UA starts exchange program

Matthew Wood

When the plant manager at Mercedes-Benz expressed to University of Alabama President Judy Bonner the need for German-speaking engineers in his company, the college of engineering collaborated to form a program which incorporated the study of mechanical, electrical and automative engineering with the study of the German language. Photo Courtesy of Adam Jones

Holley Long

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When the plant manager at Mercedes-Benz expressed to University of Alabama President Judy Bonner the need for German-speaking engineers in his company, the college of engineering collaborated to form a program which incorporated the study of mechanical, electrical and automative engineering with the study of the German language.

“Typically exchange programs attempt to improve intercultural skills by giving students exposure to a foreign culture,” Bharat Balasubramanian, the coordinator of the exchange program, said. “In this program, we are going two steps ahead. We want our students to gain an exposure to the German education system by taking engineering courses in a German medium of instruction. They have access to all of the engineering courses offered in German, and 
they can easily immerse themselves 
in the culture, because they are 
proficient in the language.”

Students in the program will first complete two years of engineering and German language course work at The University of Alabama, as well as an internship the summer before their sophomore year with Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance, Alabama.

The students will then travel to Hochschule Esslingen for one semester of course work and one semester of professional practice during their 
junior year.

Mercedes-Benz is not the only consumer in the program. Other industries in the Esslingen area include Daimler, Bosch and Behr.

Balasubramanian said the mission of the exchange program is to prepare students for the variety of German and multinational companies in the southeastern United States.

“The students work as interns in a German automotive company or supplier,” he said. “They get a deep insight into how a German company works, and we hope that when the students come back from their year abroad that they then go to work for a German multinational in Alabama or the Southeastern region.”