Semester Abroad Find a Job, Find Yourself

May 2, 2019
By Noah Katcher, Huntsman '19

Semester Abroad - Goethe University Frankfurt

Unlike many who spend a semester abroad, when I traveled to Frankfurt am Main, Germany in January of 2017, I knew I wouldn’t be returning to Penn until the fall semester began at the end of August. Anyone who knows me well knows I love spending time in Philadelphia, so this represented a sizable leap of faith. But I was confident that I wanted to take an alternative path for my abroad experience: first, to work a three-month internship, and then second to complete a full semester abroad. Truth be told, I’ve never been more nervous in my entire life. I was about to embark on an eight-month journey where I would be paid to work my first ever internship in my second language in an industry I didn’t know well. I wasn’t sure I would survive the first day of work and I wasn’t sure my employer was going to get their money’s worth. Still, I walked into work on the first day with a big smile on my face and cautious optimism that I would survive.

As it turned out, I far more than survived while interning. I became fast friends with my boss who shared my enthusiasm for foreign language and culture. I got to know the employees at the café where I bought lunch each day and would grab dinner with my younger coworkers each week. I quickly fell in love with the German work style and looked forward to work every morning. Better yet, as I worked this full-time job, I found myself acclimating to the culture in a way that could never have been achieved from self-directed immersion. I began to develop a truly nuanced understanding of what was important in the news, how Germany viewed the US, what the typical German does for fun, what they value, and how they live and work. Rather than just being quickly exposed to new foods and new sights to see, I felt like I had learned to develop an authentic German lifestyle – and I loved every minute of it.

Completing an internship abroad represented a totally transformative experience in my time abroad and life in general. Not only did I solidify my fluency in German and meet a core group of friends, but I also learned to develop a work style I was proud of and enjoyed. Although I won’t be returning to Germany for my first job after college, my experience interning abroad allowed me to prioritize positions, companies, and cultures that were truly in-line with the work style I had come to know, love, and respect. Overall, I wouldn’t trade my experiencing interning abroad for the whole world; it helped me feel more German while abroad and continues to help me feel better about my work back home.

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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.

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