2006 PFIG Recipient Maya Kumazawa

Career Administrator

Maya Kumazawa
McIntire School of Commerce
German and Commerce Major
2008 Graduation Year

Internship: Ministry of Economics, State of Hessen

Notes on the first week

I have just finished my first few days interning at the Hessen Ministry of Economics, Transportation, and Urban Development in Wiesbaden, Germany. I spent my first day at an orientation in the nearby city of Frankfurt learning about the German work culture — which is vastly different from the US — and learning about how to settle into a foreign country. There, I met other interns from the US, mostly working for government agencies and striving to improve their German language skills.

My first workday was filled with lectures, conferences, and readings. I was given a spacious office with a computer, a telephone, and a great view; however, I did not have much time to spend in there. After being introduced to some of my co-workers, I was given a detailed lecture of the department I was to work for — the Department of Foreign Trade and Location Marketing — and was taught almost everything there was to know about the thriving economy of the state of Hessen. During my first conference, I was privileged enough to meet with the Minister of Economics and other distinguished members of Hessen. The parties present discussed with the minister the outcomes of a trade fair they had recently attended in Chicago. It seemed that it was overall a positive fair, which resulted in increases in foreign investments in Germany and strengthened bonds between Hessen and its sister-state, Wisconsin. However, it was difficult for me to follow the quickly-spoken German and the technical vocabulary that I was not yet familiar with. Throughout the remainder of the day, I participated in meetings with representatives from the Netherlands and from Peru, both of whom had interests in investing opportunities for small and middle sized businesses in Hessen.

I have not been given any concrete projects yet, but I know to look for various assignments after I get accustomed to the Ministry. I have kept myself busy by reading numerous information materials, researching the trade relationship between the Netherlands and Germany, getting used to the German keyboard, and attempting to communicate with my colleagues. I feel so privileged to work in this challenging and stimulating environment located in a monumental historic building in the heart of Wiesbaden. I look forward to a busy summer learning about foreign trade and investments, meeting the diverse citizens of Wiesbaden, and exploring the beautiful Rhein-Main region.

Midway

It is hard to believe how quickly this internship is passing by. After four weeks of participating in various outings and assignments, I feel like I have learned many new things and experienced life in the “real world.” One of the most memorable things I have been privileged to do, was to visit the state Parliament, which was recently in session. I observed heated debates and arguments about sales tax, violence in the schools, and organ donation. Outside of work, I found myself amidst an immense student-protest against the state, regarding next year’s planned initiation of university tuition. By participating in this internship, I have been able to both work with people directly involved with the state government and those ordinary citizens, who are affected by the government.

One of my first major tasks was to put together a report about investment opportunities in the state of Virginia. The purpose of this was for me to understand what is important for a potential business to invest in a new location. I became familiar with the opportunities and aid that businesses in Virginia have, and also, the kind of environment needed for an investment. Writing this comprehensive and in-depth report also made me concretely grasp the purpose of the Ministry.

Additionally, some members of the department are scheduling a trip to Seoul, where they will be helping companies from Germany expand internationally. I was asked to research and write a report about the city of Seoul, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, in order to give background information to those working in this field.

My position does not just revolve around helping out the Ministry. My learning experience is just as important for those with whom I work with. In order to improve my business German skills, I have had to complete a paper in German analyzing articles in the three major Frankfurt newspapers and comparing them with each other. The topic that I wrote my analysis about was the potential GM and Nissan-Renault merger. It was interesting to see how different the political aspects in each newspaper was and how they presented the same information. My boss has been kind enough to edit and help me improve my writing skills.

The World Cup taking place here has been such a good complement with my international work environment. I have attended meetings with representatives from all over the world, and the Ministry even gave officials from Russia tickets to a quarterfinal game in Frankfurt! (~I was jealous) Although the German soccer team did not make it to the final championship, it has been great keeping up with the tournament. The internship is definitely keeping me busy and working hard, but the overall experience of being in Germany has been quite an experience that I will always value in both my professional and personal life.

Final Reflections

Today is my last day of work, and I feel like I have accomplished a tremendous amount. For the last three weeks, I was placed into the Department of Economic Policy, and I became acquainted with a new group of colleagues. The reason for this was that my former boss and most of my colleagues went on summer vacation for three weeks (one of the highlights of working in Germany). In this department, I became familiar with economic policies in Germany, and one of my main tasks was to compare its social system with that of the United States. I met with two highly-intellectual economists three times a day for coffee, lunch, and snacks; and we had thorough discussions over Europe’s policies. One of the major issues facing Germany today is the prospective minimum wages that are to be implemented soon. There is great debate about how this will affect Germany’s economy. Similar to immigrant workers in the United States, Germany has many workers from Poland and eastern Europe, which make up a large proportion of the job market. Furthermore, minimum wages in Great Britain were recently made into law and has been seen as a success. I composed an extensive paper about how the minimum wage system works in the United States and drew comparisons from other nations of the EU as well. We discussed both the content of my report and my usage of German grammar.

I furthermore worked with the topic of health care reforms in Germany, Japan, and the United States. These major economies are all facing deficits in health care and are struggling to improve their systems. I put together charts with various statistics and facts about the three countries, so that my boss could utilize them for his work. When I wasn’t writing reports, I was given the most current and up-to-date information and statistics—not yet released to the public—about Germany and Hessen. It was interesting to observe my boss’s work. Aside from analyzing Hessen’s economy, he put together monthly reports for the ministry to read, which included current analyses of the economy.

For the two months that I have been here, I have been treated with respect and friendliness, and I feel that it made my experience wonderful. I have met some of the most intelligent and helpful people, who were always concerned with my well-being. All of the work was interesting and challenging, and not only did I take part in hearing the viewpoints and opinions of my German colleagues, I greatly improved my German listening and speaking skills daily. I hope that I will be able to do something like this again in the near future.