In the Land of Opportunity

Vegard spent three month in Raleigh at Schmalz USA during his machatronics course.

“As part of my dual mechatronics course, I spent three months in the USA, the "Land of Opportunity," during my second year of study.

The trip started with my fl ight from Stuttgart in April. I had to take care of my visa a number of months in advance alongside the course reading. Before applying for a visa, you have to fi ll out a number of different documents and apply for a passport and international driving license. After a more than eleven-hour fl ight with a stopover in Atlanta, the airport with the largest passenger volume in the world, I was brought to my new home in Raleigh by Schmalz employee Gary Vickerson.

Apart from the fi rst two weeks, in which I was able to learn about our products and the assembly facilities in the USA, I spent the rest of my stay in the offi ce. I had a diverse range of tasks. From long-term projects where I had to prepare research work, costings, comparisons with Schmalz Germany and documentation in the area of PLCs and electrical components for gripping systems (valves, vacuum switches, terminal blocks, cables, etc.) to spontaneous tasks such as quality control or the production of operating instructions for our gripping systems, my work essentially involved many areas of relevance to my studies. As a result, it was always interesting, I was able to learn new things and I was in demand. Alongside the CAD designs, one of the highlights of my tasks was to design, construct, produce, test and analyze a prototype used to handle boxes. You do not often get the chance to accompany a product from the initial idea, through in-house production to testing, and I really enjoyed the process.

My new colleagues were very friendly and ready to help. If there were any problems with communication, they were happy to explain things to me again and they also helped me to use new tools. For instance, my colleagues took me out for lunch on my fi rst workday. The choice of restaurants was also much greater than I imagined. There was something delicious to eat on practically every corner. An invitation to a baseball game was also a wonderful opportunity to talk to other Americans and learn more about this impressive country.

During the week, I did a lot in Raleigh itself and the surrounding area. For instance, I went jogging around Shelly Lake and Johnson Lake, and in the fi tness studio at the apartment. I also visited the downtown and the various museums and shopping malls. My weekends involved bigger excursions. Umstead Park near Durham and Uwharrie National Forest were wonderful destinations for a day trip in the outdoors. If you want to spend time in the mountains without fully giving up on city life, a trip out to Grandfather Mountain and Chimney Rock near the beautiful town of Asheville are a must.

Of course, visits to the American capital Washington DC and the metropolises of New York and Miami were not to be missed. As well as classic attractions like the White House, the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial, I found the Rockefeller Center with its wonderful view over the whole of New York and the bustling Ocean Drive to be very impressive. There is also always a lot going on at Times Square at any time of day. Something I really enjoyed was that I quickly got to know people from all over the world during my visits and had many new experiences.

The practical semester at our subsidiary abroad was a unique and wonderful chance to get to see the Schmalz company from another perspective and get to know it better. I am now much richer for my experiences."