I've already travelled quite a lot, mostly I spent summers and autumns abroad, but I never had the chance to go to warmer places in winter. I learned about Erasmus+ in 2018 in my first academic year, but somehow, I found no time for a two-month internship.
When I set foot inside the faculty again in October 2019, I immediately remembered the possibility of an internship abroad. From the first day, I had plans to go abroad for experience this year. When I received the email, I quickly found myself in the administration office where I started arranging the necessary documents with Klemen helping me. He proposed an agency to help me with the accommodation and quickly finding a company to get the experience consistent with my education. I wrote a CV and a motivational letter and quickly got the answer from UPS saying they’d be happy to take me.
In December 2019, I arranged the necessary paperwork related to the apartment and on 19 January left for sunny Malta via Italy. I landed in the evening and was greeted at the airport by a driver who took me to the apartment. The next day I went to the headquarters of the agency, and then to an introductory meeting in the company, where I was informed to have my internship the next day at STMicroelectronics.
The next day I took a bus to the UPS offices, where after an introductory meeting and coffee, I went with my mentor to STMicroelectronics, a French-Italian manufacturer of electronics and semiconductors based in Geneva. Founded in 1987, it is the largest manufacturer of microchips in Europe, with offices or production units in 38 countries around the world. The company is present in Malta as one of the largest employers, employing around 1500 people, and the majority of workers are employed in the manufacturing plant.
I was working in the logistics department. As soon as I entered the office, I felt positive energy, met my mentor Daniel and other employees. I was mainly engaged in the reception of consignments in the first week.
I spent the first two weeks without roommates, so I used the time to explore Malta. I checked the internet for all the attractions that Malta offers and then made a plan what to see. I dedicated free weekends to exploring. I managed to see Poppeye Village, Blue Grotto, the old capital of Mdina, the current capital of Valetta, St. Julians, the fishing town of Marsaxlokk and Marsascala, Mellieha and Golden Bay. There is much more greenery in the north of the island around the sights than in the south, so I took advantage and walked a lot, finding great overlooks and huge cliffs. Unfortunately, I did not manage to visit the island of Gozo because of the coronavirus outbreak, as the authorities banned travelling. From the very beginning of my stay in January, the temperatures were around a pleasant 15 degrees up to 23 degrees, so walking around Malta without a jacket was an everyday thing.
Continuing the work
After the first week, I quickly adapted to the new environment. In 8 weeks, I carried out various works in the logistics department – updating HS codes, communication with warehouse in SAP programme and communication with the driver, I checked the loading and unloading at the airport, learned about various types of transport containers, booked flights, printed labels for shipments, searched for alternative air services, and made air waybills. All colleagues spoke fluent English, and I even managed to learn some Maltese words. The Maltese people are very loud, and I had the impression sometimes that they had been fighting, and then they explained to me that this is perfectly normal in Malta. I felt at home in my office, most of my colleagues love to travel and we quickly found common topics to discuss in our free time. The mentor in the company is of my age, which helped me a lot, because we looked at things from a similar perspective. I was learning new things every day and was asking colleagues about the workflow, and they were letting me know that they were happy to answer all my questions.
Malta and the coronavirus
I remember when my boss warned me during the lunch, as early as in the end of January, that the virus would spread from China and we will soon begin to feel the problems of logistics too. In the third week of my stay in Malta, Lufthansa cancelled all the flights to China, both freight and passenger, and we started looking for alternatives. Many shipments stopped in Hong Kong and waited there for a few days before being released.
Sometime in the middle of February, when I arrived at 7:50 in the gatehouse, where I got my door-unlocking card, they also started a mandatory body temperature measurement for everyone who entered the company. At that time, I began to realise that the situation was more serious than it initially seemed. At the end of my working day, I went to the pharmacy to buy enough disinfectants for the rest of my stay, while the masks were no longer available. I respected the preventive measures and did not let myself be disturbed in my everyday tasks.
In early March, the matter became chaotic. The store I was mostly buying at, was literally emptied. Since I had no flight ticket to return home, I decided to book it as soon as possible.
I continued my work as usual, but was doubting more and more that I would be able to stay in Malta until the end of my contract. Soon, my roommates from the Netherlands, due to the closure of the schools where they had their internship, decided to go home, as they received such instructions from home. After talking to my school coordinator, I was instructed to leave the island as soon as possible. So, I bought a new flight ticket the same day for the first available flight back home.
Thus I went to the airport at 4:20 on Monday morning, and waited for the flight. It turned out I caught one of the last flights to Vienna as the airport was closed the next day. I was happy and grateful to be home and that I have managed to do 8 weeks of internship, although I would have liked to stay until the end.
Do the internship abroad!
Despite the bad luck, I warmly recommend mobility within the Erasmus+ programme to anyone who wants to gain valuable experience, improve their English skills and get to know foreign cultures. It is a unique opportunity to combine pleasant and useful. You work during the week and gain experience, and explore the sights and culture of the country on the weekends.