At the Stammtisch in Rio

*Stammtisch – informal gathering of alumni of the Internship Programme

On the day he got the Internship of the Internship Programme of the German Business, he also has got a job at the Credit Agricole Bank, which he had been waiting for  three months. He refused that offer and  decided to go to Germany. Seven years later he works in Colombia. For less than a decade, his CV is loaded with several job positions, few companies, different cities, states, and even continents. At his list of successfully realized projects Olympic Games are written, but Rio is tattooed – in his memories and close to his heart.

Rade Nikolić is an alumnus of the seventh generation who did the internship in Frankfurt am Main at Deutsche Bank. This was his first work experience, the first experience abroad, the first great challenge. When he looks back, he describes year 2010 as the first milestone in his life. Only ten days after his internship in Germany has ended, he got the job at the Credit Agricole Bank. He stayed there about a year and a half, and then  successfully applied for  a new job position at the large German transport and Logistics Company Kühne + Nagel (KN). Only two years were enough for Rade to reach from the position of sector manager to the entire service center manager. Then he faced a new life-changing turn.

“I entered the High potentials program together with fifteen people from all over the world. In this program, there are people who have the potential to make a career in the KN and therefore they are in circulation whenever a position is established in any part of the world.

Our company was contracted as a designated forwarder for  the Olympics which means that we were a privileged freight forwarding company for  the Games, and I was offered to be a financial project manager.”

What was on your mind at that moment?

19989692_10212238424809178_1165318836755649349_nI was happy, it seemed unreal. I was always saying that if I went far away from home, I would like it to be Brazil or  Argentina. In my mind those were always exotic destinations I really wanted to visit. However, with all the experience I had, it was still a great bite for me at that moment, because it was a new country, a new language, and I was in charge of the whole project. However, the desire and the challenge were much stronger and I knew from the beginning that I would accept the offer.

 

How does it look like to work for  the Olympics and what was your job?

It is the biggest sport event in the world and it was an honor to work for such a project. For the first few months, we still did not feel that we were part of it, because we prepared the team, sent bids, worked with the Olympic and Paralympic Committees of all countries, with sponsors and media houses, but in May, June, when we have already seen preparations, how stadiums are built, when we had more and more media visits, then we felt that  the Games were approaching. There were five people in our financial team and we did everything – from customers, posting to reporting… Olympic Broadcasting Service, for which, for  example, we were in charge, drove about a hundred containers of equipment and made their entire village, and I wanted to have contact with the operative. So, even though I worked in finance, I worked twice a month there. When the Games began, we worked practically every day from morning to night. We had people who worked 30-40 hours without a break, but the atmosphere in the city was so  incredible that it was really great for  us to be part of that project.

You fell in love with Rio before the Games have started, and you even got a tattoo with one of the symbols of the city. What is there about you and that city?

Rio is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Leblon, Ipanema, these are beautiful places, as well as places like the statues of Christ and  the Head of Sugar, which are among the world’s greatest tourist attractions, and for me some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The walk to Christ is very exciting, though not easy at all. You have to climb through the forest to the top of the mountain that is more than 700 meters high, and a path is quite steep- But, on the other hand, you can meet  monkeys on the road, for  example.

15338772_1358510627501050_8159832509089824271_nBut if you ask me, Rio is special due to people who are so open and friendly. After a few months, I got a lot of friends with whom I’m still in touch today. Although I really missed Belgrade. It was easier to overcome that with going to a birthdays and different celebrations with new friends from Brazil. I had a good football team as well. We have played football and after that we made a barbecue. We went for team buildings, parties at some unforgettable places, in the open-air concerts with several thousand people. I really felt like home and those people managed to replace the shortage of family and friends from Serbia.

Despite tourist attractions, Rio is known for some bad things as well, such as a lack of safety first of all. Have you experienced that dark side of Rio?

In Rio, unlike some other cities, there is no clearly divided where the poor people live and where are the rich ones. They are all mixed. Favele are all over the city. But a class difference exists and I cannot say that there is no problem. It happened to me that the Uber was stopped while me being in the car, and dozens of kids 12-13 years old had pinched with pistols while there was red light and stole the driver’s navigation. And some people who visited me had  minor problems.

14568127_1045622012203688_6362937274566682302_nAccording to the number of stammtisch held, Rio can compete with Belgrade. How many guests stayed at the hostel “Haji”?

I think 25 or 26  friends visited Rio as my guests. I have rented a three bedroom apartment with the idea of having a guest room for my friends. I wanted to share this atmosphere of great  city and  I wanted for  my friends to get a chance to come and see Rio and I was glad they visited me. I have enjoyed having those guests and tried hard to be a good host and show them the city. I was really glad that so many alumni from all over the Balkans came. So we started to call the apartment “Ha’di”, because that is how my name  is pronounced in Portuguese. R is initially pronounced as H, and DE is read soft and pronounced as ĐI.

What is the next city or  state on your way?

In Bogota I have a contract for  three years, so  we’ll see what goes on. Rio is still like my second home. I have friends for a lifetime there. Every day they invite me to visit them, but it’s not so  easy, because Latin America is not as small as we think. The plan is to return someday to Serbia or to return to Rio. What is certain, I will visit Rio in December, but I do not know if I am going to live there  again. There are days when I really miss my friends and family and this is just one of the disadvantages of living in Latin America, because the continent is very interesting and there are many nice things to do and see, but the distance of 10,000 kilometers from home is one of the disadvantages. If  you want to attend some celebration, weddings, birthdays, you simply cannot do it, because it takes a whole day only to reach Serbia. But in those moments, I try to explain to myself that all of this is great experience that will remain for the rest of my life. And home is a place you can always return to.

Then see you at the next stammtisch?

Yes, in Bogota. (laughs)

Interview by alumna Sanja Kljajic