Guten Tag, Opportunity

Guten Tag, Opportunity

Stephen Della Lana, College of Charleston#Opportunity: it’d be a fitting hashtag for one of the College’s most effective – and least known – internship programs. Listed formally as the Summer Internship Program in Germany, this three-month excursion is part immersion experience, part on-the-job training – and all impact when it comes to students’ post-graduation employment prospects.

“The cultural exposure that these students get and the advancement of their language skills are inherently valuable on their own,” says Stephen Della Lana, senior instructor in the Department of German and Russian Studies, who has managed the program since 2003. He also notes that there are numerous scholarships to underwrite the costs of the program, so it provides a chance that’s hard to pass up: “If you’re a student, this is really an exciting opportunity.”

Students spend the first month of the program in Berlin, where they live with a German family and intensively study the language at the Carl Duisberg Centren, an international training center.

“Both experiences ramp up their fluency,” says Della Lana.

Then, the students move on to their internship and work for the next two months with whatever company, institution or organization they’ve been assigned.

And this is where the program plays into individual students’ specific interests. Together with the nonprofit Cultural Vistas, Della Lana works to find the most appropriate internship for each individual student. From a nonprofit that addresses child labor issues, to the marketing department of a major pharmaceutical company, to a summer camp in Bavaria: There are opportunities just about anywhere you can imagine.

“It’s very important that we find internships that fit each student’s academic interests and career goals,” says Della Lana, noting that – although international business majors make up a sizable percentage of the participants – students from across all majors have participated and benefited from the program. “The students who apply and ultimately participate come from a variety of academic disciplines. Over the years, we’ve had philosophy majors and those from international business, history, geology and biology. Regardless of their discipline, the hands-on experiences they get are remarkable.”

Take, for example, the student who interned in logistics and accounting for automotive-electronics giant Audiovox: Upon graduation, he used that experience and connections he made there to secure a job with Pierburg, a German firm in Greenville, S.C., that supplies parts to auto manufacturers. And then there’s the student who interned at a hospital in Lennestadt, graduated with a B.S. in biology and went on to become a research associate at the Medical University of South Carolina. And don’t forget the student who returned from the program, graduated with a B.A. in German and a B.S. in international business and moved back to Germany to work in management in the automotive industry there.

In fact, many of the 86 students who’ve participated in Della Lana’s Summer Internship Program in Germany since it was launched more than a decade ago have gone on to fulfilling careers in their individual fields

It makes you think: Given the pivotal impact this program has on so many students, maybe we should just tag it #Success.