Aerospace, German and cooking - a perfect combination

Danny Sarmiento, mechanical engineering and first-generation student from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), took the plunge and decided to study abroad in Germany in March 2023. He is one of the few engineering students at CSULB to do this. After three months he realised there was so much to explore and learn that he decided to extend his time in Hamburg. During his second semester he will be immersing himself in a research project in aerospace and simultaneously honing his German language skills and culinary expertise.

Male student in a A300 fuselage

Danny Sarmiento, CSULB exchange student, in the A300 fuselage at HCAT Hamburg.

‘I've always had a burning desire to study abroad. I knew deep down it would be a chance for me to break out of my comfort zone and discover my own independence. Germany is the heart and soul of modern engineering, producing innovative and high-performance vehicles such as the BMW and Mercedes-Benz. I recognised that to truly learn and understand the intricacies of efficient machinery, I needed to immerse myself in a place renowned for its precision engineering. I also needed to fulfil my desire to visit the many vibrant German cities and to experience the freedom of traveling throughout the country and beyond.

Compared to the classes back home, there is a distinct emphasis on the application of knowledge rather than just theory at HAW Hamburg. In my 'Architecture of the Aircraft Cabin' class, we were able to work inside the cabin of an Airbus 319! Getting up close to the fuselage of an A300 or the cabin of a plane, instead of looking at it on a computer screen, made a huge difference to my study experience in Hamburg. At CSULB, obtaining any such practical experience would typically require me to have an internship. Unquestionably, this class holds a special place in my heart as it epitomises my favourite educational experience.

Recognising the immense value of furthering my knowledge in aircraft, I made the decision to extend my studies in Hamburg by one more semester to fully take advantage of the renowned aeronautical engineering department. In the upcoming semester, my focus will be a research project on the preliminary sizing and optimisation of smaller propeller aircraft as part of Prof. Dr. Scholz’s AERO research team. Moreover, this additional semester grants me time to further improve my knowledge of the German language. I also hope to get some sort of student job, which will not only provide financial support but also serve as a guide for interacting with locals and improving my German. I am eager to engage in conversations and truly embrace the linguistic aspect of German culture.

Engineering is a global field, and by studying abroad, you gain a broader perspective from diverse cultures...In doing so, you learn different problem-solving approaches and experience methods that can broaden your own critical thinking.

Being a commuter at my home university in Long Beach made it tough to make new friends or get involved in the exciting stuff happening on campus. HAW Hamburg has transformed my college experience. The welcome week and the monthly weBuddy events helped me get to know other international exchange students. I love meeting up with friends for a pre-party beer before hitting the local bars, clubs, or dorm parties, which can last well into the night. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being surrounded by my close friends, sharing laughter, stories and a delicious meal together. The freedom I experience here in Hamburg is simply unparalleled, and it truly lightens every aspect of my life.

Hamburg has become my home and it never ceases to amaze me. One of my cherished activities is going for a run around the beautiful Alster Lake, immersing myself in its peaceful ambiance. Enjoying a delicious 'currywurst with pommes' while watching the sun set is out of this world. The lake and parks, such as Stadtpark, are my go-to spots for relaxation. Moreover, I have embarked on a culinary adventure. I am learning how to cook proper meals. My cooking skills have improved immensely, progressing from simple eggs to now creating dishes like Cajun spaghetti with seared chicken. Cooking has become more than just a necessity; it has evolved into a fulfilling hobby that brings me joy.

Engineering is a global field, and by studying abroad, you gain a broader perspective from diverse cultures. You are able to communicate and collaborate with colleagues from different backgrounds. In doing so, you learn different problem-solving approaches and experience methods that can broaden your own critical thinking. All this helps an engineer become more creative in building new innovative technologies. Engineers need to deal with unfamiliar situations and take the initiative to overcome obstacles, which is a skill you learn while studying abroad. What is most important is building a global network of professors and classmates from different countries. It can be a guide to finding international job opportunities later. I believe my semester aboard as an engineer will set me apart from the competition in the job market when I graduate and greatly improve my career prospects.

When I chose to study abroad, I didn’t expect the personal growth that I have experienced. I have never felt alone here, and whenever a hint of sadness did creep in, I taught myself to focus on the positives. In this way, I have transformed into a completely new person from the one I was back home. In Hamburg, each day feels like a fresh start, brimming with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.’


Ingrid Weatherall
USA Strategy
International Office