Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before. – Dalai Lama
Most experienced travelers, including the Dalai Lama, know that there is something special about traveling to places you haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t mean that you should set out on your J-1 Visa adventure unprepared.
Given the opportunity to remark on my yearlong U.S. internship at Siemens Healthineers, I feel eager to share some of the untold survival skills and benefits that have not only made my international exchange experience great, but permanently changed my approach to my profession and career.
Know Your J-1 Internship Host Company (and Country)
In July 2018, I graduated with a degree in process engineering from Erlangen-Nuremberg University, Germany. By August, I was already beginning my one-year internship at Siemens Healthineers in Princeton, New Jersey. Though things were moving fast, I felt confident that I knew what I was doing.
For one thing, I knew that the U.S would be the perfect place to collect a varied amount of experiences thanks to a road trip I took in college. During the four weeks it took to drive from coast to coast, I received my first introduction into the variety and beauty of the American landscape, as well as the hospitality and culture of Americans.
That positive first impression only solidified my desire to apply for a J-1 internship in the U.S., and I already knew Siemens Healthineers thanks to the company’s massive 50,000-employee presence in my hometown, Erlangen.
In fact, I had already applied for an internship with the company in the U.S. even before I finished my master’s studies in Germany.
Thanks to my experience in the U.S. and knowledge of Siemens Healthineers, my choice of internship to pursue an interest in medical technology was made easy. I think everyone should do similar research ahead of time to ensure that their international internship is a good fit.
Take a Deep Breath and… Ask Cultural Vistas!
Even after deciding on my internship destination and host company, it’s still difficult to get through the J-1 application process without the right visa sponsor.
Thankfully, Cultural Vistas is very well-versed in the types of problems and questions that come up during the application process. Without their guiding hand, the large amount of paperwork involved in preparing to stay in the U.S. for an extended period of time would have been extremely difficult to manage, and I’m sure I would have missed a step or two.
But Cultural Vistas’ support didn’t end there!
Our company’s J-1 interns are quite fortunate to have the professional support of Cultural Vistas throughout their stay. The organization makes the transition to host country smoother by providing detailed instructions on everything from visa applications and applying for a social security number—to addressing questions about insurance plans and serving as a great support system with valuable advice.
Take an Active Role in Your Own Internship
Because my internship is with Siemens Healthineers, I am able to benefit from a number of unique eye-opening professional and cultural experiences.
One of the ways Siemens Healthineers plans events is through the Student Task Force—a group providing interns with a forum to discuss and organize upcoming events.
Currently, I am the Task Force’s Intern Liaison, which gives me a platform to represent the interns and be involved in the decision-making process on the activities we conduct. These activities include bimonthly cultural meetings where we get to know each other and introduce some of the traditions of our host countries.
An example of an event that is very popular with interns is the International Food Festival—a chance for people to bring in food, share their culture, and even showcase their personal talents with a performance.
Other events include learning about American holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day—as well as comparing them with holiday traditions in our own countries.
Embrace Diverse Professional Experiences Available to You
Our interns come from all around the world, so Siemens Healthineers makes sure to provide opportunities to come together through well-planned Intern Seminars.
During these seminars, interns have a chance to discuss their current work and hear others present on various research topics. We also engage in skill-building activities like team problem-solving, practicing giving an “elevator pitch,” and attending a presentation workshop.
To provide interns with the most rewarding learning experience, a supervisor is assigned to each intern. Both work together to come up with a scope of the internship to align with the intern’s goals and abilities. Regular interaction helps push us beyond our limits as we delve deeper into unfamiliar topics.
Take Pride in Truly Getting to Know Your Host Company
Without a doubt, getting to know the intimate details of a U.S. workplace is one of the greatest mutual benefits of the J-1 internship program, affecting both interns and host companies.
At Siemens Healthineers, we hold poster sessions where interns and employees can learn about the work that the interns are doing as well as ask questions. This is a great way for both sides to learn about new and interesting opportunities within different departments of the company.
The solutions developed in the Princeton research facility are developed by people from a variety of educational backgrounds, including medical doctors, computer scientists, engineers, and managers. Thanks to this continuous exchange of knowledge, our company is more effective in advancing medical technology which has the potential to impact all of us.
Reflect on Your Accomplishments to Build Confidence
As I approach the end of my internship, I find myself reflecting more and more on the skills I’ve gained throughout the course of my internship and how they will benefit my future career, but I’m not concerned.
I’ve learned about things like artificial intelligence and how to use and understand codes, despite not having a computer science background. I will be able to apply these diverse professional experiences from across different sectors in a variety of ways.
Most importantly, thanks to the demanding projects I was assigned and challenges I overcame, I was able to gain an immense amount of hands-on knowledge in the medical AI sector. Having had little experience before my internship, I now feel much more confident and competent in moving deeper into this field which will be of great value as I embark on my next challenge – completing my Ph.D. at the University of Technology, Hamburg.
Jobs and Internships are Temporary, but Friends and Networks are Forever
Finally, in addition to strengthening my medical knowledge and improving my English language skills, my U.S. internship has showed me how important it is to meet new people and grow your network for both professional and personal reasons.
The support I have received from colleagues, supervisors, and the entire HR team in the U.S. has been both genuine and amazing. I feel very fortunate at all the opportunities I’ve been able to have in this country and all the people from around the world that I can now call my friends.
As I look back on my fascinating internship, I am amazed at how much I was able to learn—about medical technology, about different cultures, and about the U.S.
Cultural Vistas and Siemens Healthineers are such an integral part of my development and the depths of which I’ve grown cannot be put into words. This is and was an opportunity that cannot be missed.
Siemens Healthineers was recently named as the recipient of the 2019 Cultural Vistas Corporate Leadership Award. 2019 marks 10 years since Cultural Vistas first became an exchange program sponsor of the Siemens Healthineers international internship and training programs.