Have you ever considered pursuing a job opportunity in a different country? A local to Minnesota, Nils Justen took a huge leap – approximately 4,346 miles across the Atlantic Ocean – and completed a co-op in Ingolstadt, Germany at Audi’s headquarters.
Working at headquarters broadened the learning experience for Nils through the chance to interact with all operations of the company – engineering, design and testing, marketing, and upper management were all in the same place.
“I gained insight into many exciting areas of the company. My role definitely wasn’t just copies and coffee,” Nils explained, “I was in chassis engineering. My position revolved around working with different departments to compile function-based test procedures for prototype vehicles in order to ensure a more uniform and transparent development process between various divisions. I was also involved in project planning for future models.”
The decision to work abroad was a daunting thought for Nils, but the benefits far outweighed the risk and greatly impacted his trajectory and goals. Not knowing what to expect when he arrived in Germany, Nils flew out of Minnesota with two suits in his bag and more ties than he’d like to admit.
“There’s a few aspects of living in Germany that I’m not sure I will ever get used to: the lack of free refills, paying to use a public restroom, and the confused looks I got when I assumed water at a restaurant was free. I was surprised at how quickly I transitioned to my new surroundings and found my place in the company and my community in Ingolstadt. Of course, I was also pleasantly surprised at how few people wore a suit and tie. The six months I spent in Ingolstadt made me realize that the idea of pursuing graduate studies in Europe wasn’t so far fetched.”
Nils encourages all students to pursue internships and co-ops. They are a risk-free way to explore a field you think you might be passionate about. The more experience you have, the better you’re able to find a job that you’ll look forward to every day. Also encouraging students to go out of their comfort zones and pursue international opportunities, Nils explains, “There are more opportunities like this out there than people think. Sure, you might not be able to live at home and you’ll be away from friends and family, but it’ll certainly challenge you to broaden your perspective. There’s something to be said for taking that leap of faith. There’s tremendous potential for growth in those experiences.”