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iPRAKTIKUM offers undergraduate students language skills development and international connections

First undergraduate internship placement results in job offer for student

Tianhao Wang and his supervisor Stephan Anders.

Tianhao Wang and his supervisor Stephan Anders, Meisterplan’s Director of North America, at Meisterplan’s downtown Toronto office. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

Tianhao Wang started the new school year with a job offer after a successful internship facilitated by an internationalization and experiential learning initiative offered by the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures.

The fourth-year Faculty of Arts & Science student recently completed a summer internship at Meisterplan, a German software company with a downtown Toronto office.

Not only was the internship Wang’s first job in a professional setting – it’s one he will continue. The company offered him a part-time freelance position to continue working throughout his final year of studies.

Wang was connected to the Meisterplan position through iPRAKTIKUM, an initiative of the German department which connects students studying German with internship opportunities at local organizations and business subsidiaries from German-speaking countries.

I’m fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English, so being able to read and communicate in German would help me obtain first-hand information from China, North America and Europe.

“The internships are intended to promote global fluency and allow students to practice their German language skills on the job,” said Stefan Soldovieri, an associate professor of German who leads iPRAKTIKUM with the department’s senior secretary and graduate assistant, Helena Juenger, who brings extensive experience in coordinating international student exchanges to the program. “In addition to providing valuable networking opportunities and practical experience at home, internships with international German organizations can open up future training and career opportunities abroad.”

Wang’s internship was the first GTA-based undergraduate placement completed through iPRAKTIKUM. Launched in 2017, the initiative first provided internships for graduate students to help German departments in local high schools.

Undergraduate internships can take place in the summer or during the school year, and are accredited in the form of a Co-Curricular Record (CCR) or as part of the iPRAKTIKUM Experiential Learning and Internationalization Internship course offered by the German department.

Tianhao Wang at a laptop and his supervisor Stephan Anders sitting beside him at a desk

The internships are open to all students studying German at U of T, meaning iPRAKTIKUM benefits students from a wide range of disciplines. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

The internships are open to all students studying German at U of T, meaning iPRAKTIKUM benefits students from a wide range of disciplines. Wang is completing the Mathematical Application in Economics and Finance specialist program with a minor in German, and plans to pursue a Master of Business Analytics degree internationally after his undergraduate studies.

Wang’s interest in studying German was sparked by a family road trip through Europe that brought him to southern Germany. As a dominant player in the European economy, Wang thought that knowledge of the German language would provide him with well-rounded communication skills for an increasingly interconnected global economy.

“I’m fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English, so being able to read and communicate in German would help me obtain first-hand information from China, North America and Europe,” said Wang.

Wang was drawn to iPRAKTIKUM for the opportunity to expand his German business vocabulary, practice his conversational skills, and glean insights into German work culture.

“In my opinion, the best way to learn a new language is to actively communicate with people that speak the language. There isn’t a strong presence of German culture in Toronto, so iPRAKTIKUM provides students the best chance to learn German outside the classroom and connect with local and international German communities,” he said.

The Meisterplan position interested him because it offered experience in project portfolio management, which he expects to use in his future career. Meisterplan – a subsidiary of itdesign GmbH, a software company headquartered in Tübingen, Germany – developed an innovative SaaS tool that helps project portfolio managers and organizations manage multiple projects efficiently.

“Before the internship, I only had a basic idea of project portfolio management, but now I’m able to understand the detailed processes, methods and terminologies involved,” Wang explained.

Tianhao brought a fresh perspective and outside-of-the-box thinking that helped us look at aspects of our software in ways we hadn’t thought of before. We’re glad to continue having him on board.

Although Wang’s Meisterplan colleagues in North America spoke English on the job, he was able to improve his German language skills through email correspondence with colleagues in Germany. He also regularly used the company’s internal software, which is in German.

Throughout the internship, Wang provided market research and back-end customer service that was highly valued by the team.

“Tianhao brought a fresh perspective and outside-of-the-box thinking that helped us look at aspects of our software in ways we hadn’t thought of before,” said Meisterplan’s Director of North America and Wang’s supervisor, Stephan Anders. “We’re glad to continue having him on board.”

Wang is looking forward to more opportunities to practice his German on the job as he continues at Meisterplan throughout the year.

The German department continues to offer undergraduate and graduate internships through iPRAKTIKUM, and will expand the initiative next summer to include opportunities in Germany.