During his junior year at Calvin, mechanical engineering major Aaron Berry decided to take a chance. He applied for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program. He didn’t expect that it would lead to a prestigious internship with luxury carmaker BMW.
CBYX provides the opportunity to live and study in Germany for a year, representing the U.S. during that time. The highly selective program chose only 75 young professionals to go.
Unsure what to expect after applying, Aaron was thrilled to learn he was selected for the program and would be interning with BMW.
“Going in knowing no German and with no support system was a really good personal challenge,” Aaron remarked.
As part of the exchange program, Aaron first studied for a semester at Aalen University of Applied Science in southern Germany. In addition to classes, he was able to join the university’s electronic formula racing team. Together they built an electronically powered race car. Even with the language barrier, he noted that it was really easy to make friends.
After the semester ended, Aaron began his internship with BMW’s Thermodynamic Application group. He was tasked with building an engine simulation for other engineers and mechanics to pretest engine-part changes without having to build expensive physical prototypes. Aaron found the task to be very individual. He would be given data to work with and the date he’d be expected to present his results. Then he’d be set loose.
As a mechanical rather than automotive engineer, he had a learning curve. But he noted that his thermodynamic courses at Calvin and his experience with garage motorcycle repair both helped, “It was nice to apply something I learned from my classes to an internship.”
“It was a very different work experience than in the States,” he added. “In Germany, workers have a lot more benefits, but when you’re at work, it’s just business. It’s a lot less personable.”
Aaron’s experiences in Germany changed his plans for after graduation.
“While working at BMW, I realized I wanted to continue doing research,” he shared. “As most research and development engineering positions are filled by master’s and PhD students, I’ve decided to pursue graduate school.”