Author: Ana Alibegova
Within the framework of the Internship Programme of the German Business, students and young graduates from the Western Balkan Region undergo an internship in German companies, where they get practical experience, learn more about work processes in Germany, experience the German culture and help the region to move forward.
Thursday, 24th September…Around 50 Alumni from the countries of the Western Balkans are situated in Vlora, Albania, where they have their Regional Meeting. The former participants of the Internship Programme of the German Business are there to talk about their future activities, future seminars, to share their ideas and to discuss how they can improve the Alumni Network. The biggest alumni group is from Serbia, but there are Alumni members from Macedonia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina as well. These countries, in addition to their more or less common history and their political agenda which sets European integration as a high priority, have one extra thing in common: young people ready to contribute to regional reconciliation, to foster economic relations between Germany and the region and support economic reconstruction in their home countries.
Moreover, it is not just a programme that offers only a practical experience in a foreign country to students and young graduates from the Western Balkan countries, but it is also a unique opportunity to get to know a different culture, experience multiculturalism, develop cultural understanding and even become more open-minded. Scholars describe their internship experience in Germany as “a professional, but also a personal development”, adding that the successful story does not stop when the internship ends, but continues with every single contact among the Alumni members, every meeting, joint dinner, drinks or some party.
How did it start and what does it mean?
The Internship programme of the German Business and Dr. Zoran Djindjic Foundation was set up after a tragic assassination of the Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, on the initiative of the Committee of Eastern European Economic Relations (OA). Alina Gumpert, the programme coordinator explains the aim of the programme:
“Students and recent graduates from the region have few opportunities to gain practical experience before they enter into professional life. The program offers them the opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired during their studies and to deepen it with practical knowledge. After their return, they integrate their experience with the German corporate culture in their everyday work, some of them, after they return home, start working in German companies and actively contribute to intensifying economic relations with and in the region.”
The programme started in Serbia in 2003, but later on, in 2007, was extended to other countries from the Western Balkans. “The goal was to preserve the legacy of Prime Minister Djindjic and to bring the region, Serbia and its people closer to the European Union.“ – is written on the web page of the programme. Officials from the Zoran Djindjic Foundation stress the importance of the programme for the regional cooperation:
„The idea was to give a support to young people in Serbia in such a difficult historical moment and to send them a message that they can still count on a support on the way to the European Union. Later on, the programme was extended to other countries in the region and became important from several aspects. Primarily, it helps the youth in the region to improve their knowledge and skills by becoming familiar with business processes in successful German companies. In addition, the programme contributes to better regional cooperation, because it brings together around 50 young people from the region who stay in Germany at the same time, they spend time together, mingle and create opportunities for their further cooperation.“, they say.
The perfect candidate
Until now, more than 280 young people completed internships in some 65 German companies. The feedback from the companies is positive; they say they were satisfied with the interns. To define what qualities a perfect candidate should have is not an easy thing to do, having in mind that good marks at university are not the only ticket “to get on board”. Good academic achievement, devotion and willingness to deepen your knowledge are also highly important, but it is the candidate’s personality that plays a significant role. We asked Ms Gumpert what kind of scholars they are looking for:
“Scholars usually have their educational background in economics or engineering. They should have a good professional knowledge, a special interest in Germany and be ready to “dive” into the working life in Germany for a few months in order to learn more about the work and life in the country. An important thing during the internship, is the person’s self-initiative – the more candidates contribute to the programme, the more they can learn.”, she explains.
For sure, it is essential for the intern to be an open-minded person who will not step out when the first challenge comes; a person ready to adjust him/herself and accept the differences and all the unusual situations that occur while living in a foreign country. Sometimes prejudices are the biggest enemy, so instead of complaining about the cold temper of German people or their habit to be always precise and on time, try to learn more about the culture and see what is hidden under the surface.
The application process
Moving on from the discussion about personal and professional development, one more good reason why to apply for the programme is an easy and precise application. The best thing is that you don’t need to prepare a large amount of documents and follow unnecessary bureaucratic procedures. Instead of this, you just have to go through several phases of the application process. The first stage is the online application on the web site of the programme www.stipendienprogramm.org. For this step, you should fill in the form and prepare your CV, Letter of motivation, Transcript of records (original scan and its translation), a photo and present some other diplomas or certificates, that according to you are important for your academic and professional experience.
If your application is selected, you will be invited for an interview where you will have a chance to explain your ideas and expectations better. The most successful candidates, after the interview, will be shortlisted and their profiles will be recommended to the companies which will make the final decision. The start of the internships is planned by the end of May / beginning of June.
Experience of a lifetime
After explaining the aim of the programme and the application process, we are coming to the most important part: the experience of the interns. Nothing can be a better evidence of a successful story than the testimonials of the former scholars. They confirm that the experience gained in Germany was actually their lifetime experience. Most of them agree that there were not only good moments, but also moments when you test yourself to which level you can adjust to the new environment, to the new culture and traditions. Apart from the new things learned from the everyday life in Germany, the scholars gained more knowledge in their professional surrounding. “All together was an unforgettable experience”, they conclude.
“I was working in Metro Cash & Carry International on the position of intern in the supply chain management department. It was very challenging to cross theory with practice collaborating with international experts and numerous students. Internship gave me a chance to meet German culture, cities and language, to feel and live European values and last but not the least to make great friendships. Experiencing high quality of life, I wished to make changes in my own life and improve society in my home country”, explains Miroslav Vulinovic from Serbia.
Jasmin Valjevac from Bosnia and Herzegovina recommends this experience to every young person in the Western Balkans:
“You benefit from two things: firstly, you get insight and experience of how it is to work in a real German company, and when you compare it later with a company from you home county, you will see it is quite different. Secondly, you see how it is to live in a different culture, different city and last but not least, you get to travel and see a big part of Europe…the opportunity which you often don’t have if you come from any of Western Balkans country.”
While in Germany, Jana Ivanovska from Macedonia, used the opportunity to make a comparison between the ways of working of the two countries.
“I have seen the basics of functioning and in this I saw some intercultural differences, but also some resemblances between Macedonian and German ways of working. I was positively surprised by the protocol and having so many procedures and ways to do standardized tasks on the right way. In the first place, this internship was a professional upgrade, but most of all it developed me as a person who can transfer the know-how into Macedonia.”
According to the young Albanian Elsa Denaj, the alumni activities are extremely important, as they allow the youth in the Balkans to regularly get in touch, to exchange ideas, share their knowledge. It is obvious that the activities of the scholars do not end when the internship ends, and probably one of the most important things, besides the professional part, that remains after is the friendship among the interns.
“After this experience you become a part of the alumni network that is growing every year and you get the chance to meet very interesting people with whom you can exchange experiences, ideas and (why not?) the part of your culture. And this is what the internship organized by OA and Zoran Djindjic Foundation Programme gives you: something like a never-ending experience. Beside this, I would like to emphasize the noble role that these two institutions are playing in bringing closer the region that has always been problematic and neighbour unfriendly. For me, it was an unforgettable experience and yet a growing one,” concludes Elsa, at the same time sending the message to all the youth in the region to apply for the programme. The application call will be opened by 14.11.2010 in Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and by 21.11.2010 in Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.