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Internship during Corona - does it work?

College student Patrick Hammen on getting to know each other virtually, on-site practice and valuable experience

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Doing an internship: That means getting to know a company, meeting new people and gaining your first practical work experience. But how can "getting a taste" work in times of home offices and distance learning? Does practical experience fall by the wayside? Patrick Hammen explains why this is not the case. After his internship at Schunk Transit Systems, the mechatronics student is now writing his bachelor's thesis there.


Internship and Corona, does that mean you only work in the home office?

Patrick Hammen: Not only! That wouldn't work at all given my activities. My tasks include conducting experiments and tests. That means setting up test rigs and checking ongoing tests. This can only be done on site - in compliance with the Corona rules, of course. I work very closely with a master's student. So that we can coordinate well, we are at the company two to three days a week. Thanks to flexitime, it's no problem if I come in early for a test or leave later. The rest of the week I work from home.


Doing trials and testing, that sounds exciting. What exactly do interns do in your field?

Patrick Hammen: In my department, we develop new assemblies and components for various applications. For example, plug-in carbon brushes for power transmission in electric motors or shaft grounding systems, which dissipate voltages particularly reliably thanks to special carbon fibers and are used in railroads or wind turbines. My main activity is the testing and further development of these new developments. This means planning and setting up test rigs for these new developments and then carrying out the tests. This involves testing the components in various scenarios for wear, current transmission and the like. Based on the results, the project team can then make any necessary changes to the design or material. I am always involved in this process and can contribute and test my own ideas.

I'm more of a practical type. That's why I particularly enjoy conducting experiments and tests.


So what does a typical working day look like for you?

Patrick Hammen: First thing in the morning, of course, is checking e-mails. In the morning, I work on various tests and document the results. Then I hold meetings with the project managers to report on the progress of the experiments and write the documentation.

In the afternoons, I can flexibly arrange the contents of my work in consultation with my colleagues. I plan, design and commission parts for sample production. So apart from a morning information meeting and the fixed project meetings, I have a lot of freedom to structure my working time.


What do you like best about your internship?

Patrick Hammen: I'm more of a practical type. That's why I particularly enjoy conducting experiments and tests. I'm also happy when I can pick up my designed parts in production and put them together. Of course, I also like doing the planning and design, but having the result in my hand is especially nice.


How has Corona influenced your internship experience?

Patrick Hammen: Working partially in a home office and wearing masks are self-evident framework conditions that were to be expected. What I found difficult at the beginning was getting to know my colleagues, because virtual seeing and talking can't really replace the first real meeting. Because of the different projects I'm involved in, there were a lot of names that I couldn't assign at first. But that settled down over time. The work is made more difficult at times by short-time work. As a result, deadlines have to be postponed or there are situations that require additional consultation.

However, the communication itself works perfectly. The project managers and my supervisor always make time for a phone call or questions via e-mail. Because of the regular meetings, I always have the opportunity to ask questions or make comments there as well.


What will you take away from your internship that will help you in the future?

Patrick Hammen: Of course, I'm taking a lot of technical know-how with me that I can certainly use in the future. Through my training as a mechatronics engineer, I have already gained practical experience in a company. I really appreciate the fact that I can now gain additional insights into a corporation like Schunk. What I find most important is what I learned during my internship about dealing with managers, colleagues and customers. I will certainly benefit from these experiences in the future.

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