Studying in Hamburg
In September 2015 Feiyu began her study and internship year at HAW Hamburg. She chose a mixture of classes in Mechanical and Information Engineering that are taught in German or English. The classes are made up of theory and practical elements, with lectures and lab work. 'The lab work was a good way to get to know people, as we worked in groups,' she reflects. 'Professor Dr. Achim Schmidt was also a great help. His class in thermodynamics is difficult even for German students, but he has a great knowledge of the subject and went out of his way to help me and make sure I kept up with the material.' What surprised her was the high percentage of male engineering students in Hamburg. 'I thought the International Office was joking when they mentioned male/female ratios at the beginning of the semester, but it hasn’t been a problem. When we worked in groups they were respectful and listened to what I had to say.' One of her favourite experiences was a visit to the Airbus plant in Hamburg. 'It was super cool to see behind the scenes and see how an aircraft is manufactured.'
Finding an internship
This interview is taking place at the end of the study semester, two weeks before Feiyu Lu's internship semester at the Fraunhofer Institute in Hanover begins. Finding an internship was initially a challenge, writing cover letters in German and trying to find the right company that fit her skills. But the HAW Hamburg Career Service Office offered advice, checked her resumé and cover letters, and even set up a mock job interview to practice typical questions in German. It was her mechanical engineering professor, Prof. Dr. Stephan Schulz, who suggested the Fraunhofer Institute as an internship option. In Hanover they have a 3-D material testing unit, which is an area she is particularly interested in and in which she had practical experience from lab work at Virginia Tech, so she was offered a place straight away. She is nervous and excited at the same time, but this is one of the main reasons why she chose the SIP programme instead of a normal study-abroad semester. 'I wanted to get work experience to see how companies in Germany work and why German industry is so successful. I have the feeling that the things Germans do have a certain quality; it may take a bit longer, but it is better quality for it.'
In moving to Hanover, she knows that she will miss Hamburg. 'The city is very pretty and there is so much to do. As a student I got a culture card which gave me free entrance to theatres and museums and a sports card so I could participate in the university sports programme. I also did some travelling and went to Copenhagen, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy and Monaco.' Her favourite memory is of the Hamburg Christmas markets, which she describes as simply magical. She was surprised how helpful people were, with professors and students going out of their way to give advice or solve problems. Her main support was her buddy, Manuela, a German engineering student who volunteers to look after international students in the HAW Hamburg weBuddy Programme. 'She helped me choose my classes, which was great because she had background information as she studies in the same programme. And she even invited me to spend Christmas with her and her family. Germans may not be as outgoing as Americans, but they are always there if you need help. That is my experience,' she adds.
A year is a long time to be away. What does she miss? 'Sometimes I miss my friends at Virginia Tech, but I try to concentrate on things that I can do here, because they will probably be the things that I will miss when I go back to America.'
For more information about UAS7 programmes: www.uas7.org