My name is Alexander Wöber and I’m a second-year electronics engineer apprentice for industrial systems based in Ludwigsburg. In September 2017, I was given the opportunity to complete a four-week internship abroad in Barcelona. After hearing about the invitation to enter this project from my boss Ursula Fritz and speaking to my colleagues Florian Senft and Anastasia Doulgkeri, who had previously completed internships in England, I made the immediate decision to apply.
Once my application for the position in Barcelona had been accepted, I was eligible to participate in the ‘Go for europe’ project organised by BBQ Berufliche Bildung GmbH with the support of the EU Erasmus+ programme. Following two preparatory meetings with the other five apprentices from southern Germany, who were also flying to Barcelona, on 11 September it was time to set off!
¡Hola! Me llamo Alex – Hello, my name is Alex
My host Josefina, with whom I would be staying for the duration of my internship, was waiting for me in Barcelona. The town of San Cugat del Vallés, located 13km from Barcelona city centre, is inhabited predominantly by locals and there are very few tourists. I had considerable difficulty understanding my host on the first evening I spent with her – it was all Greek to me – so I was very pleased to be starting language classes at the iDEA language school (Instituto Dual España Alemania) the next morning. We spent the next five days at school learning Spanish from our Spanish teacher Emma. I learned a lot in these classes that helped me in my day-to-day life with my host and after a few days I could hold a basic conversation. We were also encouraged during this first week to put the Spanish we had learned into practice in our everyday activities. Our group of six German apprentices were soon able to cope with all the situations we found ourselves in and we discovered different parts of the city every day.
The second week saw the start of our internship with the company ThyssenKrupp System Engineering in Rubí. Together with two other apprentices from other German companies, we reported to the people responsible at the company. The managing director and many of the employees spoke German. The 80 employees at the site design and manufacture machines for the automobile and aviation industries, and assemble them at their customers’ premises. The company has been operating at these premises in Spain since 1992. As an apprentice electronics engineer, I was introduced to the team of electricians on site and immediately started working on a machine with them. Despite the fact that they only spoke Spanish and a little English, we found it easy to communicate.
I was able to put into practice the things that I had already learned during my initial electronics training at MANN+HUMMEL and was given the opportunity to learn a lot new things at the Spanish site. I was given valuable insight into the construction of a machine that assembles gearbox parts on an automobile production line for a VAG Group customer, including the wiring of operating elements and safety devices, as well as the connection of sensors and the installation of Siemens automation technology. My working days flew by and while I may have had some uncertainty about what the standard of my fellow electricians’ work would be, this soon disappeared. It wasn’t long before the other apprentices and I were held in high regard by our colleagues at the site – not only were we picked up by car from our host families and driven to work each day, we were also often invited by colleagues to spend time with them in the evenings and at the weekend.
During the three weeks of our internship, friendships were formed between the Spanish employees and the ‘very precise’ German apprentices, who must have asked about 50 questions a day. I am already looking forward to our Spanish colleagues’ scheduled trip to Germany next year. On our last working day, the company organised a farewell lunch for us, where we ate Fideuà, a type of seafood paella.
In addition to the positive impressions I gained at the company during my internship, I was also confronted with the current political situation in Catalonia. The referendum and the planned secession of Catalonia meant that I experienced a number of demonstrations and even strikes at first hand. However, I was not in danger at any point because I kept away from the places with massive police presence and incidents of violence.
It was for that reason that we decided to attend an FC Barcelona versus Las Palmas football match on the day of the referendum, as this was being held at a football stadium a short distance outside the city centre. We were able to secure good tickets for Camp Nou but unfortunately politics also affected this sporting fixture and the match was held behind closed doors, leaving about 90,000 disappointed football fans waiting outside. We had no choice but to glumly watch the match on a screen in a snack bar 100 m from the stadium.
My internship abroad in Barcelona was a really positive experience. I would recommend it to anyone who is not afraid to embrace other cultures, 10°C warmer weather conditions, different food and learning a foreign language. Aside from the technical experience, new friends and basic understanding of Spanish, I also gained a lot of very positive impressions of a different, open-hearted culture. I firmly believe that an exchange such as this is also an important life step for your personal development.