As of now, I am no longer in Mexico and have also already left Germany again – I’m on my way to my next and last destination during my year abroad. As expected, my time in Aguascalientes went by incredibly quickly (which I unfortunately can not say about my actual return flight) – it seems like just yesterday I passed the halftime mark. Nevertheless, I would like to share a few thoughts and words about my stay, the internship, and the country itself.
Overall, I spent just over ten weeks in Mexico, and have been able to see much of the country around Aguascalientes during the weekends. I spent a weekend in Mexico City (about 450km away) and was able to experience first-hand the strong contrast between city and “countryside”. With the fantastic long-haul buses that can compete with Business Class in long-haul aircraft (basically wide seats that can recline, each have a screen, two bathrooms, free snacks and drinks, and with Wi-Fi – rather the opposite of the economy class I am currently sitting in) I was able to reach most travel destinations very conveniently and, above all, conveniently. In Zacatecas, with its beautiful colonial architecture, we visited “one of the best art museums in provincial Mexico”, with works by, among others, Dalí, Miro, Velasquez and Klimt.
In Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque I have been twice, in the UNESCO World Heritage San Miguel de Allende in this time even three times, always with different people together. In Léon and Guanajuato I was able to visit a very good friend from Seoul; In Cancun, I went for a beach vacation with my parents and siblings and felt transported back to pre-Hispanic times. Calvillo, very close, we could visit as the capital of Guava fruit. But the fact is that there is so much to see from this huge country (about five and a half times the size of Germany) – that’s why it was by no means the last time I visited it (not to mention that my parents are the next three Spend years there, so there is reason enough to “stop by” again and again).
My internship – actually the main reason for the stay – I have also brought to a good end. In the eight weeks in the office or in the factory, I got insights into a company that I probably would not have met otherwise, because the IRM study has almost no technical content (as a quick reminder: I have the internship at an automotive industry supplier who produces and refines extruded aluminum components in a complex process).
At first it was exciting to be able to observe the constant intercultural and international relationship of the company. From my previous experience as the son of a German working abroad, it has been interesting to have literally turned the tables: a management level of Chinese expats that brings know-how from China to Mexico with the help of Mexican employees and workers Build factory and produce components for, inter alia, German and American customers.
As you imagine, a multilingual work environment can lead to communicative difficulties. Of the Mexican staff, everyone spoke good English, at least in the administrative departments, and the factory workers for the most part. On the Chinese side, some spoke English, even less Spanish, and some only Chinese. That’s why there were some Chinese (or Taiwanese, but more in a later entry) in the company who studied Spanish and spoke not only English but fluent Spanish. Precisely for that reason these few translators were enormously important for the smooth running of day-to-day business.
And so my job had quickly found: Translate, in all combinations with English, Spanish, Chinese and German. At first I did not know that I did not have the necessary foreign language skills. In fact, with various online dictionaries, it was somehow possible – and above all necessary – because there were days when there was nobody in the office of the official translators and so I had to step in.
Unfortunately, there were also many days when I did not really have much to do. I never had specific tasks and was therefore more on call – so had to wait until someone came up to me. Although these eight weeks have given many new and interesting insights, but were not soberly the most productive time. Silver Lining of the Whole: For IRM and the OTH, I have been able to do all sorts of preparatory and reworking (but unfortunately still not the term paper from the third semester – sorry Mr. Bresinsky).
The funny side effect of the internship was also that during the week I mainly spoke Chinese and German during the day. My spanish has certainly improved in the meantime, but obviously not that much, if I had been speaking spanish for only two months. I put the blame for it on “structural problems”, as I’ll call them: In the office I said lack of sufficient integration into the (Mexican) team as I said mainly Chinese and thus in turn missed the connection to Mexican colleagues (actually also self-inflicted). At home with my parents, I spoke almost only German, and the majority of the incoming visit were friends and families of the German company. After nine to ten hours of work every day (not always including commute) I was no longer super motivated in the evening, sometimes to go to town or to clean up – apart from the fact that I’m also outside the work somehow only with Chinese colleagues have met.
Despite everything, I enjoyed my stay in Mexico very much and over time I have noticed a change in attitude towards the compared to Germany quite low prices. It is not enough to compare restaurant visits or cocktail prices with the German counterparts, because you lose sight of the relative value of the product. Say, what else can I buy in Mexico for the same amount? If a steak with salad in the restaurant costs the equivalent of eight euros, that seems at first glance as a gift – with an average daily wage of less than four euros, but this corresponds to 18 hours of work. At the same time, a German with a minimum wage of more than 150 euros. I’ve learned that it’s always helpful to take that perspective, because I value the value of a thing much sooner.
Meanwhile, I’m in Changsha, China waiting for my onward flight to Guangzhou, from where it will be my third and last destination for the IRM foreign year. Maybe one or the other person might already have guessed – very soon there will be an “official statement” from me.
Speaking of what happened in flight: In just one month in the US on Super Tuesday presidential elections (gasp). Maybe you have seen it, but for our readers in the US, a small field would have to be visible when visiting our blog last week, which reminds you to register in any case. Register to vote, friends!