This summer I am currently doing a three-month internship at ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Located in the south-west part of Germany by the Bodensee, the company is known for its design and research & development in the automotive industry.

On my first day I was assigned to a top secret facility much like the ones from a James Bond movie, where personal usage of cellphones, laptops, and cameras was strictly forbidden. As soon as I entered the Forschung und Entwicklung Zentrum (Research & Development Center) I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were test cars and auto components on display everywhere! Even on office tables, there were finely-engineered auto parts sitting there begging me to touch them and explore each moving mechanisms.

To this day I still find it difficult to describe to my friends and family exactly what I do at work. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided to include a photo of my work desk (hopefully that is allowed) and some crude drawings of what Tay is up to on a normal day at work. In short, my project involves using simulations and differential equations/integration to optimize dampening system in a car such as dynamic bushings and hydromounts.

Right of the bat, I am really impressed with the company’s work-life balance. As an intern, I am expected to work 35 hours a week. Including lunch breaks, I am usually at work eight hours a day. Nevertheless, I am given the freedom to allocate those hours however I like as long I clock in before 9:15am. For instance, if I would like to take a long weekend off to explore other cities, I could come to work from 7am to 4pm from Monday to Thursday and leave work early on Friday.

I also find the food at the Mensa (company dining hall) to be both convenient and delicious with 5 different choices at a very reasonable price. I also find it to be a great place to meet and interaction with other colleagues.

Most important ZF also has a wonderful program known as Students@ZF. This committee organizes trips and activities for all the interns. Some of the events include going to a Beach Party, meeting others student at a weekly stammtisch, sailing on the Bodensee, and visiting Europa Park (the largest in Germany). Of course, as someone who often “does too much in too little time,” I signed up for most of the activities and in this case, it was the best decision I’ve made.

In just a few days, I was really taken back by how welcoming my coworkers and friends are! If there’s one thing I learned this week, it would be to say YES to every single invite at work. In fact, this past weekend I’ve had the most delicious home cooked Pakistani curry with my friends, went on a run with my supervisor’s colleague, saw the UEFA Euro Cup (Germany vs Ukraine) in a small room packed with 40 people, and found great camaraderie with other interns as we dance the night away at a beach in Hagnau. Indeed, we’ve gotten quite a few stares due to our dance moves, which according to some German standard, is considered too wild.

And just when I thought that I’m too busy to do anything else, I have also recently join the Friedrichshafen Rowing Club as a way to practice my German and meet other members of the rowing community. I definitely had a great time getting to know my German rowing coach and felt a great improvement in my conversational skill as well as my confidence in such a short period of time. I also hope to compete at the Baden–Württemberg Regional championship that is coming up in six weeks!

Last but not least, this opportunity of a life time would not be possible without the resources from the University of Michigan German department and the assistance from Cultural Vistas in pairing me up with ZF and guiding me through the bureaucratic process of obtaining my visa work authorization. I am also extremely grateful for the Sturm Scholarship provided by the Sturm family through the German department as well as the international scholarship from the College of Engineering. I am where I am today because of my family, friends, and teachers. From the heart, I thank you all. Herzlichen Dank.

Get full updates and lots of photos at Tay's blog: