Interns inaugurate Germany program


The first interns from the MIT Germany Program--10 graduate students and 11 undergraduates--will depart for Germany in May and June to spend from three months to a year with their host companies.

The program was established last year by the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative (MISTI), supported by a three-year grant from the German government's Ministry of Science and Technology. It is modeled after the MIT Japan program established in 1981, now the largest program of applied Japanese studies in the United States.

In order to qualify for an internship, a student must have completed two years of college-level German and had one course in German culture and history. Candidates submit a written proposal to a company. If accepted, the company pays a salary plus round-trip air fare to the intern and helps him or her find housing. In some cases, a housing stipend is included in the salary.

"The interest has been tremendous," said Bernd Widdig, associate professor of German studies, who is the director of the program. "We've had more students apply than we ever expected."

Professor Widdig believes the program eventually will be expanded to include other European countries. In addition, he hopes Germany and Europe become more visible at MIT as a result of the program. "This will not be a one-way street," he said. "We want to bring more German and European students and researchers to MIT."

This semester, Turkish-German poet/essayist Zafer Senocek has been conducting seminars on multicul-turalism in Germany for German studies students and others in the MIT community. Mr. Senocek, the Max Kade Foundation Distinguished Visitor, will read his poetry in German and English on Tuesday, April 29 at 7pm in Rm 14E-310.

For some interns, the opportunity to work in Germany is a good career move. "Students interested in pursuing an international career know how impressive it will look on their resume," said Sigrid Berka, the program's coordinator, who came to the United States as an exchange student and remained to earn a PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Junko Kimura, a graduate student at the Sloan School, epitomizes the students with international ambitions. She worked for large companies in her native Japan and the United States before she came to MIT. Now she looks forward to her three-month tour with BMW in Munich.

"I am curious about the German working style--relatively short working hours, corporate organization, employee relationships and lifestyle," she said. "The USA, Germany and France are the three major countries which lead the worldwide economy. Working experiences in these countries must change my work perspectives."

Others, perhaps less career-driven, are interested in the challenge of testing their language skills and their ability to adapt to life overseas. "There's no better way to learn about a foreign culture than to live in it," said Professor Widdig, who came to this country as an undergraduate exchange student at Stanford in 1983 and became a permanent resident, earning a PhD and finding a career in the process. "There's also no better way to learn about yourself and your own culture."

Besides teaching the language, the MIT Germany Program offers courses in German culture and history. Noting that Monika Totten, a lecturer in German, is producing a CD-Rom about five German-Jewish Holocaust survivors, Professor Widdig said, "We talk about the darker chapters in German history. It is important to give a complete and accurate account of German history." Brief excerpts from Ms. Totten's interviews in German appear on the program's home page at .

When they come to the program, Professor Widdig noted, many students start with only a vague sense of the Holocaust, Hitler and World War II. "The Jewish students are much more aware of the history of that period," he said.

Twelve of the interns are American. The others are from Hungary, Costa Rica, France, Japan, India and the Czech Republic. One holds dual German-Canadian citizenship. They gave a variety of reasons for their interest in the internships.

Chad Musser was born in Germany when his father was in the US Army and looks forward to visiting his childhood homeland. "I will spend a lot of my free time at musical events, particularly the opera, which is excellent in Munich," said Musser, a horn player in the MIT Symphony. "I will probably visit composers' birthplaces and spend much of my free time enjoying music."

Mr. Musser, 21, will receive SBs in mechanical engineering and music (with a minor in German) next month. During his internship, he will work for BMW as a mechanical engineer for a year. "I'm planning to grow as an engineer, travel and explore Europe for a bit and unwind after four moderately tiring years as an undergrad," said Mr. Musser, who grew up in Wheeling, WV.

A high school German teacher in Bethel Park, PA, infected Ted Allison with his own enthusiasm for the German culture and the language. "I expect Germany to look a lot like Pennsylvania," said Mr. Allison, 21, who will work for IBM in Boblingen for three months. A member of the class of '98, he is majoring in mathematics and computer science. "It's my first trip overseas and I expect to travel a lot and have a good time," he said. "I don't think I'll be going back for a long time."

The other undergraduate interns are George Dolina, a junior in electrical engineering and computer science; Maik Flanagin, a sophomore in EECS; Dana Kirsch, a senior in brain and cognitive sciences; Donald Lacey, a junior in economics; Anna Lee, a senior in biology and political science; Adrian Lingaya, a junior in mathematics; Bruno Miller, a junior in aeronautics and astronautics; Nora Szasz, a sophomore in EECS, and Judy Wu, a senior in biology. Their internships will last for three months or a year.

Besides Ms. Kimura, graduate interns working toward master's degrees are Maresi Ann Berry, aeronautics and astronautics; Bryan Bilyeu, electrical science and engineering; Marion Groh, EECS; Nina Leko (SB '95), a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland; Christian Marks, mechanical engineering; Rogelio Palomera-Arias, electrical engineering, and Jiri Schindler, EECS. Their internships are for three months, six months or a year.

Interns working toward PhDs are Marcin Szummer, computer science and the Media Laboratory, three months, and Raj Vaidyanathan, material science and engineering, six months.

Participating companies are IBM, Thyssen, ExperTeam, Citibank, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Dresdner Bank, Daimler-Benz and BMW.

Professor Widdig and Dr. Berka will visit each company during the summer to meet with the interns and the firm's officials. "We need to be sure it's a good experience for everyone," he said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 30, 1997.


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