Our RPTU Story

From a semester abroad to a traineeship: How one thing can lead to another

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Kristina Martin is a recent graduate of RPTU. The student, who has always enjoyed working, has an eventful 2023 behind her. It began with a semester abroad in the USA, which led her via detours to her trainee position at a creative agency, which she is now starting with a Bachelor's degree in Social and Communication Sciences in her pocket. She told our campus reporter Lena Frohn about her time in the USA and how it ultimately helped her choose a career.

How did you come up with the idea of doing a semester abroad?

Like many things in the past year and a half, it was a practical coincidence (laughs)... My friend had been awarded a football scholarship in the USA, which prompted me to start looking into studying abroad. At the time, I was still in my third semester here in Landau, so it was the perfect time for a change of scenery. I therefore continued my studies at Rhodes College in Tennessee from summer 2022 to the beginning of 2023.

Were you able to keep to your regular study schedule in the USA?

That was a big issue for me. I tried to replace the German courses with their American counterparts as best I could, but the education systems are very different. Nevertheless, it was important for me to make progress with my studies during my semester abroad. That's why I had to go to the lecturers in Germany and ask them to give me credit in Germany for the courses I attended in the USA. Sometimes I was a bit nervous about asking them, but in the end I was always met with a sympathetic ear. 

How did your life in Memphis differ from your life in Landau? 
Originally, I come from a very sheltered area in Germany. Memphis is in the south of the USA, which is definitely noticeable in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, I feel that many of the clichés about this area are exaggerated. Yes, everyone carries guns there in plain sight, but you get used to that, to be honest. I found the contrast between rich and poor a much stronger culture shock. Memphis is particularly affected by this inequality. This contrast was heightened by the fact that Rhodes College is a private one. There, all life takes place on campus, which is closed off and under security surveillance. From halls of residence and supermarkets to clubs, cafés and a pool, there is everything on campus. A golf course was even being built while I was there. Whenever we went into the city, it was like entering another world ... 

And how is student life different? 

I found studying to be much more time-consuming. I only had three courses a semester, but they were three to four times a week. In addition, I had to hand in essays for every lesson, which were corrected and graded. This meant that you had to deal with the topics very intensively, which I liked. 

Did you still have enough free time? 

Yes, definitely. My life in the USA was very carefree. I went to all kinds of fraternity parties and went on trips to neighbouring cities. I felt a bit like High School Musical because I had no responsibilities or serious deadlines. However, the level of education in the USA is much lower, which is why I felt underchallenged at times. 

And yet the amount of time you spent studying was high? How does that fit together? 

The system focusses much more on the individual. There is a maximum of 20 people in the classes and no frontal teaching. Instead, we sat in a circle and talked about the literature we had read. The crazy thing is that every person actually gets involved. In the "Political Philosophy" course, for example, this way of working was extremely challenging for me because all the complex thoughts I heard and read were also in another language. What I thought myself was added in German. I found this very difficult at first and had to explain to the lecturers that English is not my first language. In the end, that was no longer a problem for me. 

What happened to you after your semester abroad? 

I moved back to my home town of Mainz after my semester abroad. Because I didn't want to let the four months until the start of the semester in Landau pass unused, I decided to do two internships there. Firstly, I spent five weeks at ZDF, more specifically at 3sat's Kulturzeit programme. Immediately afterwards, I was drawn to SWR for two months. This in turn led to a job as a student editorial assistant. From then on, I was employed as a student assistant in the "Regional Entertainment and Film Formats" editorial department. 

What exactly did you do in your internships? 

At 3sat, I was allowed to take over the cultural tips, which was fun. I was able to decide for myself which video and audio material to use and write my own texts. As I'm a big fan of the programme, this insight was particularly exciting. At SWR, I wasn't just allowed to write texts, but also to prepare the filming and sit in the editing room. As the internship included a few work shadowing sessions, I also got a little insight into online editorial offices or the distribution of the ZDF media library. 

How did this period help you with your career choice?  
Although I enjoyed the work a lot, I don't want to be in front of or behind the camera in the long term. I still really enjoy the combination of text, sound and image, so I started to take a serious interest in corporate communications. With the two internships in television, I actually just wanted to test whether I felt comfortable in broadcasting. However, I realised that I couldn't be as creative there as I would like to be. The content is relatively strongly orientated towards the audience and the ratings. I now have a trainee position at a creative agency that produces content for internal and external corporate communications. 

You've got quite a chain reaction behind you. Do you think your plan would look similar if you hadn't done the semester abroad? 

Spending time abroad was a big dream of mine. If I hadn't done it, I certainly wouldn't have studied for seven semesters, but I also wouldn't have done the internships and therefore the jobs wouldn't have materialised. Due to the fact that some courses are only offered once a year, my study plan has changed somewhat, so that I have now exceeded the standard period of study. However, my CV would have been much emptier. For me, the semester abroad was definitely worth it. 

RPTU offers study abroad programmes at several US universities and many others around the world. As a rule, you must apply for a semester abroad and be enrolled in at least your third semester. You can find help with planning, financing and implementation at the Department of International Affairs. 

Text: Lena Frohn


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