From China to the United States to Germany – at 21 Feiyu Lu is already quite the global citizen. Her international life started at sixteen when she moved from China to the United States to complete her high school education. Her motivation was to improve her English and to see if she would like to live in America for a longer period of time. »I put this to the test by choosing two very different locations. I spent one year in New Mexico where it was hot with a desert climate and one in Ohio, where it was cold with a lot of snow«, she says, laughing. In her application for the UAS7 Study and Internship Programme (SIP), she wrote that the experience taught her to respect and embrace different cultures and values and to adapt to new environments.
After high school she applied to study at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg because of its strong focus on engineering and also on study abroad programmes; though going abroad wasn’t her intention at the time. She became a Global Ambassador at the Cranwell International Center, helping to organize events for new international students and also initiated a Foreign Language Tandem programme to encourage Virginia Tech students to learn a language. Her own interest in Germany and the German language was developed through a friendship with a German girl in high school. »We started by teaching each other words in Chinese and German. She was very kind and gave me the idea, that Germans are nice people. She lives in Berlin now and we are still in touch.« Feiyu is taking German as a minor at Virginia Tech and it was through her German professor that she heard about UAS7 and SIP. “I also met a HAW Hamburg student who was doing an exchange semester in Blacksburg and he said lots of good things about the city. That was when I started thinking that study abroad would be a great way to improve my German.«
Studying in Hamburg
In September 2015 Feiyu began her study and internship year at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (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 the A380 super jumbo is manufactured.«
Finding an internship
This interview takes place at the end of the study semester; two weeks before Feiyu Lu starts her internship semester at the Fraunhofer Institute in Hanover. 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.«
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 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.«
(Ingrid Weatherall, HAW Hamburg)