14. August 2012

Destiny and Schöck

from Nickolas Thorvaldsen

My name is Nick Thorvaldsen, and I am a civil engineering student from the University of Cincinnati.

Through a series of unpredictable circumstances I have been given the opportunity to intern with Schöck. To first introduce a little bit of background, the current options for the University of Cincinnati’s International Co-Op program are Germany, Japan or a Spain. I chose Germany for several reasons:

First off, Germany is known in the US as a world leader of engineering and technical professions, not to mention for green and sustainable building. The benefits to my learning and career with such an internship in Germany go without explanation. My brother participated in the same program five years prior and couldn’t stop talking about it.

Another reason is that my Dad is from Norway, so I am more familiar with the European background than elsewhere. Lastly, I considered the cultural aspects of Germany like nature and outdoor wonders, history, amazing food (I love the German Brezel and Haribo), rich literature (fairy tales and the Brothers’ Grimm), castles, Cincinnati’s strong German connections, and of course amazing Catholic pilgrimage sites.

Plaques of Munich's sister cities, and Cincinnati's tribute (Neues Rathaus)
Plaques of Munich’s sister cities, and Cincinnati’s tribute (Neues Rathaus)
Above: Plaques of All Munich’s sister cities, and Cincinnati’s tribute in the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus)
Above: Plaques of All Munich’s sister cities, and Cincinnati’s tribute in the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus)

Thankfully I was accepted into the Germany program last year around spring time. I completed the intensive language classes, had interviews, subleased my apartment and even had a going away party for my leaving. However, by late spring and only days before my departure, I was still without a job. All nine of my other classmates had been placed weeks before. I had multiple interviews in the departments of Deutsche Bahn and Hochtief, but nothing ever came through.

On the last day of school I had no interviews, no job offers, and no apartment, but was set to leave for Germany in three days. In any case, it was astounding how many people supported me in trying to make it to Germany. (I think my brother wanted me to make it even more than I did.) For this reason and others, I kept hope. We signed up for a two week immersion program in Köln where I could continue the job search, so I saw it as a two week vacation that could turn into a five month one. Either way, I counted any time I could be in Germany as a blessing.

After my last exam on the last day of school, my Professor told me I should come see her with a possible job prospect.  She described some company called Schöck developing new forms of insulation for buildings. I immediately thought of a massive chemical company, working in a lab, running tests and making excel data sheets day in and day out. With the impression, I was expectedly unexcited at the idea. However, I told Professor Dandremis to look into it for me anyway. I had nothing else.

So, I sent an email to Alex Krenczik on the 16th of March, the day before my departure. We arrived to Köln on March 18th and our first day of work was to be April the 2nd.

Our ICP team at the Carl Duisberg Centren in Cologne
Our ICP team at the Carl Duisberg Centren in Cologne

On the first day in the Cologne language school, our class field trip was to a nearby Saturn store where everyone bought phones. I hadn’t made up my mind about buying a phone, because I still didn’t have a job. However, my classmate Zack really recommended that I buy a phone, which if I didn’t need, I could resell to him. Thus, I went for it.

Alex sent me an email the same day around noon simply saying, “Can I call you?”. I didn’t happen to see his mail until around seven pm that night and thought he meant to call later in the week. To the contrary, he called me within ten minutes of my response. I was caught on unawares, and didn’t expect the little phone to start ringing after having it for less than eight hours. However, Alex quickly moved me from nervousness to excitement. He said that Schöck is  currently breaking into the American market, and that right now would be nearly perfect timing to hire an American Co-Op. He described the company in fuller color and told me he get back to me within the next day. I was ecstatic, because it all happened so quickly. He said it was like destiny.

By Thursday, March the 22nd, just two days later, Alex told me that everything worked out and heartily welcomed me onto the Schöck team. He said further details were to be handled by his colleague Seref Diler. In total, only six days had passed from sending my first email in the US to being given a position in Germany. He did say, however that there is a fair bit of paperwork to handle, so it could take yet six weeks for all to go through. Seref also emailed me later in the day, and sent me an application for confirmation with Schöck , but explicitly stated that it still depends on the ZAV tax office.

So, I was still not fully in, but it was the best chance I had. At the moment, I was in Cologne preparing for what I would do in the prospective four to six weeks of in-between time. I had planned to go to Freiburg for the first weekend, then to Baden-Baden to hunt for apartments, and onto Rome for Easter. After that was a question mark.

So on March 27th I told Seref that I would be in Baden-Baden a couple days, and asked him if it was possible to come take a look at the office. He replied back the next day, March 28th, requesting that I come in for a confirmation interview to Schöck. I did not fully understand what a confirmation interview was for, and felt yet more doubtful that my position was really there. However it was at least a nice sign to see I could come in.

Frau Hirth from human resources called on March 29th around nine in the morning and booked an interview for April 4th at Schöck. I wasn’t able to wash my laundry for two and a half weeks, and had nothing clean to wear. Fortunately and despite of my vagabond state, all went well in the interview. The job Seref described as an international department, large company with structural and sustainable engineering service was exactly what I was looking for!

So, unbelievably and after having left the States without a job, I was given not only a job but an excellent fit in an area I have grown to love. The narrow crack of light turned into a passage to the surface! With the provided timing, I was able to travel, quickly find an apartment, continue eating, and earn some money in time without going in debt. Not to mention, I have had a great experience so far at Schöck (featured in the next blog)!

It has been really a fantastic adventure and an undoubtedly blessed experience!



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