Jonathan L.S. Castillo-Reminick graduated in 2009 with his Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. While a student at ERAU, Jonathan had a strong interest in working and living abroad. After completing a self-created internship with MTU Aero Engines in Munich, Germany, he helped establish an engineering internship recruiting relationship between MTU and ERAU that continues today. From his experience at MTU Aero Engines, he built a network of contacts that helped him to find career opportunities living and working abroad after graduation.
Tell us about your current position and how you obtained this opportunity.
I currently work as a Stress and Aerodynamics Engineer at Assystem Germany GmbH in Munich. They are an engineering subcontractor based in France (the name translating to “Ace System”), and the aerospace division in which I now work used to be subsidiary of MTU Aero Engines but became a part of Assystem in 2011.
After finishing my degree at ERAU, I arranged an internship at MTU Aero Engines in their Turbine Aerodynamics department. Because I had used a number of their published research papers in my Detail Design project, I was familiar with many of the technologies they were developing. Following that internship, I continued to work as a Student Employee, first directly at MTU, then as an External Employee through Assystem. After the project with MTU ended, I started working on Stress Analysis projects for Rolls-Royce Germany. There were numerous complications in writing my contracts along the way because of my visa status, but thanks to very helpful and flexible supervisors and the German immigration authorities, I’m now well on my way to earning residency.
How did your overseas internship prepare you for your current position?
My very first internship was during my studies at MTU. This contributed to opening up future opportunities in two critical ways: becoming intimately familiar with jet engines and learning German. My first internship was on the production floor, so English was a rarity, as was textbook German, because most spoke the strong Bavarian dialect. Thus I was forced to start speaking quickly. On a technical level, working on the production floor gave me insight into parts of the engine and their different manufacturing methods. Of course having already worked for the company, albeit in an unrelated position, was probably beneficial too.
Overseas positions require a Curriculum Vitae. Is there anything in particular students should highlight on this document?
CVs, in my experience, vary from country to country. The first thing to remember is to leave out the “Objective” line as seen on U.S. resumes. Education and relevant work experience should be on the front page–and yes–two pages is perfectly normal, even for entry-level applicants. When applying internationally, remember that education systems differ across the globe, so make sure you communicate how many years your degree takes and what the grades mean. For example: you might have a 3.8, but a 4.0 is failing in Germany!! Let them know 4.0 is the best attainable grade.
Also, don’t forget the meaning of “Curriculum Vitae”–Latin for “the course of life.” List relevant and also interesting things you have done or accomplished in life, such as living in different places, learning languages, hobbies, etc. Stays (not just vacations) abroad are especially seen in high regard, as is community service.
What were some of the challenges you faced moving outside the U.S. and adapting to your new position?
The most critical part of working overseas is also the most basic element: moving. Unless you plan on working within a few flying or driving hours of home or somewhere familiar, the act of uprooting your life can be hard and traumatic–not just for you, but also for loved ones and friends. Because I come from an international family, this was not a problem for me personally, but I have many friends for whom it was. I have seen how this is the single most challenging part of moving. Some made the move and stayed, some left after a year or two, and some never made it over once they realized the implications it would have. Consider this deeply and honestly.
Aside from that, there are the usual issues of the different stages of culture shock that people go through: language barriers, eating differently, and different perspectives on the world. I was confronted with all sorts of new things that are normal in Germany, but at best eccentric in the U.S. Some of it may sound ridiculous at first, but the most important thing is to keep an open mind and never stop asking “why?” – Why are so many Germans sporty? Why are they so concerned about sustainability when they’re already the most efficient country on the planet? Why are they so sensitive about their Nazi past? Why are they such big fans of U.S. culture but not of our politics?
Which brings me to the third most important part of living in a different culture: don’t be shy about your own! For example, don’t let people get you down about “bad American beer.” There are many wonderful beers in the U.S. As an American, I have had to deal with all sorts of criticism from people that are dissatisfied with our foreign policy. Make it clear that they have a right to their opinion but that you don’t single handedly run the country. Every country has blemishes in its past, so don’t be afraid to stand up for the U.S.A.!
What advice do you have for students wanting to work/live abroad?
Looking for work overseas is very similar to looking for work in the States. Research companies well and write directed and purposeful applications. Establish contact with someone at the company and follow up on that. Networks that are built internationally are very useful, because you never know who knows who and who might be important to you later. As you may have noticed, a healthy career usually needs a good deal of Vitamin C–Connections. Don’t know anyone at a company? Not a problem, contact their HR, see if they’re holding a seminar at a university, read up on their accomplishments and see if you catch a name.
Universities abroad also hold career fairs just like at ERAU, and nothing stops you from browsing websites. Find the website of a career fair in the country you’re interested in and see which companies operate there–you might be surprised! As English is the working language around the world and international students are everywhere, almost every site is also in English.
Back at home, be sure to turn over every rock, because you never know where a golden opportunity lies. Use all of the resources you have!