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Doing a placement abroad during an internship – a PORRian reports back

Fenja Herden (21) is currently doing an internship as an industrial clerk at PORR Building Construction department, eastern region, Berlin. She is now in her second year of training. And she's also something of a pioneer: in April 2022, she did an internship abroad in Malta as a way of broadening her horizons and getting a sense of the bigger picture in her work as an aspiring industrial clerk. As a training organisation, PORR supported Fenja’s move. We were curious to find out about her experience of working abroad and what she was looking forward to most about returning to her apprenticeship at PORR.

Fenja at her workplace at PORR Building Construction in Berlin. © Fenja Herden / PORR

Why did you opt for an apprenticeship to become an industrial clerk?

I actually wanted to go to university, but I was sure that I wanted to do something hands-on, so I got some advice. When the apprenticeship for the position of industrial clerk was suggested to me, I took a closer look at what the job involved and realised that it would allow me to play to my strengths in maths and budget planning.

How did you first hear about PORR as a training company?

When I was looking for training companies, PORR was one of the places that people suggested and it made a good impression. I took a look at the website and decided to try my luck. The sent me a nice email inviting me to an interview. They gave me a warm welcome and I met my future instructor.

You did a placement abroad. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The vocational college offers apprentices in their second year of training the opportunity to apply for a one-month placement abroad with GoEurope, an Erasmus+ partner. There was a list of countries to choose from. I decided on Malta, got accepted and flew out there in April.

A placement had been found in advance for me at a consulting firm, so I worked there for a month. The tasks weren’t nearly as demanding as my job in Berlin, but the experience gave me an insight into the company and the working culture in Malta. I also got to improve my English language skills.

What role did PORR play in your placement abroad? How did it go, and what did your colleagues think?

PORR was on board right from the start and everything went smoothly. This was new to them, so everything had to be sorted out, but they were completely supportive. I’m very grateful. In Malta I found that lots of apprentices from other companies are unable or simply not allowed to take up this opportunity, as their employers don’t want them doing it.

My colleagues here in Berlin were all very happy for me, even though they had to find a way of covering my work. My team even asked me to send postcards!

What was your favourite experience during your placement abroad?

To be honest, it was the office dog, a golden retriever that brought joy to everyone. I loved seeing him every day. Apart from that, the team were really friendly, helpful and understanding. If any issues came up or I forgot how to say things in English and needed to rewrite what I’d done, they would always help me out.

They even organised a special event for me. In Malta, people bake traditional animal- or heart-shaped “figolli” (marzipan biscuits) at Easter and decorate them. We organised a competition for small teams to create the most beautifully decorated figolli, with points awarded at the end. My team didn’t get the highest score in the “beautifully decorated” category, but we did win for “teamwork” – and that’s much better, isn't it?

After work I had enough time to travel around the island and visit the most gorgeous spots in Malta.

After all those wonderful experiences abroad, were you still pleased to be returning to your internship at PORR? Was there anything you were looking forward to in particular?

Definitely! I missed the rest of the construction site team and my own workspace most of all. In Malta, I really came to appreciate my quiet workplace back in Berlin because there we had to work in a big open-plan office, where the background noise made it much harder to concentrate. And our new Fischerstrasse 8-11, 10317 Berlin construction project has just started and I’m bursting with energy!

Is there anything you learned during your time abroad that will serve you well in future?

More than anything, I realised that there are lots of different ways to achieve your goals and it’s a good idea to think outside the box, as other countries with different working cultures have ways of doing things that can have positive results – by strengthening team spirit, for instance.

Where do you see yourself professionally in ten years?

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I’d like to stay at PORR and carry on working towards my career goals as an industrial clerk. Beyond that, I’m also interested in studying civil engineering at university. I think the combination of commercial and technical expertise could be a real asset. I’m excited to see what doors PORR can open for me in my career, whether on the commercial or the technical side.

We wish you much success in your career! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.


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