What position do you hold at ASI? What has been your career path so far?
Bernhard: I wouldn't call it career path. During school and university I worked in a small software company to pay for living and to safe money for travels. First time I got to Peru I had the chance to co-found ASI and took it.
By now, 3 years later, I'm COO, leading a team of 30-40 employees, pushing social work and doing my best to enable our students to have a fun time. My family would like me to finish my Masters degree but currently I just don't have time for that.
Did YOU intern abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Bernhard: Actually yes. Initially I came to Peru to study Spanish and do an internship. Initially I wanted to go the US and do an IT related internship. After realizing how much money and time I would invest I decided that such a stay abroad should not only benefit my career but especially me as a person.
So I came to the final candidates South America and China. By then I met a guy at university who had done an internship in China for six months and didn't speak a single word Chinese. As languages never were my strength, I decided for a Spanish speaking environment and headed for South America. This is how I came to ASI.
What country have you always wanted to visit?
Bernhard: I'd say it was never a specific country, rather a place. Since I was little I had dreamed of tropical islands with nothing but palm trees and coconuts on them. And although I'm far from having seen the whole world I made that dream true when sailing from Columbia to Panama. Unexpected as I hadn't planned to to travel there, so it was even better.
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
Bernhard: Because it opens our mind and our way of thinking I've had a few unforgettable experiences while traveling either with nationals or other travelers I met on my way.
And after a while I just forgot the whole concept of nationality. When I saw travelers I didn't see Germans, Americans, French and Italians anymore, I just saw people. All of us young, all of us trying to have a good time.
What was your favorite traveling experience?
Bernhard: Nearly impossible to tell as I saw so many natural wonders, beautiful places and fascinating animals. But if I had to nail it down, there is that one moment in Costa Rica that always keeps me thinking: I was leaving the coast in the late afternoon.
I had asked several people for which busses to take and felt prepared. While being on the first bus, it started raining heavily and the night begun. I got off at a crossing in the middle of nowhere to wait for the other bus which never showed up. knew I had no chance to walk to next 100km, but as I had nothing else to do I started walking to at least keep me busy.
Tiredness and anger slowed me down and my backpack felt heavy. A taxi passed by and offered to take me to the next town for "only" 100 USD what I declined right away. It was late already when I passed by a restaurant that had rooms for rent. I stopped excited and felt relieved until they told me they just got booked out today.
Close to desperation I sat down and this guy sitting at the other end of the table approached me. He told me that he came from France to do an internship in a fish factory somewhere here. He just had arrived today and occupied the last room.
I somehow disliked him. After some talking he suddenly suggested that his room had 2 beds anyway and I should stay there for the night.
I felt like the happiest person on earth and in this very moment I got rid of all the German-French-dislike feelings that had been part of my like and thinking, made up by society. And to top it off, the owner, a very nice lady, got me some warm food on the house.