What happens when you push yourself over the border?

I found out about this Programme in 2016, but didn’t have enough courage to apply. So, I promised myself I will do it next year. And I did! I followed up the promotion process and decided that I’m ready to apply. As I was preparing application, I thought as most of us do: that there are too many people; why would they choose me? I kept pushing myself over my imagined border and after the interview and some bureaucracy issues, I was there sitting in a plane to Berlin with a cocktail of emotions and thoughts.

 

Introductory week in Berlin was a great way to start the adventure. A possibility to meet all these positive people from Balkans does not happen every day. The week was loaded with useful workshops and team-building activities. The most important thing I learned there is: „I will sleep when I retire“.

When Sunday arrived, I realised that I actually came in Germany to work 😉 I arrived in the city of lions, Brunswick (google it, it’s a nice city) and the very next day I came to work at Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI.

I worked in department for Surface Technology, which had a research focus on the bio-based polymers, adhesives and wood coatings. My work was mostly done in laboratory, in agreement with my mentor – but there were also other students who were very open and even invited me to meet up besides work.

Photo by Philipp Schmidt

I learned a lot from all my colleagues and they always considered me as one of them – not just some intern from a land know as “next to Croatia”. The way they treated me helped a lot and I was even more willing to show my best. They also organised Christmas celebration, where we went to chocolate factory and made personalised chocolate.

Photo by Philipp Schmidt

Weekends were even more fun and almost always reserved for traveling, thanks to German trains and  Summer-ticket. It was also one of the warmest summer-autumn periods in Germany, so this all helped me to visit many towns in Germany and neighboring countries. Almost all of them with my Balkan friends from the generation.

My first travel was to Munich, where thirteen of us slept in one apartment – thanks to our lovely hosts, who accepted us all. Of course, most of us came with the brand new sleeping bags. This weekend was one of the best ones, because we all needed someone to share our first impressions about internship. No one who can understand intern life better then other interns.

The craziest trip was for sure one day in Mannheim. But it was totally worth it because town surprised us with the festival in one of the it’s neighborhoods. Every town was special for something else. That feeling in late Sunday when you come home after conquering one more town, I wouldn’t change for anything.

And for sure, I wouldn’t travel so much if there weren’t my friends from generation who always generously offered overnight stay to me and everyone who were willing to come. So did I and few of them also came to visit me.

My last weekend, as my internship ended I decided to visit Dresden. It was really unique experience because I got chance to see German Christmas in Mongolian surroundings.

 

All in all, this six months in Germany, I wouldn’t change for anything, it helped me to grow professionally and personally and to befriend with people who enrich me. That is why I would always recommend this Programme to everyone. I realized that we all can succeed if we start to believe in ourselves more, but still respecting all others. If you start finding happiness in every day things, you will start making big things.

Ivana Čulić, generation 2018