Let’s get started!

Friday, September 17: Today our virtual program “Trainees to the USA”, which we were all waiting for, has finally started.

The goal of the program is to learn about the culture, working environment and educational system of the USA within six weeks, to improve our English skills as well as to meet new people. In addition to the 19 trainees from Germany, our team consists of 10 American students  from Kennesaw State University, who are our “peer buddies”. The cool thing about the virtual program is that anyone, who has the internet connection, can participate, even if they are on vacation!

The first thing we did was get to know each other and express our expectations for the program, then we discussed our schedule and got some instructions on what the program expectations and outcomes should be. Our virtual trip takes place every week on Friday. We have six sessions where we are going to discuss highly interesting topics with incredible speakers from the U.S. What makes the concept even better is that we will learn more about each topic during the informal conversations with our peer buddies to get a broader perspective about how it is perceived thru the U.S. point of view. Cool, isn’t it?

After a fun energizer and a short break, we met our first speaker, Michael Theisen- Jones, Director Global Business Development of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Michael gave an astonishing talk about Atlanta and told us great facts about the city, no one of us knew before. Personally, I found it fascinating that  the company ICE, located in Atlanta, owns the NYC Stock Exchange. Did you know that a lot of your favorite movies and series, such as Avengers: Infinity War and Stranger Things were filmed in Atlanta? After the presentation we  peppered Michael with questions and he was so nice that he answered all of them. Michael was definitely  able to make Atlanta and Georgia even more attractive for me!

After the lecture we distributed the upcoming Todo’s and said goodbye for today. The first day was full of new experiences and adventures, but tomorrow brings us even more of them! 🙂

Saturday, September 18: Dancing to “Raisin Toast” on a Saturday afternoon, with strangers, in a Zoom-call? We can tick that off our list as of today!

The second session of the “Trainees to the USA” program took place today. After the impressive presentation by Michael Theisen-Jones, during the kick-off session, we were very excited about what we could expect today.

We started with a short review of the first day. Afterwards, Dr. Sabine Smith, a German Professor at Kennesaw State University, gave a presentation on the demographic situation of Atlanta in the USA. I was amazed at how diverse the state of Georgia is and how big the differences are in the cities and in the surrounding communities. From mountains to swamps. From Latino communities to Asian neighborhoods. The diversity within the state of  Georgia, among other things, highlights the focus of today’s session:

>Conversations Have Culture<

During the session, we compared the American and German ways of having a conversation. Among other things, we learned that Americans form bonds more like peaches, whereas Germans are more like coconuts☺ What does that mean? Let me explain: 

Americans first like to make small talk and are very open and rather talkative. A deep friendship is often difficult to build. This is very similar to the structure of a peach, which is soft on the outside and has a hard core on the inside. Germans are more like a coconut. Ever heard of the phrase “hard shell, soft  middle “? In German culture, it is common for us to be  more superficial with our new acquaintances at first. As soon as we get to know a person better, we show our soft side and, in many cases, then count friends as family.

The Story Circles introduced by UNESCO in 2020 are intended to simplify the peaceful coexistence of people. The idea is to listen to the other person and let them speak without reacting or judging. In German culture, it is often the case to interrupt one’s counterpart (even if unintentionally) to indicate agreement with the topic of conversation. Americans on the other hand, act similarly to Story Circles, for the most part.  

Also, Germans tend to be described as direct, honest and sometimes perceived as “rude”, while Americans are seen as indirect, pragmatic, and individualistic.

Overall, it was a very successful session. Knowing the differences between the American and German conversation culture, I now feel prepared to talk to the peer buddies next week☺

A journeys end

Let`s whoop it up!

Press play for instand happienes

Whose heart doesn’t spark with joy if one hears the words: “time to celebrate! “And right at the start of our final program session, we Azubis were greeted by the song “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang. Some of us were smiling, some of us were moving to the beat but all of us had nevertheless a great time. And you might already guess it, the todays meeting was all about achievement and celebration and undoubtedly the most fitting topic for the final session

As always, we started with sharing our thoughts about the last weeks topic, in this case “influence and influencer”, exchanged our newly gained insights and together reviewed our meetings with our peer buddies which sadly was officially the last one. But for most of us that isn’t completely true as it turns out we bonded together surprisingly well with our American peers and new friendships were born. Some even decided to send each other packages with regional goodies. Now if you don’t call that something to look forward to, then I don’t know what does!

As the session moved on, we stuck our heads together around the personal meaning of achievements and celebrations. We used the UNESCO Story Circle as our tool once again, brainstormed in breakout rooms our experiences with celebration and embarrassment at our workplaces or in private settings and how it might be different in the U.S. Back in the forum we picked up the discussion about our results and looked at the big facts, Sabine worked us through. We learned that Germans do celebrate similar as Americans but not as big and often as they do. And yet the biggest questions remain unanswered, why do people still sing “Happy Birthday” to one another if most of them just want to disappear out of embarrassment caused by the attention? No one will ever know…!

Next topic we dealt with was the poem of Amanda Gorman“The Hill We Climb” which she read at the inauguration of Joe Biden in January, 2021. At first it showed us an extraordinary way of celebrating a long-desired achievement, but as we dug deeper into the analysis of the poem we were faced with the concept of Aesthetic Force. This method was first mentioned by Frederic Douglass and its key idea is that emotions are more powerful than facts or numbers.

With this knowledge on our mind, we presented our prepared and self-written “elevator speeches” to each other, which summed up our experiences and the newly gained skills we acquired in the period of the virtual program. Afterwards we gave feedback using the “Sandwich Feedback Technique.” The goal was to keep us working on our speech, not to make it perfect, but to grow thru the task and hand in our personal best. There is always room for improvement and to exceed your abilities – that is a growth mindset.

And with all that, it was time for a break – and maybe for a kit-kat as well.

Special Guests

Last Friday our group was very excited about our two special guests! To be specific: Dr. Nina Lemmens and Mr. Brandon Loftus.

Dr. Lemmens is a very pleasant woman who is a member of the Executive Board of the Joachim Herz Foundation. She is sort of our boss in this program. She told us about working and traveling around the world and how she managed to stay and work in New York City. Even though she studied something completely different before her current line of work. She showed us the differences that influenced her during her work abroad. For example: Observing singing toddlers and their teacher in Central Park, who got way too many compliments for mediocre performances. Meanwhile in Germany employees get compliments very rarely. Some German bosses should adapt this kind of behaviour, what do you think?

Even the Azubis Team present at the seminar is very impressed with their boss. They`re right, she´s a “Power Woman!” Last, but not least, she had exciting news! We are definitely going to visit the U.S. It blew all of our minds!!! It was a relief for everyone, because of the COVID situation we couldn´t visit Georgia this year. We are so excited about our upcoming trip in Spring of 2022. But especially, to meet each other in person!

Our next speaker Brandon Loftus was honest and admitted: Zoom and other online formats are not his favorite setting, Mr. Loftus prefers to speak in front of a live audience. But for that he managed it very well. He´s the plant manager and head of ZF Gainesville, a German company. You could really see the pride for his company and it´s employees.

That´s giving him high marks. We were impressed how he managed the difficult COVID situation and how he managed to make the necessary tough choices to letting some staff go, not his favorite task but that makes him a brilliant businessman. He told us about his personal struggles and challenges which influenced his choices. To terminate employees was not easy. You could see that this experience mentally affected him. He used his best knowledge to make the best out of that situation. His character and optimism impressed all of us!

Georgia, see you soon!

Finally – on Saturday we passed the last session of this amazing, virtual AZUSA program, 6 amazing weeks. In the beginning Julia and Tobias joined us. They were part of “Azubis go USA” some years ago and travelled to the USA funded by the Joachim Herz Foundation. Back in Germany they are now participating in courses and studies. They are still active as “Azubi-Botschafter” and present the project to interested trainees. They encouraged us to us to also become “Botschafters” Ambassadors as well. They took time to answer our questions on this topic.

After that we started to discuss in our group and in smaller breakout rooms: we were looking back, remembering the sessions we passed during the last weeks. We thanked, praised and criticized in the meeting of all participants. These were not only questions considered in the program but also about our personal lives and our futures. Generally – what is pleasureable for us, what makes us exhausted? And what would be alternatives if our lifes would change completely? Have we thought about what to do and where to find alternatives? Have we thought about a backup plan for our lives? What do we take away from the courses? An important question which we discussed also in our “Elevator Speeches”. We wrote them before our last session and presented them live in front of the other participants. Exciting how different and divers such speeches could be! Lovely, how positive and warm the reactions of the listeners were.

And so began the end of our shared virtual time. Time to say Goodbye. The “End” – a screen of picture Zoom tiles with many smiling faces. Some of them also thoughtful or tired, some even had tears in their eyes. We really hope to see each other again, next time in real life. Everybody, please stay joyful and healthy! “We are keeping Georgia on our minds!”

We are done here! Buckle up, we’re comming to Georgia!

Welcome to the US!

Throughout this program and as students in the United States, we did not learn English. We did not increase any language skill or perfected our pronunciation in any way. Perhaps we as trainees ourselves learned about the learning of these skills. We helped students much like ourselves achieve new heights when it came to language and culture learning. We were put in a position that forced us to take a step back from the country we have grown up in and view it from another’s perspective. More importantly, from the perspectives of young adults that admire our culture, and us who admire theirs a great deal in return. This pivot in perspective allowed us as American university students to answer questions such as, “Why don’t you have a “Pfand” (State beverage container deposit) system there?”, and “How are the different dialects compared to North and South US?”, and even “What do Flaming Hot Cheetos taste like?”.

These, along with many more entertaining instances, are questions that as Americans we don’t often think about in great detail. But when you are encountered with a fantastic group of young adults that are on the edge of their seats for some information on unhealthy American food, your everyday life in a small American town in northern Atlanta just got a whole lot more interesting. As American peer buddies we were able to find a deeper appreciation for our hometowns that we have seemed to grow numb to. The houses here are different to our now friends in Germany; the mailboxes, the grocery stores, the restaurant etiquette, and even the process of making new friends.

With amazing guest speakers such as John Fluker, President and CEO of Grenzebach Corporation, Vanya Allen, a performance artist, singer, educator, and linguist, and many other admirable speakers who made the time to join us, this was truly an unforgettable experience. That being said, we cannot forget about the stars of the show, the Azubis themselves. With approximately 5,000 miles between us, one would think that we would only be able to find differences between us, but that was not the case. From sharing the frustration of having siblings who do not pick up after themselves, to laughing at the knowledge that we do not know how to change a tire, it was incredible to see how alike we are despite growing up in different countries and cultures.

Each week brought a new topic of conversation to our weekly chats. It was always fascinating to hear everyone’s opinions and at the end of the day, everyone learned something new. For example, their education system is set up different than ours here in America, and yet we have shared some of the same experiences. Whether it be the last day or last week of school, seniors in high school get the chance to “trash/prank” the school. They’ll toilet paper the halls and have balloons and confetti littering the hall floors, but it’s meant to be a final goodbye to the school we will graduate from. The Azubis mentioned that they have something similar to that as well. They call it “Abi-Streich”, which is essentially the same concept. They will sneak into their school at night and create mischief in much of the same way that we do here in our high schools. However, we also realized that while team spirit is a big factor of American high schools, it’s not much of a big deal amongst German schools. We realized this, when the topic of pep rallies was approached. It was quite interesting to see that they only knew of this concept through movies, but that they would very much so love to experience it in-person.

Alas six weeks have gone by in the blink of an eye, and it is quite a bittersweet feeling. It was truly a privilege and an honor to be a part of this road trip, and to have the opportunity to make new friends.

Finally, a large thank you to every Azubi that applied to this program, including our fellow students here in America. We all learned so much and have so much love for our friends in Germany!

Marketing and music make the world go ´round

After reviewing the last weeks session and sharing about our Peer Buddy sessions, we turned to our new theme “Influence”. In the beginning, we shared marketing fails, such as those of Wal-Mart not being successful in Germany, IKEA naming a desk without checking what it meant in another language, Pepsi with an unfortunate translation of an Ad slogan in Japan and a Dove ad that gave the wrong impression. We discussed in smaller groups what makes a good or bad marketing campaign and what trends are currently up to date. This led us to the conclusion that marketing a product or brand often fails because of cultural differences and language barriers. It is therefore necessary to adapt to the respective country – KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!

The next part of the session was all about music and how marketing and influence tie in. At the beginning of the virtual program, we were asked to put our favourite songs together. In further breakout sessions we talked about what our own playlists and the most liked songs say about us. We also compared the Top 10 Hits 2020 from the US, UK and Germany and found some similarities but also differences: Since there was more overlap between Germany and the UK than between Germany and the US, we concluded that this was due to the geographical aspect. Furthermore, we noticed that German Rap is gaining popularity among the younger generation.

The success of a song or a musician is not only determined by the quality of the music, but also by the organization and planning. For example, we learned that it is necessary to create in advance a sophisticated marketing plan. Thus, you can avoid addressing the wrong target group and be able to develop original content. This was summed up by our guest speaker Bryan Calhoun, who joined our session and quoted: “No two artists are the same but building the direct connection with your fans is important”.

Additionally, we got to learn about controversies in and around the music industry and asked ourselves whether these are socially and morally acceptable or if it is simply the musician`s artistic freedom. In context with that we got introduced to the social reformer called Frederick Douglass, who pioneered the concept of “aesthetic force “, the power of art to move you, and his believe that emotions are more dominant than logic and facts.

On top of that, we also learned that Atlanta is the unofficial HipHop capital, and that Southern Rap is very different from West and East Coast Rap and that music differs from region to region. That “Outkast” was in 1992 the first Hip-Hop Band of the South, Hip-Hop was considered music of NYC and LA, not Atlanta. Dr. Regina Bradley, KSU wrote numerous books about how Southern Hip-Hop is speaking truth – differently. It includes Southern sounds: Funk, Blues, Gospel, cars, anger, fun… etc. In the second part of our session, we got the chance to discuss the previously mentioned topics together with our peer buddies and ask them about their opinions. Then it was time for our guest speaker, Bryan Calhoun, to join the meeting. He is Vice President of Pandora Media and Executive in Residence of MEBUS – short for “Music & Entertainment Business Program “. As he has gathered over 25 years of work experience over the years, he was able to give us fascinating insights into the music business, via his consulting business, Music Business Toolbox. It was especially exciting for us, as he has already worked together with superstars like Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and G-Eazy. He stated: “What makes some artists successful is, that they possess great intuition, they know what will work”. Some of them are very in-tune with social trends and can direct their marketing and social media towards that. Did you know that some superstars may have paid more than a million dollars for just one party? As we asked him how he got so successful, and learned so much about the music business, he gave us this answer: “Learn how the money flows in the business and don`t be afraid to try new things! “

All in all, this Friday session was very engaging and exciting as we got to learn a lot about marketing and the music industry. We are looking forward to our next session, even though it will be our last one.

We can see the Finish Line

The topic in the fourth session was “Boundaries and Belongings”.

We were split up in Zoom Break-Out-Groups and shared our experiences about our lives before and during the Corona pandemic. We all agreed that on the one hand we’ve spend a lot of the time online but on the other hand we also spend a lot of time outside in the nature, to go for a walk. To make things clearer about the effects of the Corona pandemic, we heard a presentation from Dr. Marcus Marktanner, a Professor of Economics, and International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University.

Here we were shown and explained various statistics from his own study for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Particularly noteworthy was that in America the unemployment figures rose more than in Germany due to the corona pandemic. The reason for this is on the one hand the gap between high paying and low paying jobs but also a weaker social system compared to Germany.

If you want find out more – click here:

Economic Systems as Virus Hosts.pdf

The second speaker we listened to on the 9th of April was Norbert Fuhrmann. Mr. Fuhrmann is an Electronics instructor at the Felix-Fechenbach Berufs Kolleg in Detmold, Germany.

He tasked himself to stay in contact with many of the international students from his partner schools around the world, even when the pandemic affected travels. They found ways to work together virtually on projects. He showed us via video the projects he worked on together with his students and in addition he also explained how they realized these projects.

One of these, for example, was a special mechatronics machine, programmed by international students working together virtually, which opens a Nutella jar automatically.

Another project was producing 360-degree images of traditional looking houses from different areas where the students live, to give all of them information and facts about how they are constructed. These ideas were born during the pandemic to use all the creativity with staying in contact even in times like this.

„The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” ~ Socrates

With this quote the last speaker of the session, Dr. Victoria Seals, opened her presentation. She is president of the Atlanta Technical College which is a college for students who do not want to study at a regular 4-year college but instead want to study for technical or skilled trades. And a much less expensive option considering the high cost of university studies and still opens the field to well-paying jobs.

When comparing American schools or colleges to German schools or universities this is the closest thing to a German vocational school (Berufsschule, Berufskolleg).

Another interesting fact we learned about the Atlanta Tech is that the students can apply and train their knowledge on family, friends or neighbors who are invited to visit for this reason. They receive inexpensive haircuts and styling from the Barbering and Hairdressing students. Or to get esthetician treatments from the Cosmetology students.

Of course, due to the pandemic that currently is not possible. Dr. Seals assured us that she wanted to know that her students were doing alright during these challenging times. Thus, she made sure all the students would be equipped with laptops and received internet services, so they could continue to attend their classes online. She explained that she stayed in regular, virtual contact with the students, staff, and faculty, not only to make sure they are alright with their courses, and teaching, but also doing well overall. If anybody needed assistance with food or necessities, she made sure they helped and delivered these goods. This matters especially during these times when people tend to get lonely and feel left out.

This session showed us that because of the technical progress we had in the last years it is possible to build and stay in contact even though you could not meet in person. To sum it up, we would say that there are less boundaries than we thought and that, maybe, what these unusual times have taught us that we are not as far away from each other as we think.

Another highlight of this program is the chance to meet up and talk to our peer buddies. The buddies are students of KSU and volunteered to talk to us online regularly. This weekly appointment with fixed topics fastly developed itself into great and personal talks. From the differences in heaealthcare in both Germany and the US to our favorite snacks we covered all kinds of topics already. The whole group of German participants is very happy about it and we all hope that, sooner or later, we can meet our buddies in person.

5+4+3 = successful team leader

Now we have just reached the third week of our exciting virtual journey. Today we discussed a lot about role models and leadership. We started our session with a quick review on the most important insights of the last week to consolidate them. Then it started. Do you know who your role models are? That is not an easy question, or is it? In the beginning everyone presented their role models and after that we talked about our heroes in smaller groups. Hereby many of us realized that our role models are often not necessarily have to be popular persons, they simply can be members of our family.


This week, we also talked about our superpowers which are part of each of us.                   This power can be specified in more details by a short test.                                                 It concerns the 5 languages of love.

5 engl

More information about this topic can be found here. To get to know which                       of the 5 love languages applies to most of you, we would kindly like to encourage you to take this test. Please note that the 5 languages of love can apply to your private life as well as in a professional environment. In addition, it is very interesting to know that they are also used in marketing campaigns.

Another fascinating topic to discuss are the 4 categories of leadership styles.       They can also be considered as superpowers.leadership styles

A team works best if every leadership style is represented. Wouldn’t you really like to know which category you belong to? If so, please find another short test here, to tell which leadership style represents your personality best.

StuartOur guest speaker for the second part of our session today, Stuart Sandlin, Senior VP, Hapag-Lloyd, Americas, shared with us his thoughts on being a good team leader. While working in Hamburg, he noticed how important it is to adapt your leadership style to your team. He told his employees to address him using the informal German „Du“, not the formal „Sie”, on his first day there. His team was taken aback because they were not used to that from senior management.             Stuart realized that there are many differences between leading a U.S. team and a German team.

He certainly stands out as being a true leader to his employees. A former Joachim Herz Azubi, that interned in Atlanta and who got to work with him, confirmed this to our group.

His incredibly motivated and therefore motivational presence probably comes from his two rules:

  1. Say „ YES “ more often than you say „ NO “
  2. Replacing „ BUT “ with „ AND ” to make your statements more positive

und engl

Stuart’s mental model of the 3 -legged-stool shows what to always keep in mind as a leader. The right direction, motivation, the right skills, and knowledge are what makes a team strong and efficient.

Schemel eng

The ability to be open, to trust your team members and to do thorough work is vital as well. For Stuart it goes without saying that he will challenge, but also encourage his employees.

His many ideas and approaches around leadership are enough to fill a book at this point. We anticipate its release and look forward to be first to read it.

Our second virtual meeting goes on

On Friday, March 26th.  we had our second official virtual training program. On this day we had 6 different program points on our agenda. The topics were:

 1. Georgia on My Mind… The official hymn for the State of Georgia

 2. Review of the past week: Changing Perspectives – with peer buddies

 3. Cultures have different value orientations /Different value orientations: Hofstede’s taxonomy

4. Intra-American differences

5. How a hashtag became a worldwide movement (and why)

 6. Dealing with controversy: From taking a knee in sports to controversies at Universities

For our first point of the day, we learned the history of the song “Georgia on my mind” and how it became the anthem of the state of Georgia.

Afterwards we reflected on the last week and talked about conservation with our peer buddies.

The conversations with the peer buddies are very helpful because we can also talk openly and honestly about many points and thus also have a comparison of German culture and American culture.

During the 3rd. point we learned from taxonomy that cultures have other value differences.

As an example, the assets, savings, insurance, but also the financial freedoms are.

After that we talked about the differences between the black and white population and noticed that there are big social and financial differences. We were very shocked about the discrepancies between the populations.

The biggest differences are in the insurance companies. In Germany there is one health insurance and in America only the private health insurance.

Then we learned what were the crucial points for the #blacklivesmatter movement. The quote:

 “I was born a black man, and I know one day will die a black man, but I don’t want to die because I’m a black man”, has remained especially in our memory for this reason.

In the last item on the agenda with Dr. Sabine Smith, we looked at how to deal with controversy. We looked at several examples, including one at KSU. Here 4 cheerleaders kneeled during the national anthem in support of black lives lost due to police violence.

The result was very scary and sad at the same time, because the ladies did not get any support from their school principal

In the second half of the program, our KSU peer buddies joined, and we discussed in groups of 3, what is a trust enhancer and a trust killer. Everyone was able to name their personal factors and then present them to the whole group.

Finally, we welcomed our guest speaker, Vanya Allan, she is a multidisciplinary artist, designer, educator, architecture student and awlat. For over 15 years she has used art and education as a means of self-espression; connecting with others by entertaining and sharing.

She gave a lecture, which was very informative and rousing. She told us about the topic of racism, the language of the African Americans and about the code-switching.

She has a specific role in organizing in the BLM movement, which supports African-American oppression. She also feels that Black Lives is the correct terminology and is not just for African American, but also affects all of humanity. No human being in this world deserves to be oppressed because of the color of their skin. She also spoke about her personal history that her father was a Black Panther. She also explained African American slang, code switching, etc. How Black parents have “the talk” with their children, all the time about not doing this and not saying that, etc.

Our exiting virtual journey begins

12.03.2021 – 14.00 pm: Kick off, Let’s start the journey!

Finally, our virtual trip to the USA started and everybody was very excited and had lots of expectations. We are a team of 18 trainees from all over Germany and the organizing team, 1 from Hamburg, as well as two persons from Atlanta. Unfortunately, we can’t fly to Atlanta, but instead, we will meet virtually every Friday for the next 6 weeks to learn more about American culture, business, U.S. college life and current events.

First, we came together, and introduced ourselves and talked about our expectations and goals, and what we expected from the program. After giving an introduction and insights about the following weeks, the main part of the program started.

The director from the Global Business Development Metro Atlanta Chamber introduced the region and gave us very interesting information about the sights, the film industry, the  busiest passenger airport and the infrastructure in Georgia. Did you know that the airport in Atlanta is the biggest passenger airport in the world?! That is very impressive. And after asking Mr Theissen-Jones, of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, several questions, the next guest, Kevin Lister, from the GACC South, started his presentation amongst other things about  education in the USA. He told us, that they are working on incorporating  our German system of skills training thru apprenticeships here in the Southeast.

Micheal Theissen-Jones (left) & Kevin Lister (right)

13.03.2021 – 14.00pm: continuing on a weekend/ Welcome to the new programm

On Saturday, the virtual journey continued. We met again and talked about the past day. What were the things we could remember?  What was the most impressive thing?  Of course, the Atlanta airport was one of the aspects we remembered most. Because of the new virtual program, we used the „UNESCO Story Circle“ method to get to know each other better in small groups. This method is a new communication strategy where we learned that it is important to listening carfully to others and let them speak and finish their point. Everyone in my group worked well together through these method. In the virtual program we did not really have the opportunity to talk to everyone on our own. This program is more of an active presentation with knowledge, virtual activities and tasks where you  have to reflect yourself or communicate with the members. We also discussed in this session the differences between Germany and America such as the cars and their use or the culture differences. The last point of the day was to analysis the music video „Welcome to Atlanta“ by Ludacris. It was interesting to learn more about the African-American slang and code-switching based on a music video. Code-switching means that two languages or two dialects are combined with each other.

All in all, the second day was very informative. I’ve learned a lot about other people and other cultures, especially my group members and the US culture. I am looking forward to the next few weeks, and I am thankful to still have the chance to learn and see more about America, the people, the food and the culture. My group also get the chance to meet our KSU ( Kennesaw State University in Georgia) Students, who we call Peer Buddies. They help us understanding subjects in the program,  and  I’m very excited and looking forward to the coming  meetings.

On Friday, March 19th, we met for the third time, as usual online via Zoom, 

On that day we started by sharing the experiences we had with our peer buddies and with the rest of the group. (The peer buddies are students from the USA, at KSU, with whom we can meet virtually once a week.  With them we can talk in English about many different topics, but particularly we talk about the differences between Germany and the USA.)

Then we started with the differences between German and American characters. We noticed that we as Germans are often more direct, in a way to be honest and that the Americans are usually more friendly and polite, to not offend.

 Then we were given the task of painting a house and a tree.

At first we didn’t even know why we should do this.

But after everyone was finished and we showed each other our pictures, we quickly noticed that we all had very similar ideas about what a house and a tree should look like. 

It was now clear to everyone what they wanted to teach us, because we only painted what we knew and what it might look like here.

If you were to play the same game with people who grew up in a different regions for example, then they might paint a palm tree instead of an indigenous tree. 

The next theme was about privileges that each of us have, but which we do not always appreciate and that we take for granted, for example clean water or that we are allowed to grow up in peace.

We went on to think about it in smaller groups. 

We noticed that there are still so many privileges that we don’t appreciate at all, but luckily we are still able to experience them every day.

We should always be aware of how good we have it and that a large part of the world’s population cannot experience these privileges!

We particularly noticed how many “invisible” privileges white people have, which people with a darker skin color do not always have, for example,  matching make-up, and or band-aids in the right skin tone.

After a 30-minute break, John Fluker joined us. He is the President and CEO of the German U.S.subsidiary “Grenzebach”. 

He is a black American and because of that, he was able to tell us so many stories about experiencing racism from his own life. We were very pleased that he took time for us, especially since he certainly has little time in such a management position in a large company.

He was really nice, answered all of our questions at the end and above all, he was very inspiring!

All in all, it was an exciting but also a long afternoon in which we were able to learn so much. We will especially try to be even more tolerant and open to other cultures in the future.

My Journey to Boston with the Federal President of Germany

The Federal President of Germany flew to Boston, USA to end the partnership year between Germany and the USA “wunderbar together”. (wunderbar = marvelously)

For this occasion, he wanted to have some apprentices who had recently made experiences in the USA themselves. So, he contacted the Joachim Herz Foundation and they suggested some of their alumni, after which Simone Mayer and I were selected by the Federal Presidential Office. Unfortunately she wasn’t allowed to fly, because of an organizational issue.

The trip was simply an unique experience, incredible impressions and really interesting conversations with inspiring personalities.

In front of the A321 of the german Luftwaffe

We flew in the “German Air Force One”, where I also spoke to the Federal President, in his private cabin on the plane, together with three other young people from the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) Program.

He and his wife were incredibly approachable, down-to-earth and were really interested in what we had to say about our impressions and experiences in the United States, how we perceived the politics and the people there, and what we, especially me as an apprentice, had to say about the dual vocational system in Germany in comparison to the USA.

We started from the military airport in Berlin Tegel, on Wednesday, afternoon with an A321 of the “Luftwaffe”. It has been a very warm and hearty welcomeby everyone, and I wasn’t really the “industrial mechanic apprentice” for the trip, but rather part of the delegation – and I was treated this way. (Although everyone introduced themselves, what job they did and also named the reason why they were part of the trip)

Even before departure I met people who are otherwise just known from the media, such as the CEO of the Otto Group or the managing director of all the world’s Goethe Institutes.

With the Federal President of Germany, Mr. Steinmeier and his wife, Mrs. Büdenbender

“All passengers on board – boarding completed” and “Welcome Mr. Steinmeier and Mrs. Büdenbender, delegation and all fellow passengers, we wish you a pleasant flight to Boston, next stop: Iceland Rekjavik” – this was kind of how you were welcomed on the plane.

As we took off at 17:00 in Berlin I was pushed into the comfortable leather chairs of the spacious plane.

After the refueling stop and about 8 hours flighttime, we were greeted by a “Sea of Lights – Boston” and a column of vehicles, with black tinted windows and a large police presence which escorted us to the hotel.

Landing in Boston

Arrival and night at the 5 star InterContinental Hotel were really very pleasant and impressive.

The next day was marked by a number of appointments, where I had the honor to participate. The first day began with a discussion about “Populism & Polarisation – Challenges on both sides of the Atlantic” and a subsequentvisit to the residence of Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus.

In front of the residence of Walter Gropius

In the evening, the “Germany Year” was concluded and the “Goethe Institute Boston” was reopened. Furthermore the President has given a very good speech about the transatlantic relations between Germany and the USA, the long history that connects the two countries and that, despite all the daily “tweets and tirades”, he illustrated that he sees more unifying than separating things, so based on the motto ” wunderbar together”. 

He ended his speech by saying: “So: If we still believe in the great task of democracy, we should still believe in this transatlantic partnership.” – “I do.”  (“Frank-Walter Steinmeier”)

In the Boston Symphony Orchestra

The day ended with a visit at the “Boston Symphony Orchestra” with the “Leipziger Gewandhausorchester”.

The next day didn’t leave a gap in the calendar either, it began at “Harvard Law School”, with a discussion about “ethics in digitization”, which the Federal President had also conducted for the most part, which I really had been excited about.

The next item on the agenda also was a personal highlight, when I ate lunch with Mrs. Büdenbender and the initiators of the local group “Youth Lead the Change”.

The “YLC” initiative gives young adults between the age of 12 and 22 the decision-making power of what is done with $1 million a year in the municipal budget. 

This allows them to finance projects such as the renovation of playgrounds or the installation of solar cells on public buildings.

This was especially interesting for me because, because we had a subsequentconversation with Mrs. Büdenbender and her advisor to maybe initiate such a project in Germany.

After a company visit of the company “Merck Millipore” we were escorted back to the airport, from which we took off in the late afternoon. After a relaxed flight and another refueling stop in Iceland, we landed at 6:40 a.m., in Berlin, which looked still asleep in the darkness of the beginning day.  

Sometimes the journey apparently seemed like a dream, felt so long and yet so short, very far away and yet so close, so unrealistic and yet so real.

There is so much I take with me from this journey, let it be it the moments, the contacts or the impressions, from a world that had been unknown to me – til then.

A big thank you to the Joachim Herz Foundation, especially to Cornélie & Yulia!

Furthermore, to the Federal Presidential Office, my training company, Krones AG, as well as my vocational school in Bad Aibling.

Greetings, Martin 🙂

Exploring Boston

PS: Some dates I shortened a little or I even left some, otherwise it would have been too much😉

Last but not least..

It’s hard to believe, but now 10 incredible weeks have passed and we are home again, we had wonderful memories in our luggage and made many wonderful acquaintances. Savannah became for many of us a second home. The host companies are also significantly involved in this. I completed my internship at Coastal Logistics Group (CLG), which is a logistics services provider specializing in warehousing, project freight management, packaging, paper logistics and customized solutions. Already on my first day I was warmly welcomed in the company and the respective departments. I then started in sales and had the opportunity to independently create offers and actively contact customers. In my first week I also had the opportunity to accompany the General Manager to Charleston to inspect the office there. During my internship I was often allowed to go to Charleston and had the opportunity to compare the individual warehouses, which are a total of six. In my second week I was employed in customer service and had the opportunity to accept and organize orders on my own, which corresponds to the operational side. Thanks to my experience in rail logistics, I was able to quickly develop an understanding of how the individual transport chains work and where CLG is used. After the college week, which definitely strengthened my understanding of logistics management, I returned to customer service.

During this time I also had the opportunity to take over the billing processes for a major customer on my own and to take over the inventory for that customer. The mixture of office and warehouse was unknown to me for the time being, but I had a lot of fun, so I had the opportunity to accept the goods directly and have them distributed in the warehouse according to plan. After feeling secure in the role of customer service representative, I had the opportunity to take over the entire vacation replacement for a colleague for the rest of my time, which was incredible fun and gave me more confidence in this role. Colleagues became friends, which definitely made saying goodbye more difficult

Not only did I enjoy (even with tears) the farewell of my colleagues very much, but also that of my host family, which is now a second family for Louisa and me. Together we experienced so much and had a lot of fun. Our first trip went to the mountains to North Carolina, where we watched a football game, totally American! After further trips to Florida our host family celebrated an early Thanksgiving with the extended family in honor of us, so that we also had the complete American experience. A day full of food and fun with the family will definitely remain unforgettable for us. Not only that but also the American Halloween is incredibly exciting: costume competitions in the office, tons of sweets and unusual decorations made the whole of October exciting. On the 1st of November all started with Christmas fever, everywhere played Christmas music and the suitable decoration let you almost forget Fall/October completely.

Besides work, we also tried to do some things during the week, besides some sports events, Antonia and I spontaneously went to Hilton Head Island several times. Hilton Head Island is one hour away from Savannah and a kind of Sylt of South Carolina, where the rich and beautiful meet and two German interns mingled. Beautiful sunsets and fun dinners made this place unforgettable for us.

In my last week I had the chance to visit for the last time in Charleston, where also a Thanksgiving lunch took place. I was allowed to handle the 2 hour drive with the jeep of my boss, who sat relatively relaxed in the passenger seat.

On my last day, at the request of management, I gave a presentation about my internship, my German training company and my experiences and differences to Germany. My initial nervousness was totally unjustified because the management team was completely satisfied and quote “impressed by me”! Which makes me extremely proud when you consider that, with almost two years of professional experience, I definitely have more experience than some here do: high regards for the German dual education system. After my presentation I went straight to my desk again. A short time later while making a stop in the warehouse, I got the call that I should come quickly back to the office: All my colleagues stood in the conference room with a cake and a small present and wanted to say goodbye to me!

Saturday at 08:00 o’clock in the morning we were directly dropped off at the airport, where our flight to Atlanta left at 10:00 o’clock. After a tearful and emotional farewell we are finally got through the security check. The three following flights went by very fast, so that we were able to hug our parents in Hamburg at 11:00AM on Sunday. After the traditional German meal of my mother it was nice time to spend time with my family and friends and to acclimate until Wednesday before going back to work at my German company. Many thanks to the Joachim Herz Foundation and a big thank you to Iris Schultz, who made this adventure possible for us. Serena

Hilton Head Island (after work of course)
Last minutes at home before the departure to Atlanta

PS: There is nothing to feel from the jetlag.