With internship abroad being one of the best initiatives a young person can take, in terms of furthering both their personal and professional growth and development – there's no better way of coming to grips with what strengths you may have that you've been unaware of, or what departments may call for improvement, than having to function in an organized and efficient manner in a foreign place – an astute choice of the environment in which to have your internship unfold, will ensure that you make the most of what constitutes an important experience.
Of course, the obvious determining factors such as your educational background and the field of expertise you desire to have exposure in, play a decisive role; but all other things being equal, it is the prevailing work ethic coupled with encouragement of taking responsibility and seeking novel ways of accomplishing tasks, that all prospective interns should value the most.
That said, precious few are the countries that can boast the kind of across-the-board work ethic and emphasis on the practical application of knowledge that are the norm in Germany. With the guiding principle of the so-called 'dual education system' in Germany being 'The Unity of Teaching and Research,' there is an unparalleled importance laid on apprenticeship and the synergy of theoretical knowledge and practical application. Everyone who chooses Germany as the destination for their internship, stands to benefit greatly from mere exposure to the proverbial German industriousness and its attendant emphasis on responsibility, practicality and innovation.
Munich as the capital city of Bavaria (one of Germany's 16 federal states and the epitome of its traditional resourcefulness) is a location particularly well-suited for internships in a great variety of fields. Being a very well rounded urban center, with an economy stronger than that of any other city in Germany, Munich provides a range of opportunities for internship experiences few other cities can match.
With Munich being a publishing and financial hub, as well as a software, biotechnology and service industries center, internships in all of these fields are frequent. Popular fields for interning are: Finance, Communication, Biotechnology, Engineering/Software Design & IT, Business Administration/Management, Automotive Industry, Film Production, Photography, and Tourism.
Internship opportunities also exist within the various industrial plants featuring prominently in and around Munich, with manufacturers of various machines such as aircraft engines and injection molding machines, as well as manufacturers of semiconductors, cameras, lighting equipment, etc.
In addition to the above, internships in the field of film production are available too, since Munich is home to the famous 'Bavaria Film Studios.'
Automotive Industry: Germany's enduring reputation for quality cars means that Munich provides many opportunities to intern in the automotive industry. BMW is just one auto company that has offices located in Munich. These internships are available to people from a variety of backgrounds, and can distinguish your engineering, marketing, public relations, human resources, and project development experience.
Tourism: An increasingly popular tourist destination, Munich provides many opportunities to break into the tourism industry. A tourism internship in Munich will give you the chance to know the city better than most foreigners could and help you make the most of your time in Germany. Another broad field, interning in tourism will likely provide you the opportunities to gravitate towards projects that interest you most.
Publishing: Munich is the second largest publishing center in the world. Around 250 publishing companies, or 'verlag' in Germain, exist within the city limits. Publishing interns often begin by performing more clerical tasks for the publisher, such as filing and sorting submissions, but often are moved up to do some editorial work as well. A publishing internship in Munich will take your German from good to impeccable and keep you current with what's happening in the literary scene both inside Germany and worldwide.
Planning Your Trip
Successful outcome of an internship hinges on good planning, as proper planning maximizes the benefits accruing from it. Make sure you research a whole range of opportunities available before you compile a short list of internships that match your criteria best. While your educational goals, in the strict sense, should be your leading criterion, do your best to also throw an element of novelty in the mix – dare to explore new fields. Have the necessary documentation (e.g. letters of reference, transcripts, resume) ready and prepare for phone/video interviews
When and Where to Look for an Internship
Generally, the best time-frame for internships are the summer months, but since many internships in Munich exceed the 3 month duration by a couple of weeks or more, spring and fall periods should also be considered.
Apart from the websites of specific companies and institutions based in and around Munich, that prospective interns are interested in (internship – 'praktikum,' as they refer to it in Germany – positions regularly get posted in their careers sections) and where they can apply directly, there are services specializing in arranging internship placements, such as The European Study Center in Heidelberg.
AIESEC can also be a good source of information on internships (it's one of the largest international student organizations) – contact your local committee for a placement.
Cost of Living in Munich
Possible monthly allowance and likely facilities and benefits available to interns notwithstanding, the cost of living in Munich can be considerable (depending on your lifestyle, of course); there are, however, many commonsense and creative ways of cutting down on your expenditure (such as apartment sharing – "Wohngemeinschaften" as it is known locally) that can bring your monthly expenses down to well below €1000 per month.
Work Culture in Munich
As mentioned earlier, Germany in general and Munich (and the whole of Bavaria) in particular, are characterized by a strong work ethic that greatly values work, responsibility, practicality and openness to applying novel ways of getting the work done. Whatever your internship field, you will find the said work ethic deeply ingrained in the mentality of your German colleagues and friends, and will hopefully interiorize some of it yourself, once you've experienced first hand how it positively affects productivity and the bottom line.
Etiquette: The over-the-top stereotype that would have you believe Germans are rigid, humorless and reserved, is completely out of place in informal settings; however, as far as work and business environments are concerned: order, methodicalness and precision are the order of the day.
When among your German colleagues at work, you would do well to observe the following simple rules: be punctual; address your colleagues by their last names and titles; 'dress for success' – needless to say; don't take their bluntness personally; always knock before opening doors; make sure you always say “Guten Appetit” when applicable; keep everyone at arms length (literally); be direct in your speech; plan well in advance.
Language: A working knowledge of the German language would be ideal, however, in many research institutes and multinational companies, English will suffice. Unless fluency in the German language is explicitly required (or a passing score on the 'TestDaF') for a certain internship, being able to understand reasonably well and hold your own in basic conversations, will take you a long way.
Work and Labor Laws in Munich
Prospective international interns who are not citizens of an EU or EEA member country, need to apply for a work permit with the German International Employment Agency in order to complete an internship in Germany. Interns from abroad (non EU citizens), just as international (non EU citizen) students studying in Germany, are legally permitted to work a maximum of 120 full days (or 240 half days) within a year, regardless of whether the work/internship is paid for or unpaid. The Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), the German Academic Exchange Service, though primarily targeting students, also provides information about part-time work for foreign nationals in Germany.
Contributed by Joyce Schreiner
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