“Dare to want and to do” … I wanted to start my story with this sentence I got to hear from my supervisor at the end of the internship and I use it as my motto since that day.
But hey, back to the beginning, I am Gledis Karaj from Albania, part of the 17th generation of the Internship Programme of German Business for the Countries of the Western Balkans. In the following you will read my personal internship experience.
It was 2019 when I decided to apply in this program. At that time, I was a full-time employee at a private company, and I was also doing my second year of Msc. in Finance. Everything was going fine except the fact that I was in my comfort zone and as an ambitious person that wants to progress and develop the knowledge, I needed something challenging.
While navigating the website of the University of Tirana, I saw the announcement for the opening of applications of the Internship Programme. It was what I needed… an internship experience in Germany. I immediately checked the website, which was quite organised and had information on any questions I might have had. The first phase: Online Application. The eligibility of the candidate and the application documents are very detailed on the website. In my opinion it is the most important phase which needs time and dedication from your side. The well written reason why I applied and the alignment of my career goals with the philosophy of the Internship Programme, have been the key to succeed in the first phase and to take the confirmation in January 2020.
The Covid 19 pandemic had just begun to spread and Albania was experiencing a very difficult situation after the November 2019 earthquake. I remember the exciting moment when I received the details of time and venue for the second phase which was an interview with the selection committee. I have devoted time to preparing for the interview in every aspect of my presentation. The interview took place at the German Embassy in Tirana and was the first of the few interviews I had conducted, where I had no idea if I passed it or not. I remember that I was extremely excited even though I tried to show the right self-confidence in front of the committee.
Happiness was greater when I received the confirmation of being a shortlisted candidate. This was followed by a very long waiting time since I received the confirmation of the interview with Procredit Holding in July 2020 and after a week I was confirmed as an official scholarship holder of the Internship Programme of German Business for the Countries of the Western Balkans. The constant communication with the project team made the handling of the difficulties easier. After this long thrilling process comes the most beautiful part: experiencing the 6 months internship that I would like to categorise into 3 parts: Internship, Friendship and Cultureship.
Internship: As I mentioned above, the company that selected me was ProCredit Holding, the center company of 12 ProCredit banks operating in 12 countries around the world. I was part of the Credit Risk Department, the largest department in the company and among the most important ones. In the beginning I had some difficulties. In essence Goethe was right “everything is hard before it is easy”. Reading the documentation, playing around with the tasks on my own time, reaching out to experienced colleagues – it was a challenge. But given all the resources available in this day and age, there really isn’t any excuse not to succeed. I am thankful to my supervisor and colleagues for their unconditional help in any moment where I had questions or need for clarifications. In that department I had the opportunity to get an overview of the bank in all its dimensions.
Completing tasks and getting real-time feedback from the supervisor or colleagues was the best way to gain knowledge and increase productivity in that area. Communication was constant and I am happy that I was surrounded by kind and helpful people. Colleagues were very friendly and the atmosphere in the departments very positive. The internship part is definitely “a sure step towards realising your potential.”
Friendship: I would consider the most beautiful part of this experience. I got to know friends from 7 Balkan countries that I would not have known in any other way. The introductory week in Berlin that included outdoor activities, teambuilding games, and workshops made it easier to meet and create first relations with 55 other scholarship holders. Soon they became a family there. Trips in Germany, exploring Frankfurt, daily activities, in-depth conversations about our thoughts and feelings were things that made us closer to each other. Experiencing the similar emotions and living the intense internship created a bond that I am sure will last forever.
One of the many benefits of the Internship Programme is the alumni network and the connection you make with the previous generations and sharing the experience with them. I want to thank all for the beautiful memories that they gave to me and for the lifetime friendship. It is “the most valuable gift from this experience.“
Cultureship: I expected to simply face the challenge of adapting to German culture, but no. Frankfurt – the place where I lived for 6 months – is a multicultural city. In my company I had colleagues from all around the world, and it was impressive how different cultures got along very well in a unified working culture that was very successful for the bank’s performance. Although, in Albania, Germany is considered as a cold country, not only for the weather but also for the people, I found the opposite there. It was very easy for me to adjust. In the end I could not escape consuming the beer, for which I had no previous liking.
One thing that impressed me is that Germans pay a lot of attention to their hobbies and really invest in them. There you can never say you like running without having the details about the km you do, the frequency of the run, the place where you run, the record you keep and other related details. In Germany I realised that some of my hobbies are not really my hobbies 😊. Something about the German language… If you know “genau”, everything will go well and you can handle any complex situation. Just kidding, the classes I took in the introductory week and the online course were very useful. In my opinion the culture is “an aspect that goes beyond your expectations.”
For everyone, 2020 has been a difficult year and with many losses, but for me it has been the most beautiful year and the time in which I had my greatest professional achievement so far. I am grateful to the project team for the incredible experience. If you are reading my story, I have just one thing to say to you: “Dare to apply, it will definitely pay off.”