On the Ground with CBYX: Will Finds an Internship and Mentor in Germany

FiFrohes neues Jahr – Happy New Year to all of you!

My name is Will Thomas. I am a current 2019-2020 program participant with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, a yearlong exchange fellowship in Germany sponsored by the German Bundestag (Parliament) and the U.S. Congress and funded by U.S. Department of State and the German Parliamentary administration.

This is my third post providing on-the-ground perspectives from the program. If you don’t know much about CBYX yet, make sure to read my first impressions from the program here as well as my perspectives on the language training phase here.

In this post, I’ll be sharing my adventures and challenges from the internship phase of CBYX program to Germany. Starting a new internship and beginning the new year 2020 in Tübingen has been a new chapter in my time here. It’s been a big relief too because at the beginning of my program, landing an internship in Germany seemed the scariest and most challenging part of it.

Finding internships in the United States can be hard but finding one in an entirely different country where you don’t even speak their language seemed near impossible. Luckily, I had countless people helping me out along the way.

Will Thomas, pictured here on a visit to Stuttgart, is currently interning in Germany as part of the 2019/20 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals.

Intercultural Training Session is a Major Help

The first assistance came while I was at language school in Radolfzell am Bodensee. The additional intercultural training session on German work culture and overview on the German application packet was very helpful!

Pro tip: certificates are very important!

In Tübingen, my program and regional tutors helped me every step of the way. Whether it was reading over my CV and cover letters  or offering an encouraging word when I felt discouraged with the process, I couldn’t have done it without them!

During the intercultural trainings, Will was interviewed by a local German TV channel.

4 Interviews and 3 Offers!

With hard work, perseverance and help from my tutors, I received 4 interview calls.

Considering these interviews were in in German, I was delighted when I received 3 internship offers. My biggest help was what Germans call Vitamin B (Beziehungen is German for relationships).

Networking in Germany is just as important it is in the United States and it is what it’s what helped me find most of the opportunities. I asked everyone if they knew about organizations looking for interns – my host parents, my classmates, my professors, the people I met when I was volunteering, even people I met at punk concerts!

My “Pate” was a Life Saver

I ended my internship search after meeting with my “Pate” or in this context, sponsor, where the program gets its German name – Parlamentarisches Patenschaftsprogramm  from. Each CBYX participant has a Pate, a representative in the German parliament, the Bundestag, in the district they live in. My “sponsor” is Christian Kühn, a representative for the Tübingen area and a member of die Grüne, Germany’s green party.

Like the city, Chris and I connected well together. He studied Political Science at the University of Tübingen, at which I did my exchange semester. He has progressive opinions, specializes in housing policy, and works with others across the political spectrum to help the people around him. This resonated with me as I did the same during my time as a grassroots organizer in Georgia and inevitably, I looked forward to meeting him.

Before meeting him, I was unsure what to expect. Would this just be a photo opportunity, or would we have a real discussion? Will he give me an insight and help me learn from his experiences?

A Mentor for a Lifetime

Will and his “Pate” – Christian Kühn.

Chris and I met at a conference room at his constituency office. We picked up on a great note and the conversation that followed was easy and interesting. I had read up on him and his work in the Bundestag, but I was rather surprised that he came prepared too and he had read up on me too. We spoke about his experiences in academia and politics at length and how they connected.

He asked me about the U.S. political system and my experience as a grassroots organizer.

I couldn’t believe it – a member of the Bundestag was asking me about my experiences.

It felt great.

The time flew by. One of his staffers popped in to let him know he had to run to his next appointment. He offered to help me on my internship search and gave me some recommendations. At the end we came to something better – he spoke with members in his constituency office, “Wahlkreisbüro”, and after I had an interview with them, they offered me a position!

Recently, the German Bundestag named me the American participant of the month too.

This was my dream and being a part of CBYX I’m able to live it.

Will Thomas

Ever since he started learning German at age 11, Will has wanted to visit a German-speaking country. His wish recently came true thanks to the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. He is a recent graduate of Georgia Tech with a Bachelor's in International Affairs and German.

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