Introduce yourself! What brought you to Iowa State?
My name is Jacob, and I’m a junior at ISU. I grew up on a farm and always wanted to go into agriculture, so I came to ISU to first study agricultural business, and then I switched to agronomy. I threw German in there because I wanted some foreign language that’s different than what employers would normally see.
Where in Germany where you placed?
My first two months, I was placed in Cologne and then the next ten months I was in Stuttgart.
How did you go about securing an internship?
Personally, with my location and my major, it was really hard to find an internship. Eventually I talked to my tutor who had a connection with this guy who ran a garden. I talked to him really casually; it was barely an interview, and I got hired on the spot.
What unique opportunities did you have with this program?
There were a few different things. There was the chance to get in touch with the local state Bundestag representative, and a lot of people with my group looked up who it was and got a picture. We got to see some of the EU governmental stuff in Bonn. We actually got to sit in on a Bundestag meeting, which was pretty interesting, especially with the AfD (far-right party in Germany) being in the Bundestag this year it got a little heated, so that was fun to watch.
What was the most challenging part of your experience?
There’s a lot of smaller challenges throughout the whole thing, and I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot of stress trying to find your way around. I thought it was a really good balance because they basically just assign you to a tutor and say “okay, you’re going here, have fun and if you actually need help, here’s someone you can contact.” So, there’s a lot of independence in the program and it’s really easy to go your own way, but at the same time they’re not just ditching you in a foreign country and saying “good luck.”
Any advice for people who want to apply?
The biggest advice I have is don’t tell yourself you’re not going to make it. The biggest thing that will get you into that program, as far as I’ve found, is being different. I was just some farm kid studying agronomy, not really the kind of person that would make most places go “oh that’s really a stellar example; we need him in the program”, but there aren’t that many farm kids that go on the program.
It sounds like they definitely want diversity.
Oh absolutely. They were always saying, “Please Midwesterners, we want more of the middle. We want more Iowans, so try to promote this because we want more of you.” They get a lot of applicants from the coasts and they don’t get quite as many from the Midwest. There’s definitely room for all sorts of majors and they’re always looking for something that sets you apart from the rest of the group.
Jacob Eilers spent the last year in Germany with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals program. The program is funded by the US and German governments and sends 75 Germans and 75 Americans to the opposite country. The year is broken up into two months of intensive language learning, four months at a university, and five months at an internship. For more information visit the CBYX website.