My name is Patrick Vier and I am currently a third-year apprentice mechatronics engineer based in Ludwigsburg. In September 2018, I was able to spend four weeks completing an overseas placementinternship in Torquay/Paignton, England. My training supervisor, Ms Fritz, encourages all apprentices to spend part of their apprenticeship abroad. That’s how I found out about the opportunities offered by BBQ Esslingen, who arrange for apprentices to spend some time abroad every six months.
For me, this was an exciting chance to put my English skills to use in everyday life and in the workplace. That said, it was the idea of immersing myself in a new culture and getting to know all about it that really appealed to me. My colleague Alexander Wöber, who had already completed his placementinternship in Spain the year before, told me all about the many great experiences he had had. So, I decided to apply. Together with eight other apprentices from Baden-Württemberg, I attended two preparatory workshops before my trip began on 09/09/2018 with a flight from Stuttgart to London. In London, we were collected by our taxi driver, Kevin, who was able to give us plenty of information and tips for our stay on the way to our guest families.
A warm welcome from my guest family
The area around Paignton, in South West England, is known for its mild climate and is a popular destination for language students. I had the pleasure of staying with Sean and Pauline, who were incredibly kind and warmly welcomed us into their family straight away. Luckily for me, the bus stop was just a minute’s walk from the front door. With my monthly pass for public transport, I was even able to travel the slightly longer route with the ‘Stagecoach Gold’ bus, which took me along the sea front. I quickly learned, however, that Google Maps is easier to read and more reliable than the timetables at the bus stops in England! Queue-jumping is also frowned upon there: whoever arrives at the bus stop first is allowed on to the bus first and the downstairs spaces on the double-decker are primarily reserved for older passengers.
Visiting a language course for a good start
During the first week, we attended a language course at a partner organisation, where our tutor, Frank, prepared us for the weeks ahead at our respective companies. In the afternoons, we had some time together to explore the local area, during which we discovered the many beautiful places in the region, including a trip to Devon’s county town, Exeter. In Torquay itself, we walked along the long harbour promenade and tookhad a look at the many small shops, pubs and bars along the way.
During the second week, I started my placementinternship at a company called Meterix, which sells smart electricity meters. My friendly new colleagues taught me a lot about how the products work and the processes at the company. However, since I was expecting a more practical placementinternship, I requested a switch to the partner company Stephen P. Wales, where I was able to spend the remaining weeks of my placementinternship.
I travelled to my new placementinternship company in the neighbouring town of Torquay, taking the bus each morning through the countryside and along the coast road. The six employees were spread across the office (with the boss, Alex) and the workshop, which had a storage area, workbenches, a paint shop and a packing station.
Typically for English people, my colleagues were all likeable and cheerful and explained each step and process to me, so I quickly felt part of the team. The company restores old electricity meters (really old – I saw some specimens from the 1960s!), checks that they work and sells them on, mainly to landlords or individuals. During my time in the workshop, I not only gained a wealth of experience, I also discovered some cultural similarities and differences. This not only taught me a lot from a professional perspective but also on a personal level. My colleague, Ed, was particularly keen to explain all of the products’ features to me and showed me all the tricks. It wasn’t long before I was disassembling, testing and packing up electricity meters. I also built some small switch cabinets for more modern electricity meters.
Weekend trip to London
After collecting some tips for a weekend in London from our guest families, we booked ansome accommodation and our transport there and discovered the capital in the sunshine.
Ultimately, I must say that my overseas placementinternship was definitely worth it. I made some great experiences in a different country with new people, was able to put my language skills to the test and returned home with plenty of interesting insights and new skills. I would recommend applying for an overseas internship to anyone.