When I moved from Mexico to Germany for the purpose of my studies – all alone and completely foreign to the language – I was eighteen years old. But as it is with eighteen, you don’t really know much about what you are doing. To me it was clear though that Germany is very present and competent when it comes to waste and wastewater treatment, and that is, for whatever reason, my great passion. Now, after completing my studies in Air Quality control, Solid Waste and Wastewater Process Engineering.
I want to enrich my training with a little practice and am now completing a voluntary internship in the Intelligent Air Solutions division at the Ludwigsburg site. I am very happy here in Germany, as well as with my academic-professional path, and yet I sometimes wonder what my education would have been like, if I had stayed in Mexico.
School and then?
The differences in education between Mexico and Germany can already be seen in the school system. In Mexico, there is no separation into the three types of school as is the case in Germany; like all the other students, I went to the Mexican equivalent of the “Gymnasium.” The last 3 years of school are called “Preparatoria” and prepare for vocational studies or university. Afterwards, if you want to study at the university, you need to have good grades as well as take an exam at the respective institute; this is how the admission is determined.
Most vocational trainings in Mexico are like a course of study, although a dual training system, such as the one used in Germany, is very unusual. The technical training generally takes about three years and then you start working. The bachelor’s programs, on the other hand, take about five years and, in my opinion, look more like the former diploma here in Germany.
Trainee status in comparison
What I already noticed during my studies in Germany was the matter of internships. Here in Germany it is quite common to gain practical experience while still studying. In Mexico, though, this is very unusual because you only start gaining practical experience when you have finished your studies. There is a reason for that because, even though the studies aren’t more complicated, Mexicans spend much more time with it. Among a lot – and I mean quite a lot! – of homework several times a week and numerous compulsory events, the days at the university are very long. This really leaves no time for anything other than studying and, with a little luck, sleeping. For this reason, there are no working student positions as such. I really like the fact that students in Germany are much more flexible in this regard and can also work during their studies without it resulting in a delay in their course of study.
And yet I have to say that universities in Germany are much more theoretical. Of course in my field of study I had a lot to do in the laboratory, but generally it is more brainwork. In Mexico, on the other hand, you practice a bit on the side because, aside from all the homework, you also have a lot of projects, interviews with companies, or measurements to take. Nevertheless, I personally think the German system is better. I would say that in Mexico we can do a little bit of everything, but it lacks specialization. It’s like a buffet: you take a bit of everything and, at the end of the day, you didn’t eat anything special.
In my opinion, an internship in Mexico looks quite different. This can already be seen by the more general details: working days are very long, overtime is expected and not paid, and flexibility is often lacking. Life as an intern is also much more stressful and inaccurate simply because priorities are set differently. I have to admit that I like the accurate and efficient work and the direct communication here in Germany more. I would certainly have been given more responsibility in Mexico, as some areas are often understaffed. As a beginner, however, I do not find the amount of pressure ideal or particularly helpful. Still, in Mexico, a compromise almost always comes about in the end: I do a low-paying internship at the company, but then I have my ticket and am almost certainly hired.
At the end of the day…
… the training system in Germany is promising and already very good. Nevertheless, I also like the Mexican one very much because it offers so much room for improvement and plenty of potential! Here in Germany, I think, one can only strive for perfection, whereas in Mexico there is still so much to do, so many ambitious goals to pursue, and I like that. I feel like the challenges are more exciting. And even though the results can be very small, they make an imminent difference.