Derek Schwanz, a chemistry major at Wartburg, spent his summer abroad working in a research center. For 11 weeks, Schwanz took part in an internship in Karlsruhe, Germany.
“The internship consisted of a lot of experiments and lab work,” Schwanz said. “I primarily did lab research at a high security facility.”
The prospect of studying abroad was also an added bonus for Schwanz, who is originally from Inver Grove Heights, Minn.
“Since having the opportunity to travel to Germany during high school, I had been looking for a way to get back. This program allowed me to do that,” said Schwanz.
The program that Schwanz spoke of is part of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). DAAD funds another service called RISE (Research Internships In Science and Engineering). The course attracts undergraduate students living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, taking them to research centers across Germany.
Schwanz was one of 300 students selected from 1,800 applicants asked to participate in the DAAD RISE program. Dr. Daniel Walther, Wartburg history professor, introduced Schwanz to the internship opportunity.
“As the DAAD Research Ambassador in 2010-11, I shared with many departments opportunities for students and faculty to research, study, and intern in Germany,” Dr. Walther said. “Derek was one of three students who responded and he did apply that first year, but did not get in. He applied this past year and did make it into the program, which is a great honor, considering its highly competitive nature.”
The high prestige associated with the program will also assist Schwanz following his graduation from Wartburg.
“It was a way to see what life outside of college would be like,” said Schwanz, “Being able to list the DAAD RISE internship on my resume will certainly give me an advantage when applying to grad schools.”
Schwanz has completed a similar internship at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas two years ago. He said he viewed this past summer’s practicum as a time to grow personally.
“It sounds silly, but I did come back a changed person. For 11 weeks, it was just me. I knew no one there and was truly outside my comfort zone,” Schwanz said.
“On the weekends, I traveled by train around Germany and the surrounding countries. This changed my outlook and gave me a different perspective on how people lived.”
The experience did not end when Schwanz got back to the United States. He said he is currently writing a manuscript for submission to peer-reviewed journals.