Raleigh in North Carolina is currently the fastest growing city in the USA. It is in fact only in November 2013 that MANN+HUMMEL opened a research facility there. In recent years, many pharmaceutical, technology and automotive companies have been set up in Raleigh. There are now over 170 such companies, with a total workforce of over 40,000.
Raleigh, together with Chapel Hill and Durham, make up the so-called Research Triangle. The underlying idea is to strengthen networking between companies, universities and research institutes. Just as in France, with our co-operation with the Ecole de Nantes, research results are exchanged and shared by laboratories and workshops under the key word ‘sharing environment’.
Colleagues from the department I was going to be working in moved from Portage to Raleigh just a week before I arrived. For me, this was great, because everyone was keen to explore the area and we travelled around a lot together, something which created a bond between us.
One of the most beautiful destinations we visited was the ‘Historical Triangle’, comprising Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, towns established by the first settlers a long time ago. There is therefore an open-air museum in each town with recreated Indian villages or original size boats. You can have discussions with the actors on site there, and ask questions. The museum in Williamsburg is even built like a small town, with two kilometre-long streets and shops.
In Raleigh, I worked in ‘Product Management’ and helped Sandra Schembera, who supported and looked after me throughout my stay. My tasks included revising and extending the MANN-FILTER product catalogue and preparing for the AAPEX Exhibition in Las Vegas. We created a new stand concept in order to integrate Purolator. We worked closely with the marketing department in Germany, where I had worked prior to my stay in Raleigh. This very much helped me to understand the corporate topics. Cutting a video clip, which was then run at AAPEX, was also great fun. It was extremely time-consuming, but it made a nice change from working on the product catalogue.
I was really struck by the open and friendly manner of the Americans. On one occasion, a lady came up to me in the fitness centre and said how much she liked my T-shirt. Then she simply smiled and went on her way. I am still in contact with the wife of colleague who had recently moved to Raleigh. She invited me round a number of times and I came to understand the ‘American way of life’. We often laughed about cultural differences and stereotypes, some of which we agreed were quite true. On leaving, another German student and I baked an onion tart for our new American friends, which was very well received.
I can certainly recommend spending time abroad. Three months is a good time to gain a first impression of a country. The period of time is however limited, so you don’t get too homesick. Afterwards, you know whether living and working abroad would be suitable for you, or whether you would prefer to stay in Germany. After my trip to Raleigh, I could well imagine myself spending several years working abroad.