I came to Germany from Iran in 2012 to start work on my master’s degree in Energy Technology at Brandenburg Technical University. My course of studies includes a mandatory internship and, of course, also a master’s thesis. Because my command of German was still rather limited, it was a challenge for me to find a suitable internship and a topic for my master’s thesis.
Searching for a Thesis Topic
While browsing through the SMA Job Portal, I came across the topic of “Integration of Photovoltaic Systems in the Grid,” which immediately inspired me. Because of the increasingly decentralized generation of electricity, integrating renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics and wind energy into the electricity grid is a key issue in electrical engineering and in the energy transition in Germany. I immediately submitted my application material, which can also be done in English at SMA. Less than two weeks after applying, I was invited in for a job interview. Although there was adequate time to prepare for the interview, I was still concerned that my German would not be good enough.
“We welcome international students at SMA”
The atmosphere was so friendly during the job interview with my future supervisor and a Human Resources representative that I asked whether it would be okay to conduct the interview in English. “No problem—we welcome international students here,” the HR representative replied. I was relieved that the conversation could be conducted in English. We went over various potential thesis topics during the meeting. In the end I was able to choose the one I liked best. The HR representative explained that there are many international students at SMA, and that there is a weekly German class and a joint lunch for international employees.
Two weeks later, I got the good news that I could do my internship and also complete my master’s thesis at SMA. The HR representative was very helpful. She was available to answer any questions I had about the contract. In addition, she gave me some helpful information for finding a place to live in Kassel.
“We‘re all on a first-name basis here”
I expected the first day of my internship to be very stressful, but within the first five minutes I found that my worries were unfounded. After I arrived at SMA, I was greeted by my supervisor. “We‘re all on a first-name basis here and use the informal ’du’ (you) in German, like a family,” he said. My supervisor then showed me all the buildings and rooms at SMA that were important for me. In addition, the Campus Relations team invited all new students to a welcome reception. There, I met all the other students who had recently started their internships or theses, and got additional information about SMA.
In my first official meeting with my supervisor, he explained what my future responsibilities would be and assured me that it would be possible to change these tasks if they did not meet my expectations. When I asked what time I should start in the morning, he answered my question with a question of his own: “What time do you most prefer to work?” And then he went on to say that work time is flexible and that I could decide this on my own.
“Please come by if you have any questions”
All of my colleagues are very nice and helpful. “Please come by if you have any questions.” You hear this very frequently at SMA, and you can always find someone to consult. The departments have a great interest in seeing student‘s progress on their thesis, and there are regular presentations on the topics, so that people can exchange ideas with others.
I sit with sixteen other students in a large room where we all have computers and work places of our own. This means we can always exchange ideas with each other and help each other out, which is a real advantage. There are also regular colloquia where students present the thesis that they worked on at SMA. In addition, we have regular get-togethers outside of work. For example, I participated in a run through Kassel with the other students, and we had barbeques together in the summer. The get-togethers help students from other departments and divisions get to know each other. All in all, I am really enjoying my time at SMA and highly recommend an internship or thesis work here.
Shahab Asadollah (guest author)
Shahab, a native of Iran, is currently writing his thesis at SMA Germany, as part of the Grid Integration team in the PV Systems Technologies department.