Fellowship, RISE, and REACH meeting each other for the first time at Zeche Zollverein for a tour of the Red Dot Museum, Currywurst, and the Essen Philharmonic.
For me, the highlight of the Meeting of the Minds was seeing the Red Dot Museum. The museum was a showcase for the best of the best in contemporary product design. I for one am extremely interested in product design and how to make products that are efficient and effective. I want to highlight one useful product, one ridiculous product, and one product that I wish I owned from the museum:
Useful: Shnuggle Baby Bath - Essentially a bathtub made out of foam. It not only keeps the water warm, but it’s also cheap to make and protects infants from slipping or getting hurt.
Ridiculous: GROHE Ondus Digital - The museum guide called it “the Ferrari of showers.” Enough said. It’s a programmable showerhead that stores shower settings including temperature and pressure for the ultimate shower.
Want: Red River Sandal - Shoes that are handcrafted to perfectly fit the bottoms of your feet. Sounds comfy, right?
I Become a Coal Miner and Germany’s Green Gene
Glück auf! It’s a traditional miner’s greeting. If you translate it, it means luck up. I believe this completely summarizes the miners’ hope of finding coal and returning home safely after each day of work.
On Thursday, I went to the RAG Prosper-Haniel Coal Mine in Bottrop. It is one of the few active coal mines in Germany and is set to close in 2018 along with all the other coal mines in the country. Other countries are able to mine coal more effectively and cheaply than Germany, since they can mine closer to the surface, and as a result, they plan on importing 100% of the coal they need in the future. It’s incredible to think that they have decided to be energy dependent in that regard, where that would never be a thought in America. However, Germany is cutting back on coal use and focusing on renewable energies, so they will need much less.
We got to the mine right after lunchtime. After a brief introduction, we changed into mining gear and headed down into the mines. We went 1.2 km below the surface in less than 2 minutes and were soon in the world of rocks and coal. After getting to the bottom, we took a train for almost half an hour to reach the active coal veins. We watched their big machines go to work and got to take home pieces of authentic German coal for ourselves.
We also spent time at Thyssengas, Kokerei Hansa, and Innovation City, where we really got to see Germany’s developing “Green Gene” in action. We saw their commitment to clean and safe energy from their policy decisions to move out of coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. 40 years ago, you couldn’t even dry clothes outside in the Ruhr Region, but today it is the home of beautiful green land and blue skies. I’m amazed at the progress Germany has made in this direction and proud to have seen first-hand the reclamation of the Ruhr Region.
Since I started this section with a German word, I want to end it with one too: “Kokskuchenführungswagen.” Try saying that 5 times fast. Yes, it’s a real word, and it has to do with one of the machines in the Kokerei Hansa in Dortmund.
I, along with Alex, Madhav, and Aakash – three other Ruhr Fellows – spent the weekend in the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary. There are two halves of Budapest: Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River and connected by the many bridges that span it.
We arrived Saturday morning after waking up at 4 AM to catch our flight out of Dortmund Airport – oh the sacrifices we make for affordable travel. Upon arriving in Budapest, we stopped by our Airbnb place to drop off our stuff and immediately headed out for lunch and a day of adventure.
Instead of Euros, Hungary uses Hungarian Forints. One Euro gets you around 300 Florints and we immediately felt like rich men on the streets of Budapest. Upon the recommendation of our host, we headed to a nearby Hungarian restaurant. Delighted, we found the food incredibly cheap and delicious. I was able to get Chicken Paprikash, an authentic Hungarian dish for around 1000 Florints, which if you do the math was just over 3 Euros!
With our bellies full, we walked from landmark to landmark, being classic tourists looking to see all the famous parts of town. On the Pest side of the city, we walked past the famous Hungarian Opera House, climbed all 302 steps of St. Stephen’s Basilica, saw the Shoes on the Danube, and stopped at the Hungarian Parliament building – all of which I would recommend visitors of Budapest to see.
We later crossed a bridge towards the Buda side of the city to check out the Castle Hill district. But first, we stopped on Margaret’s Island on the way for some delicious snacks and a beautiful fountain. We had Magyaros lángos, which are fried pieces of dough with toppings on top. They were absolutely delicious.
On the Buda side of the city, we stopped by Fisherman’s Bastion, where there were 4 weddings going on simultaneously. I can definitely see why the area behind the bastion(Várhegy) is so popular for weddings. It looked like it was straight out of a Disney movie. There were castles in the background, beautiful streets, and looked like a fairy tale. What’s even more interesting is that tourists seemed more intent on capturing the weddings than the beautiful bastion that they were standing in.
We finished our adventure for the day by stopping at Buda Castle, the former home of Hungarian Royalty. We climbed every lion statue around the castle and thoroughly explored their courtyards and street food vendors. Here I tried Kürtőskalács (Chimney Cake) and Rétes (Hungarian Strudel). These of course, were also delicious.
Finally, we had dinner at Borkonyha Winekitchen, one of four Michelin Star restaurants in Budapest. While it was fancy, it was still incredibly affordable since we were in Eastern Europe. We spent around 20 Euros per person for food from one of the best restaurants in the city. If I learned anything the first day in Budapest, it’s important to do more than just see landmarks and tourist sites when traveling; you need to take the time to learn about the culture, history, and food of the country as well.
On the second day, we wanted to spend time like the locals. We woke up and headed to City Park and the Széchenyi Baths. When I first heard that Budapest was famous for its public bathhouses, I was skeptical. However, after going there, I can definitively say they are the coolest thing about Budapest. It looked like paradise on earth, and I assure you, if there is anything close to that, this would be it. After three weeks of stuffed schedules and little sleep, we were finally able to spend a large portion of our day relaxing and hanging out with the locals of Budapest in a beautiful mixed indoor-outdoor bathhouse. This place is definitely a must see in the city.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the city, eating Budapest desserts like Rose Gelato, and took a night cruise along the Danube. All in all, I have to say, Budapest is one most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to and that I will definitely be coming back in the future! Viszontlátásra!
Introduction Week 4
Hello! I’m Tony Li. I’m a rising junior studying Computer Science at Harvard, but I’m originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas. I joined the Ruhr Fellowship because I wanted to improve my German, experience the German culture firsthand, explore German universities, and receive practical experience with interning at a major company in the country.
After trickling back into TU Dortmund from our exciting weekends, we buckled down to the regular, well-rehearsed routine of classes and excursions.
On Monday, half of us visited the RAG Bergwerk (coal mine), and the other half met with representatives of our July internships. This was the week I saw the mine, which was an amazing experience, but since Charles already described his visit there, I’ll briefly mention my visit to my company, which wasn’t any less amazing than the coal mine. I’m interning at RWE (or Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk), one of Germany’s largest electric companies, which is based in Essen. Having figured out the local public transit system long ago, I easily found my way to the city. Unfortunately I went into the wrong building, since I didn’t know RWE had several office skyscrapers in the same city. Once I found the right building I was greeted by a handful of electric cars charging at RWE stations in the parking lot. After showing me up to the 12th floor where I would be working, the representatives overwhelmed me by outlining many of RWE’s current projects, saying “Choose any one you’re interested in.” They were extremely nice and enthusiastic to invite me onto their team, and I in turn couldn’t wait to get started.
On Wednesday some of us went to RWE’s Firmenlauf, a 5K (technically a 5.1K) run and originally this event was mandatory. Laura, our coordinator, had introduced it a couple weeks back, saying “You don’t have to run… fast.” This caused our eyes to widen in terror, including mine. Now, I’ve led quite the relaxed lifestyle since arriving in Germany—opting out of the gym membership on campus and thriving off of döner (a Turkish-German street food that is a favorite among the Ruhr fellows), wurst, schnitzel, and the occasional beer. Not to mention that I’m fairly terrible at running and I can maybe run a mile on a good day. That’s why I almost celebrated when the run became voluntary, but after all I’m working at RWE in July, and it DID sound like a lot of fun, so I dove in not expecting in the least to survive the whole span of the run. Once we got there, we received nice and comfortable (not to mention stylish) RWE team jerseys, and we enlisted with 800 other RWE employees to join the RWE team. In total I heard there were about 8.000 runners (If you’re confused about the period, it’s just how the Germans write their thousands. Try to keep up!) With so many runners and spectators it almost felt like a party, especially with pop music playing on loudspeakers and people showing off their boogie moves as a pre-run stretch. Once I actually started running, five kilometers didn’t seem that long. All along the way there were spectators cheering for us on the side, yelling “Lauf! Run!” or “Schneller! Faster!” One elderly runner even laughed at me, “Langsamer! Slower!” Finally I reached the finish line alive and I was greeted by a large medal and admission into an actual after-party, where there were tents, a DJ, beer, freshly-made granola, and lots of friendly people. All in all, it was a good time.
On Thursday I returned to the same RWE skyscraper I visited before, this time with the rest of the Ruhr Fellows. After introducing us to the company and its work with superconductors, RWE showed us its “AmpaCity” project – the world’s longest superconductor electric power line. After visiting one of the AmpaCity power stations, we gathered for a press photo in front of the company building. However, this time we were encouraged to form a “dynamic” group photo, with two electric cars as our props and it took us awhile to figure out where to put our bodies. By this time we Ruhr Fellows were masters of the group photo, automatically filtering out the shorter people in one row and the taller people in a row behind the first. We even had the “sorority-squat” and the “take-a-knee” poses perfected. But what were we to do with two small cars? Eventually we figured it out and came out more confident in our enhanced talent to look fabulous in front of a camera. Afterwards we learned about the company’s graduate program and had a dinner of hors d’oeuvres and a delectable asparagus soup (a first for me) with Herr Dr. Mölders, the human resources director at RWE. After that we were all sufficiently worn out from a full day, and we exercised our other talent of napping on trains on the way back home.
On Friday we went on another excursion, this time to Evonik in Marl to see one of the company’s plants and the Chemiepark Marl, one of Europe’s largest chemical parks. Before we entered the park we again donned helmets and took our well-rehearsed positions for a press photo. When asked to be dynamic in our photo with the company sign, we knew what to do and practiced what we learned from RWE. First our bus took us to Evonik’s acrylic acid plant, which we realized by the sharp smell walking through the front door. After seeing the control room, we had to make sure we were wearing enough clothing (pants, long sleeves, and closed shoes) and put on goggles in addition to our helmets before we could see the plant. Afterwards we climbed a building to see the park from an elevated perspective. The 6.5 square kilometer jungle of twisting pipes and towering containers was an impressive sight, even if you had no idea what the Chemistry Park was. At the end of the tour we had the most impressive cafeteria experience we’ve had for a lunch. Brandishing fancy black trays, we were given free rein on a fairly wide range of food options in the cafeteria. Of course we took the offer of an all-you-can-eat meal to heart.
Weekend Trip – Hamburg
On the weekend we once again scattered into smaller groups to different parts of Europe. I went to Hamburg with a couple other fellows that weekend. Besides general sightseeing and gawking at the beautiful landscape and old, impressive architecture, we stopped by several tourist attractions. One such attraction was the Miniatur Wunderland, a museum of miniature models of different parts of the world and the largest model train system in the world. It was four stories of impressively detailed models that reminded me of the chaotic scenes in the Where’s Waldo? books I read as a kid, especially since the designers had some fun in creating the miniature people and their actions. For instance, I spotted a miniature model streaker waving a flag inside a to-scale sports stadium in the midst of a game. Another attraction was an International Maritime Museum, which displayed the most model ships I’d ever seen in one spot, as well as many other artifacts: naval uniforms from different countries, antique and modern naval weapons, a maritime art collection, and a lot more.
We also went on walking tours to see the historic parts of town as well as the town hall and some of the city’s cathedrals. Hamburg even boasts of being the first place where the Beatles became famous, erecting a Beatles-Platz in honor of the English rock band. Of course we also caught a glimpse of Hamburg’s not-to-be-missed red light district, or more precisely, the Reeperbahn, that’s filled with “gentlemen’s” clubs as well as bars and restaurants. It’s seedy and, well, XXX-rated, but you have to see it. The tip I received from German students was to “party” all night Saturday, then catch the Fischmarkt, or fish market, at 5 o’clock Sunday morning. Unfortunately my group was pretty tired, and I was coming down with a cold, so we didn’t stay up all night, but the next morning we definitely caught the sunrise and the Fischmarkt anyways. It turned out to be a thriving center of activity. It seemed like all parts of the city— from the late-night partygoers, and the casual early-risers, to the locals and international tourists— showed up for the weekly market. Despite the name, there was much more than fish: there were baked goods, candy, souvenirs, beer, livestock, and random bargain items in the fray, right next to the harbor. After recharging with a nap, we ambled around the city and took in all the sights we could before heading back to Dortmund for our last week of classes before our internships.
Introduction Week 5
Week 5, June29th-July5th
End of June, Beginning of Internship
Last German class and last company visit
I can’t believe that June has come to an end; I feel like I just arrived in Dortmund 2 weeks ago. On Monday we visited the printing company Axel Springer Printing in Essen-Kettwig, as well as the newspaper Bild Zeitung, which has been described as “notorious for its mix of gossip, inflammatory language and sensationalism” according to Wikipedia. However, the people there believe in good journalism and they write what people want to read, so you have to take the claim with a grain of salt. I find it very interesting that they also have an office in LA even though they are German newspaper. This office covers the news that happens when most of Germany is asleep at night.
On Tuesday, we had our last German class and breakfast together with the advanced class. We watched 1-minute news videos and with the help of visual media, we seemed to understand what was going on a bit, so I guess my German has improved!
Start working (except, not really, more like settling in)
We started our internships on Wednesday. I am working at Evonik Industries AG in the Chemical Park in Marl, one of Europe's largest chemical parks. The public transportation is quite brutal, taking almost 2 hours one way, so it has been quite a challenge commuting to work. Luckily, our mentor/boss managed to find a person we can carpool with from Dortmund, so instead of taking the train and then the bus, we just took the train from Dortmund Universität to Dortmund Stadthaus, which is only 4 stations away with 1 train connection in the middle. We are supposed to meet with that person at 7AM, which is quite early and means that Andy and I had to wake up around 5:20AM. I think he wanted to beat the traffic and he had to be at work by 8AM. It only took about 40 minutes to get to work, so that was very nice.
The beginning, however, was marked by computer challenges: We tried to get set up on company computers, but it didn’t work. We ended up going to the IT center and dropping off our company computers. So we had a free day, and I spent my time writing this blog! Thursday was better because our colleague decided to pick us up directly from TU Dortmund (i.e. more sleep time!). It still amazes me how fast cars can get us from Dortmund to Marl. I got my employee card in the morning. We were able to log in, and I was so happy that I didn’t even care that I still couldn’t connect to the internet. That would be a task for another day (and it soon worked out).
My programs, Aspen Plus and Aspen Custom Modeler, were installed remotely to my computer, and I talked with my boss more specifically about what I will be doing for the next 6 weeks. The project seems quite complicated, and there are a lot of equations and properties involved. I will basically be finding the best composition of the gas feed and designing a reactor with varying pressure to have the maximal concentration of the product in the gas phase (while reactions only occur in the liquid phase). It should be fun and fulfilling to use the materials I have been learning about in my undergraduate career and applying them to an actual project.
Day(s) trip to the Tour de France
On Saturday at 5AM, we took the train to Utrecht in the Netherlands for the first race, “Utrecht Grand Depart”, of this year’s Tour de France (each rider bikes for 13.8 km one by one, one minute apart each). I did not know anything about Tour de France (except of course the whole Lance Armstrong issue) and for the most part I still don't. But we have 2 big fans in our group, so they taught me the Tour de France 101. Anyways, we got there at 9AM and we were super pumped (that was the word we used all day at least). It was very sunny out and it might have even hit 40 degrees Celsius at some point. We had been camping out near the fence since 10AM and the race did not start until 2PM and there was no shade. We had to defend our spots so we had to take turns getting food.
It was a lot of fun, though; the part I liked the most was when the audience went crazy for their favorites (Sky team, Dutch team, and one other team I can’t remember were the most popular) for maybe 5-10 seconds and then they just biked past us and we also saw them on their way back. I didn’t care for anyone in particular so I just went crazy with the other fans. Afterwards there was a concert in town so we hung out there a bit. Utrecht is also a nice city with small canals, and it felt a little bit like Amsterdam (not as big or impressive, but much more peaceful).
On our way back, since we wanted to stay in Utrecht until around 9pm, there was no ICE train to take home. Our original plan was to take a couple regional trains home, but unfortunately the train broke down from Deventer to Hangelo, so we had to transfer to the bus and then continue from Hangelo to Eschede to take another train to Münster. Because the transfer took time, and we didn’t know what to do in the beginning (no one speaks Dutch so none of us understood why everybody just got off the train at Deventer), we missed the train to Münster, and it was the last train of the day. We and around 10 other people (all foreigners) shared the same fate. We pretty much accepted that we had to stay at the station the entire night. But luckily, the people at the station were amazingly nice about our situation, and after 1.5 hours, they actually booked hotel rooms for all of us. The hotel was literally next to the train station – and with complimentary breakfast! With our bellies full, we then took the 8AM train directly back to Dortmund, hoping through the entire ride that the train wouldn’t break down, and I got home at around 10:45AM. The whole experience was quite surreal.
Our interactions with IT people both in Marl and in Hanau are quite memorable. Unlike most IT people I have encountered with a superiority-I know computers but you don’t- attitude, they are incredibly nice and helpful despite language difficulties. Since I don’t really speak German, we had some difficulties communicating especially when there are specific computer words involved. IT people in Marl just kept apologizing for their English (even though their English was really good), and I kept apologizing for my German. It was quite an interesting experience and it reminded me how important German is.
Introduction Week 6
Week 6, July6th-July12th
Work Hard, Play Hard: Deutsche Bank, Düsseldorf, and Prague
Working at Deutsche Bank
During the month of July I will be interning at Deutsche Bank. I will be participating in a rotational program that will offer me experience in Corporate Investment Banking: German Large Corps, Global Transaction Banking, and Asset and Wealth Management. For my first rotation, I will be working in the Corporate Investment Banking – German Large Corps division in Essen.
For some background, Deutsche Bank is a German global banking and financial services company headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany. It has a presence in over 70 countries and offers a variety of services for private and business clients such as sales, trading, research, mergers and acquisitions, and asset management among many other things. The German Large Corps division in Essen focuses on providing coverage and advisory for large German companies in the Ruhr region, with a focus in Essen.
This week, I spent time learning about the Greek Crisis, how to calculate interest rates for loans, and the details of how to conduct a leveraged buyout (LBO) transaction. Here are some of the highlights of my week:
On Monday, I listened to a conference call with the Head of European Foreign Exchange and Head of Multi Asset Coverage at Deutsche Bank on the Greek crisis and its impact on the economy and European markets.
On Tuesday, I went to our division’s bi-weekly meeting in Düsseldorf with the larger half of the Germany West team. At the meeting I was introduced to several visiting bankers from Frankfurt and got to meet the team from Düsseldorf. The meeting was mostly in German, but thanks to some quick translations from my advisor, I was able to understand the gist of the meeting and the current outlook for the team.
I then spent the remainder of the week learning about setting interest rates for loans and looking through an LBO transaction. Thanks to Deutsche Bank, I learned a lot about financial modeling, industry analysis, and the banking business model.
My advisors at Deutsche Bank also took the time to continue my German cultural education. It was the team director’s birthday a week ago and as a result, there was cheesecake in the office. While enjoying the cake, my co-workers took the time to give me beer recommendations and introduce me to several German musical artists including: Herbert Grönemeyer (a Ruhr native from Bochum), Helene Fischer, Heino, and Die Toten Hosen. My favorite songs were Bochum by Herbert Grönemeyer, Currywurst by Herbert Grönemeyer, and Tage Wie Diese by Die Toten Hosen. I definitely recommend you check some of this music out if you’re interested in learning more about German music!
Most nights of the week I am so tired after working and commuting that once I get back home, I cook dinner, watch some TV, and go to bed pretty early. However this week I took some time to explore Düsseldorf with a few of the Ruhr Fellows.
After getting off work early on Thursday, Remi, Chad, Youjin and I went to explore Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf is known for its famous Alt Beer, so prior to going my advisor recommended a brewery called Schumacher. I stopped there and I’ll tell you what, the beer was delicious, and like all German beer—extremely cheap.
We also got dinner in the city and took a walk through the old town and along the Rhine River. Düsseldorf is a beautiful city, and I definitely plan on spending more time there after work over the next few weeks. I certainly do not want to waste my free time and this opportunity in the Ruhr region by watching Netflix in my bed.
This weekend I took a trip to Prague, Czech Republic, a city full of tourists, street performers, music, and all things named Charles.
On Saturday morning I arrived at the airport in Düsseldorf and soon found myself on a small propeller plane with less than 50 people on it. When I first saw the plane I was skeptical. I had never flown on such a small plane before and I expected a cramped and turbulent ride. However, as it turns out, small planes have their advantages too. We boarded quickly, took off quickly, and even arrived early. I guess it’s true what they say, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” or in this case you can’t judge a plane by its propeller.
I took the bus from the airport to the city and shortly arrived at my hostel in the old town of the city. I met up with another Ruhr fellow, Alex (he took a train), and set off to explore the city. We had to change our currency again as the Czech Republic, while a member of the EU, is not on the Euro and instead they use their own currency, the Czech Koruna. In Budapest, we called the Hungarian Florins (their currency), “points,” because for most of trip we weren’t sure what to call them. The same logic applied for us in Prague and as a result, we used the term Czech Points whenever we had to pay for anything.
We shortly found ourselves in the Old Town Square where we immediately ran into a huge crowd of tourists. It was half past eleven and people were already lining up for the Astronomical Clock to turn on the hour. Due to our proximity to the Town Square, we decided to pass on waiting for the clock this time since we would probably run into the show eventually. After all, we were going to spend over 48 hours in Prague.
We made our way through crowded streets where people always seemed to be selling something— music, food, souvenirs, you name it. Eventually, after walking down several dead end alleys, we made it to the famous Charles Bridge. This bridge, like the Town Square and old town area, was also lined with vendors, but this time, they seemed to specialize in caricatures. They all advertised: “5 euro or 150 Czech Korunas for caricature in 5 minutes!” Surprisingly, they were all filled and people lined up to get their portraits drawn.
After crossing, we arrived in the neighborhood of Hradčany, the castle district of Prague. We opted for walking instead of the tram up the mountain to the castle and soon found ourselves climbing huge flights of stairs to reach the top. We were exhausted when we reached the top, but reasoned that it was a good workout and as a reward for our efforts, we would be shameless in indulging ourselves in delicious food and beer when we returned from the castle at night.
We walked through the Saint Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, Basilica of Saint George, and Golden Lane. I’ve been to so many cathedrals, churches, and basilicas in Europe now that they are all starting to blur together, so the most interesting part of the castle for me was Royal Palace. Particularly we were most amused by seeing the actual window where the Defenestration of Prague (the story summarized is that someone got thrown out of a window and a war started afterwards) happened.
That night we joined a few students from our hostel and went on a Pub Crawl. There were over 150 people in it and we went to 3 pubs and a club that night. Everyone was incredibly eager to talk about their adventures, and we had no problem meeting different groups of people— especially Scots—which made for some interesting conversations about life, Europe, and culture as they were all what a lot of British people call “bev’d.”
The next day, we timed our visit to the town square perfectly, as this time we got to see the Astronomical Clock turn on the hour. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what the fuss was about. It turns out the show was really just a few seconds of sound and spinning dolls in the clock tower. Afterwards, we pushed our way through the crowd and made our way to the Lobkowicz Palace where we planned on catching a midday classical music concert, but we ended up going to the wrong Lobkowicz Palace. As it turns out the German Embassy was also called that and we soon found ourselves on the wrong side of town with only 15 minutes before the concert was supposed to start! We located the actual palace on our map, only to realize it was in the castle at the top of the mountain we had climbed the day before. We ran through town and sprinted up the mountain and made it just in time for the concert to begin.
After the concert we went through the Wallenstein Palace Gardens, John Lennon Wall, and Wenceslas Square. All of them were fun to see, but not trip-changers like the town square of castle in my opinion.
That night we split up for different concerts at the Municipal House. I ended up going to Prague Prom’s performance of Carmina Burana (it contains the piece “O Fortuna” that everyone should recognize – if you don’t know it by the name, look it up on YouTube, you’ll recognize it immediately) with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Czech Philharmonic Choir. It turned that it was actually a black tie event as everyone there was in a fancy dress or a tux, but I was in the t-shirt and shorts I wore earlier that day— you could say I definitely felt out of place. Nevertheless, I had an amazing time seeing the most epic musical performance of my life, and probably the highlight of my entire Prague trip. We finished the night at the Prague Beer Museum—a pub where we sampled numerous Czech beers.
The next and final day in Prague, we mostly relaxed in the town square and people-watched on the Charles Bridge. With hundreds of pictures on my phone and even more memories, I boarded my flight back to Dortmund for a much needed night of rest before another week of work and adventures.
Introduction Week 7
Hello, this is Youjin from Week 2, and I will share some updates before diving into this week’s stories.
My internship started on July 1st at KPMG-Düsseldorf, and due to the long distance/commute, I moved into an apartment in Düsseldorf-Bilk with David, another Ruhr Fellow who works in Düsseldorf. Since I work during the normal business hours, I travel mostly on weekends; so far I have visited Amsterdam, Aachen, Hamburg, and Stuttgart. This week I will share some of my perspectives on German work culture and policies, as well as the visit to Stuttgart and Schwangau where I saw the famous Schloss Neuschwanstein.
Week 7, July13th-July19th
Internship at KPMG Düsseldorf
Since the beginning of this month, I have been working in the Deal Advisory department as a member of the Transaction Service team. Most of my projects initially seemed a bit foreign as this was my first internship experience at an accounting firm, however I learned so much beyond my assigned tasks.
Like in the US, typical (full-time) working hours are eight hours per day and 40 hours per week (unless it’s at an investment bank). However, in Germany the exact starting and ending times are more flexible. Some people come in as early as six in the morning (and may leave earlier than others) and some come later and will leave as late as ten at night. There is a heavy emphasis on completing the work on time, so each day may look different depending on one’s workload. Still, workers are actually paid for overtime or given attractive vacation options, so most workers will willingly stay longer to get the job done – as long as the working hours are compliant with German law.
In learning about Germany’s renowned public policies, laws regarding maternity-leave surprised me. If I remember correctly, a female employee is required to stop working six weeks prior to the expected birth date and eight weeks after giving birth. The employee is paid during the 14 week leave (about 70%, if not 100%) and guaranteed the same position in the company if she decides to come back afterwards. In addition, there is an optional paternity leave where fathers take two months to look after their newborn baby, which many dads actually take to get to know the baby and spend time with their family. Growing up in a patriarchal society, I was amazed by how female employees are protected by both law and company, and also by how this society tries to achieve gender equality through both maternity and paternity leave. Despite these policies, however, I was also informed that many mothers come back as part-time employee because there is a societal expectation for women to take care of their children. Unless it’s financially necessary for both parents to work, women often stay home. This situation applies to many countries, I think, as the social role of women has been family-oriented for a long time. I respect many of Germany’s policies and how family-oriented they are; I believe that the people’s genuine care about social welfare makes Germany an attractive place to live.
Lastly, people speak German in the workplace even though they are mostly fluent in English. I actually have a funny story about this topic: On the second day of work, I had to visit the IT department to get my ID picture taken. Since everyone spoke German in the office, I politely asked “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” (Do you speak English?), and the assistant said “a little.” But soon I realized “a little” means “I can speak English fluently but a bit slower than a native.” He did not have any problem understanding what I asked and responded to my questions in full, even complicated, sentences. I have had this experience quite a few times when people say “a little” but they can actually speak English very well. German is, however, the language used among colleagues, so if anyone is concerned about practicing his/her German during their internship, there should be no worries!
Not surprisingly, the trip to Stuttgart did not start as I expected. Remi, a Ruhr Fellow, and I decided to take an overnight bus to Stuttgart on Friday night, however all trains to and from Düsseldorf were not running. My train to the HBF stopped all of a sudden ( the power completely turned off), and I got off feeling very confused. A kind English-speaking Spanish guy then saved me by walking me to the HBF. He was also not sure what exactly happened with the train but speculated that a person might have jumped onto one of the tracks and therefore no trains could enter the station. While this information was actually confirmed later in the day, Remi could not make the bus due to the indefinite delay of her train from Duisburg (and maybe due to my confusing body language to the bus driver who did not wait for her).
I arrived at 6:30am on Saturday and attempted to meet up with Felix, my “couch-surfing” host. (Note: Couch-surfing is a website where you can find a host who lets you stay at his/her place, and though it requires persistence and luck, you often get additional insights about the city from the host as well as some nice talks). Despite the detailed directions provided by Felix, my terrible direction skills led to an hour-long detour. Felix, who has hosted over a hundred couch surfers, welcomed me into his place when I finally arrived and we shared interesting life stories until I headed to the HBF later on.
I met Ruhr Fellows Tony and Madhav around 9:45am and we started a city walking tour. Of course we got lost (even with a map) but the city was not too crowded or big. The tour only took about two or three hours, which gave us plenty of time to explore different parts of the central area. There was a family festival that weekend, so I got to look around a couple stands (i.e. the Pokemon ones) and took pictures of cool activities (i.e. the Pokemon games). The highlight of the day was visiting two famous museums: Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums. Although I am pretty ignorant about cars and am not a big fan of them (mainly because I don’t drive), I really appreciated how both museums incorporated history and art into the tour so that everyone could enjoy. I learned that Mercedes was not the person who actually made the car and Benz actually produces various forms of transportation including airplanes. We ended up spending the entire afternoon there, which was still not enough, and bought souvenirs from Porsche, which sold the most expensive T-Shirt I’ve ever seen (a white t-shirt with Porsche logo costs more than 35 euros….). I definitely would recommend a visit to these museums!
Schloss Neuschwanstein was ultimately the purpose of this weekend trip, so we attempted to prepare by planning in advance and ending the day Saturday early. Despite our efforts, we weren’t able to go inside of the castle. We found a sign that read “no tours for Neuschwanstein castle until 5”, and we arrived around noon. We thought that we would at least be able to look inside, so we waited in line for 40 minutes and then found out we weren’t allowed inside the castle without the guided tour. Instead we booked a tour for Schloss Hohenschwangau (the earliest tour for this castle was also three) and went to the bridge next to the Neuschwanstien castle to at least celebrate our visit.
The view made me speechless. The castle looked completely isolated from the rest of the world as if no one could leave the castle once inside. It was integrated into the surrounding nature so well that the view seemed surreal. While I heard the castle was incomplete, it was still as gorgeous as could be. BUT, the most important concern for me was, the view from the castle did not look like the one I saw from Disney movies. Madhav told me that this castle was from the movie Cinderella and (the side view from the bridge) is shown in the beginning of every Disney movie. I could not tell whether it was from Cinderella, yet the side was definitely NOT the same. Based on my research after the trip, the castle was featured in Sleeping Beauty and the FRONT view was used for the Disney castle.
Hohenschwangau castle was reconstructed after Napoleon’s invasion of the area and was a summer vacation place for a royal family member in the 19th century. The tour guide explained the historical significance of each painting and quickly finished his tour in thirty minutes. Although it was not easy understanding some of his explanations, I found some interesting points about the king and queen’s rooms along with the fantastic view of the outside. If you get a chance to visit Neuschwanstein castle, I would also recommend that you take a tour of this castle!
Introduction Week 8
Hello, this is Tony Li again.
Week 8, July20th-July26th
Bonjour and Auf Wiedersehen
What an exciting two months it has been in Germany! I think I need to preface my second blog by saying no matter what I write or how well I write it in these short blogs, I cannot even come close to expressing all my emotions and experiences during my time here. Sappiness aside, this was my week:
Working at RWE has been an amazing experience. Besides meeting a lot of German co-workers and experiencing what it takes to work in a huge German company, I’ve learned a lot as well.
A lot of my coworkers asked me what was different or similar to working in the U.S. I wasn’t really sure what to say, since I’ve never worked in a company as large as RWE. The sheer size of the company impressed me; after seeing the hierarchy and business divisions of the company, I wondered how so many people could be organized efficiently into so many departments. Even though the company is huge, the floor I work on is set up almost like a small American startup. The entire floor is an open space, and the desks are interspersed throughout. Anyone can choose any desk he or she liked at the beginning of the day, and you can always see everyone working together. Of course, there are some private rooms if you have a meeting or a call, but I really like the relaxed, inclusive atmosphere this setup provides.
I’ve been working independently on a new project RWE is about to introduce, performing analyses and preliminary evaluations of processing big data. I’ve been able to teach myself a lot just by researching and applying the topics. I also had the chance to sit in on some meetings and phone conferences, most of which, however, were in German. The German I learned last month could not prepare me for the technical terms and business lingo that the workers here rattle off quicker than I can pretend to understand.
Schützenverein in Düsseldorf
On Thursday after work, I went with a few other Ruhr fellows to see the Schützenverein in Düsseldorf, which basically turned out to be an amusement park with the feel of a county fair. There were roller coasters, games, stands, and a beer garden. Everything felt similar to a fair in the U.S. except for the beer garden. Besides having a giant tent crowded with people openly drinking alcoholic beverages, the garden had a live rock band wearing cowhide and singing Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’s “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” which definitely caused me to do a double-take. I also jumped on the roller coasters and rides, which turned out to be faster and “spinnier” than I thought but all the more thrilling. After practically inhaling a chocolate crepe, it was about time to head home and prepare for the weekend in Paris.
After a bleary-eyed early flight to the Charles de Gaulle Airport Saturday morning, I walked around Paris with a few Ruhr Fellows, seeing most of the major sights, including Notre Dame, the outside of the Louvre, the Champs Elysees, the opera house, the Eiffel Tower, and the Luxembourg Gardens. I also had the chance to try an authentic macaron, a delightfully sweet pastry, as well as an authentic crepe; everything I ate in Paris tasted great.
We started off Sunday by waiting three hours to see the city’s catacombs. I didn’t really know what to expect, but in hindsight, knowing they were called “The Catacombs,” I really should have had a clear idea of what was inside – namely, the remains of about six million people. There were literally piles of bones all along the tunnels, brought in a while ago from other cemeteries. It was a sobering way to start the day, but our day cheered up when we went to see the finish of the Tour de France. With the rain sputtering in sporadically, we huddled by the path to the Arc de Triomphe and the finish line to see the cyclists vie for glory. It was pretty exciting for me, seeing an event I normally barely catch on television. Afterwards, we grabbed a warm meal to fend off the windy rain and saw the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. The spotlight at the top, supposedly the most powerful spotlight in the world, was a great giveaway that the tower was literally a beacon of the city. At midnight, the entire tower sparkled with extra lights, adding what felt like magic to the night.
After seeing the outside of the Eiffel Tower twice, we were determined to see the city from the top of it. Thus we started the cloudy Monday morning by taking the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was extremely chilly and foggy at first, but when the sun came through the clouds and lit up the city, I was stunned by the view. I also went in the Louvre and felt like I could spend days in the museum and still not see everything it can offer. Highlights included the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory (or Nike), the Venus de Milo, and hundreds of other paintings, including Vermeer’s The Lacemaker. Afterwards I saw La Basilique du Sacré Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a beautiful, bright building with an impressive elevated view of the city. I also visited my friend from Harvard who’s staying in France, but it was too soon when I had to find the airport and head back home.
The Beginning of the End?
Starting my very last week in Europe and making preparations to leave, I can’t help but look back and struggle to say goodbye to such an awesome area of the world. I can’t say it enough that I have had amazing experiences here, and it’s only convinced me that I need to return someday. I’ve started filling my suitcase with souvenir coal from the Prosper-Haniel Coal Mine, Belgian chocolate, a BVB jersey, a piece of the Berlin Wall, a Tour de France T-shirt, and numerous other memorabilia. I’ve also racked up what has to be about a gazillion photographs. I hope I can add two gazillion more later on; after all, I’ve had the time of my life (cue the cowhide drummer) — Alles ist gut.
"Was ist das?"—Encountering confusing advertisements with several Ruhr Fellows in Berlin mirrored my experience of consistently running into situations without any idea of what is going on, leading me to consistently wonder "was ist das?"
Whether it was an unexpected Deutsche Bahn delay, or ordering the vegetarian pizza at work only to find that it was a cheese covered hash brown, I've learned to laugh, embrace confusion and make the best of a situation.
Beyond staying positive, I've learned that journeying outside your comfort zone can lead to new adventures. In my first week, I joined German students relaxing outside the Studentenwohnheim, practiced some German and made local friends with a shared passion for running and similar future ambitions.
Aside from the incredible people I met this summer, I was inspired by the innovative engineering prominent in the Ruhr region. Particularly at BP, I was amazed by the proximity of policy leaders for fuel additives to the engineers and researchers developing these technologies. Their communication and results provided a powerful reminder of extent to which collaboration can accelerate progress. Favorite German word from work: Stickstoff (German for nitrogen)
These past two months in Germany and Europe have been some of the best in my life. I have so many moments and memories that will remain with me and have impacted my view of the world and other cultures. The highlight of my time here is a collection of moments that sprawl across the entire two months. Throughout the summer I have had many conversations with people of different nationalities—from the university students, to my internship advisor, to random strangers I met while traveling. Each time we swapped stories and compared cultures. I have had long talks with my advisor about current events, particularly immigration policy and history. I have talked to fellow travelers about the validity of cultural stereotypes for each of our homes. As someone who grew up where striking up small talk is fairly normal, it still does not compare to the meaningfulness of the small conversations I’ve had here. All in all, this summer has been culturally enriching and broadened my perspective of the world.
Until very recently, Budapest was but a pop song, Prague was a stereotype borne of old spy movies, Berlin was a Cold War hotspot from history class, and Bruges—is that even a real place? Having visited all these unique destinations within a short two months, I can say with certainty that exploring all these exotic localeswith new friends from the Ruhr program was the highlight of my summer.While the weekends were exciting and eye-opening, the weekdays spent working at a German company, navigating with public transportation, and stumbling through life with broken German peppered with “Ich spreche nicht viel Deutsch” were rewarding in their own way. With all the talk about “cultural immersion,” I realized that it was often through the unassuming episodes of everyday life: a lunch conversation with colleagues or an impromptu chat with a stranger on the train, that I fine-tuned my feel for the pulse of this region and culture. These past two months, although fleeting, nevertheless have given me time to develop a deep respect and appreciation for the country’s work-life balance, environmental awareness, and sense of regional community and identity. That and the quality beer.
I could not be happier to have been a Ruhr Fellow this summer. The Fellowship has so many exciting aspects to it: meeting other interesting American as well as German students, German language instruction, German culture immersion, company visits to learn about Ruhr area industry, an internship to experience engineering working life in Germany, and living in an incredible location for travel on weekends. And less directly: improving my cooking skills— at some point pasta loses its flare. Having never been to Europe before, I was expecting a culture shock but that wasn't the case. Sure, the cars are all smaller, nobody J-walks, and outside of the university I sometimes had to mime things as my German language skills are minimal, but overall I felt comfortable here immediately. Most Germans that I met spoke great English, which helped a lot.
I interned with Evonik Industries in the software and computer simulation department where chemical and computer engineers simulate chemical production processes to determine the most efficient strategies. I had no experience in the area (I study biomechanical engineering), but my bosses were very patient and helpful. We were free to travel on most weekends as well, allowing us to experience the perks of being so central (Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin, Munich, and London all just a cheap, short flight/ride away).
Highlight: Going 1.5 km into the earth during the coal mine excursion.
Culture to take home: Currywurst and Döner, for sure. Also, music by Cro.
Word: Streichholzschachtel (matchbox), because it is impossible to say.
I did many enjoyable things this summer but my favorite, by far, was being able to travel so easily on the weekends. During the past few semesters of college, I found it difficult to leave Berkeley even when I didn’t have deadlines looming (which was very rare). Whereas there I would be in the same environment for weeks at a time, this summer I’ve traveled to a new place nearly every weekend. I’ve been as far west as Barcelona and as far east as Budapest, just by taking a quick flight or quick train ride from Dortmund. I chose the Ruhr Fellowship because it combined everything I wanted to do this summer: sharpen my German skills, have an internship within my major, and travel frequently and extensively through Europe. I can gladly say I wasn’t let down.
At the beginning of my internship I was asked if I preferred to communicate in English or German. Although I was technically in the advanced course, I chose English because I felt that I was not yet ready to converse and contribute to the team as efficiently with my limited German language skills. Along the way however, I decided that I should use this golden opportunity to fully immerse myself in the environment and pick up useful colloquial phrases that were difficult to come across in the classroom. It takes a considerable amount of additional effort required to listen, process, understand, and reply in a language that you did not grow up hearing and have had such limited exposure to in the past. As the month went by, I did not realize how much faster I spoke and understood the language until I realized that I no longer had to begin with the phrase “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” whenever I wanted to book tickets at the Reisezentrum (Travel Office), or when I went to the Sparkasse to close my account, or when I called my Hausmeister to arrange for a moving-out appointment. That is one of the biggest achievements I have made this summer.
It is hard for me to decide which experience is my personal highlight for the summer but if I were to pick one, it would probably be my weekend trip to Paris. Mainly because Paris is a really nice city and I enjoyed the company of some of the Ruhr fellows who I knew well. The combination of a good city with good people holds true! Regarding my internship, I think it is really fulfilling to use the knowledge I have learned in college and apply it to an actual project. I also learned quite a bit about the programs Aspen Custom Modeler and Aspen Plus, which I will use next semester, so that will be really helpful. Overall I really enjoyed how nice people are here in Europe. People in Germany generally do not get upset when I force them to speak English and sometimes they are even apologetic about their English (even though their English is more or less near perfect), which makes me feel bad for not trying hard enough to learn German. One thing that I definitely want to take home with me is the attitude of people here in Germany of not being afraid and being more open to speaking a foreign language.
The highlight of my summer was when I took a solo journey across Germany to Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Heidelberg during the 7th week of the program. After travelling with other Ruhr Fellows every weekend previously, this was my first time travelling alone. I was nervous at first, however my confidence increased as time passed and by the end of it all I felt like a seasoned “solo traveler.” Over the three days I met tons of new people, tried new things, and got to do exactly what I wanted to do in each city. As a cherry on top, I communicated almost exclusively using the German skills I had acquired from the Ruhr Fellowship when it came to ordering food and finding different places during my solo adventure.
This summer taught me that the stereotype of Germans being cold and unfriendly is just plain wrong. I met many friendly, funny and patient Germans who made my experience a wonderful one. My personal highlight was celebrating my birthday in another country; it turns out I have the same birthday as my supervisor!
Aside from hearing stories about everything from the Nordschleife race track to neat places near Neuschwanstein, it was interesting to sit in the middle of the Product Development office and listen to the sounds of people working together. I liked the way my colleague from Italy would say “ista”, with an ‘ee’ at the beginning and an ‘a’ worthy of a jaw drop at the end. I loved the conversations with my co-workers: I learned how one was a former athlete and now is into sunset fishing off the coast of Norway. Another has an affinity for fast cars and traveling, which came in handy for recommendations on where to go for the weekends. I also enjoyed my supervisor’s occasional philosophical conversations about life that gave me a break from work to think about the future. I would love to be able to take back with me the ability to ride public transportation for free with my student ID as well as summers that, for the most part, aren’t hot. And the healthy work-life balance was very attractive.
And my favorite German words were:
"Sommersprossen", "Kein problem!", "Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, es gibt nur schlechte Kleidung."
This one became particularly relevant that one weekend I went to Amsterdam. Apparently, the Netherlands saw its heaviest summer storm since 1901!
It’s interesting to think that it was just a month that I was in the Ruhr Area because all the experiences seem to add up to something more than that, not only time-wise but memory-wise.
Liveblog: Anisa Li from Harvard visits the UA Ruhr / Ruhr-Fellowship Program June-July 2013
Hallo! My name is Anisa Li and I am spending my summer in Germany as a Ruhr Fellow along with
13 other students from three different universities in the US. The Ruhr Fellowship is a program
which brings engineering and related students from the states to the Ruhr area, taking German
lessons and going on company visits for one month, and then interning at a company for another
month. I’m going into my fourth and final year studying Mechanical Engineering at Harvard
University, and I’ve never been to Germany or learned German before, so I’m excited for an amazing
summer! This blog will follow our adventures, along with my own random thoughts and ramblings. Here is my whole visit wrapped up:
Anisa from Harvard Ruhr Fellowship Blog 2013.pdf
Video (3:16) zum Ruhrfellow 2013-Aufenthalt auf youtube.
Liveblog: Heidi from Harvard visits the UA Ruhr / Ruhr-Fellowship Program June-July 2012
Hello there! My name is Heidi Lim, and I am currently an environmental engineering student at Harvard University. This summer, I'm living in Germany for a unique culture exchange program, the Ruhr Fellowship, which brings to Germany ten engineering students from the US to learn German and intern for a local company, all while immersing them in German culture. On this blog, I will post my experiences, adventures, food obsessions, and other musings. Here is my whole visit wrapped up:
Heidi from Harvard Ruhr Fellowship Blog 2012.pdf