Gaining practical experience abroad

What does the city of the future look like? How digital will it be, how interconnected and how green? These were the questions addressed by a hundred alumni of the RISE Worldwide programme, run by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), at a meeting at the end of October 2019. To mark the tenth anniversary of the programme, the DAAD organised the first alumni meeting at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.

“The RISE Worldwide programme enables Bachelor’s students to complete a research internship abroad during their summer holidays, which means they don’t have to take time out of their studies,” says Michaela Gottschling, Senior Desk Officer for the RISE programme at the DAAD. Since 2009, 2,500 students have ventured abroad with RISE Worldwide – a remarkable number, as Gottschling says. Watch the video to find out how former participants of the programme have benefited from their experiences.

“I gained a lot from it”

Julia Martius © S. Kanning

The research stays often prove to be a formative experience for the students and have a positive influence on their future academic careers. Julia Martius completed an internship in liquid crystal research at Seoul National University in South Korea in 2013. “It was my very first experience in research and I gained a lot from it,” she says.

Martius lived in Suwon, about one hour south of Seoul – it was already a city with a strong digital infrastructure even back then. “It was during my RISE internship that I first became aware of what a city of the future could look like,” says Martius. In 2013, it was already commonplace for people to be able to charge their mobile phones in many stores and make cashless payments with smart cards on public transport, in taxis and even at music festivals. Today, the physicist works in business development and in sales and marketing in a tech start-up for sensor technology in Munich. “We have many international clients and having international experience myself helps me deal with them.”

How can we live together in the future?

The theme of the alumni meeting – the city of the future – was deliberately chosen for the target group of natural scientists and engineers, explains Michaela Gottschling. “It is a highly topical subject that we deal with on a daily basis. As well as that, many alumni spent some of the time in megacities on their research internships. They can contribute these experiences now.”

All over the world, people are increasingly moving to cities – it is predicted that 70 per cent of the world’s population could be city dwellers by 2050. In six round table discussion groups, the alumni in Frankfurt discussed mobility, health in urban areas, energy and supply, the future of living and green and digital cities. They exchanged views on various questions including: how might we be able to live together in major cities in the future? How can we make this way of living sustainable? What ideas are there?

“We only have one world”

Marius Beck © S. Kanning

“This topic concerns us all and it is important for each of us to consider how we can help shape the city of the future,” says Mario Beck, who gave a short introductory presentation on the subject of the digital city. He went to the US on a RISE Worldwide internship in 2011 to conduct research at the State University of New York. Beck primarily focuses on the issue of sustainability, including on a personal level. “I got into the vegan diet via vegetarianism. It’s astonishing how many things you can replace meat with,” he says.

This move was triggered by a footprint calculator, an online tool that helps individuals measure their own personal ecological footprint. “The calculator takes a wide range of parameters into account – how you get to work, whether you eat meat and so on – and calculates how many Earths would be needed if everyone lived like you,” says Beck. The average footprint is so big that 1.75 Earths would be needed, “but we only have one.” Beck says his internship in the US had a major effect on him. During his stay, he worked on bacteria for wastewater systems, which ultimately brought about a move from the field of biology to biotechnology. He is currently studying for a doctorate in metabolic engineering at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, where he is conducting research into how society’s dependence on resources such as oil could be reduced. “This kind of network meeting helps you move forward because you meet people from other departments, get new input and, ideally, can also pass on some of your own knowledge.”

“Lifelong learning is a reality here”

Philiph Koeder © S. Kanning

RISE alumnus Philipp Köder is also enjoying the meeting in Frankfurt. “I’ve been working as a development engineer in the solar energy industry for two years. This meeting is like going back to my university days,” he says. He likes the spirit of knowledge that is very much in evidence at the meeting, and the fact that everyone is interested in new topics and solutions. “Lifelong learning is a reality here and it’s a lot of fun.”

The 28-year-old completed his RISE internship in 2012 in Adelaide, Australia, where he researched nanoparticles in glass at an institute of glass fibre technology. “It was the first experience that I – an inexperienced Bachelor’s student – had had in science. First of all, you have to get a grasp of this world and the internship was a great first step towards doing that.”

Online applications only

The high level of satisfaction with RISE is also linked to the fact that the entire selection process takes place on an online platform, explains Michaela Gottschling. “The research projects are presented in a database. The students can apply for three projects. The relevant researchers then look at the applications and give us feedback on who is best suited to the programme.”

“You can only find out what you really enjoy by actually doing it”

Eva Paprotzki, a Master’s student in physics at the University of Göttingen, enthusiastically recalls her internship at the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISSR) in India in 2018. “At the IISSR, I was able to find out what I really enjoyed. I wanted to pursue theoretical physics and programming, and I could do both there.”

Paprotzki worked in an interdisciplinary team on quantum computing with MRI scanners. On computers, she simulated ways of evaluating results that would normally push computers to their limits. With RISE, she was able to kill two birds with one stone: complete an internship and go abroad. “At university you can learn new things and satisfy your curiosity. But you can only find out what you really enjoy by actually doing it.”

“Spending time abroad is always beneficial”

Felix Wieland © S. Kanning

For Felix Wieland, the RISE programme offered “the opportunity to get a research scholarship”. The physicist has already gained a lot of international experience during his academic studies: he attended the summer school “A Taste of India” at the University of Cologne in 2013, went to Canada with RISE in 2014 and then went on to complete the Summer Student Programme at the CERN nuclear research institute in Switzerland. In 2015, support from a DAAD one-year scholarship for graduates funded his studies at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea.

“Spending time abroad is always beneficial,” he says. “You discover a new country, learn about another culture and get an insight into the scientific activities of other countries.” Felix Wieland also found happiness on a personal level while he was far away from Germany – he met his now-wife in South Korea. At the wedding, he was accompanied by a friend who had taken part in the RISE Worldwide programme in Canada with him.

RISE Worldwide

Gaining work experience and getting an insight into a particular research topic: more and more students would like to take advantage of this kind of opportunity. That is why the DAAD’s RISE Worldwide programme (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) has been arranging research internships at accredited higher education institutions and research institutes worldwide for Bachelor’s students from German higher education institutions since 2009 and providing support in the form of a scholarship. The internships last for six to 12 weeks and normally take place in summer during the recess period. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) provides around one million euros per year in funding for the programme. Alumni particularly appreciate RISE Worldwide’s digital approach and straightforward procedure – the entire application procedure and the linking of students with internship providers takes place on an online platform.

In the sister programme RISE Germany, research internships are offered at higher education institutions and non-university research institutes in Germany for Bachelor's students from North America, the UK and Ireland. The RISE Professional programme takes this programme further and offers Master’s students and doctoral candidates from these countries internships at German companies or non-university research institutes with close connections to industry.

International interest in RISE Worldwide is growing steadily: offers from more than 50 countries have already been received for 2020, including offers from internationally renowned higher education institutions. For example, Carnegie Mellon University, one of the top three US universities for computer science in the current Times Higher Education ranking, is offering German students RISE research internships in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Author: Sarah Kanning

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November 2019


Manuel Louro Mourão
1 December 2019

I've already done a stage abroad. In the European Comissiom Humanytary Ofice (ECHO). During that, I created one database of the organisations that worked with this office. In humanitarian help.

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