Foreign adventure

As part of HELUKABEL‘s cooperation with Stuttgart Cooperative State University, three students were sent to subsidiaries in South Africa, Thailand and the USA. Here, they talk about their experiences.


USA

My name is Matthias Volkmer and as part of my business computer science degree I spent two months at HELUKABEL in the USA. There are 16 people in the office in Elgin, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. My job was to analyse the logistic processes and provide an evaluation of three software solutions with the aim of automating these tasks. For this reason, I started my internship in the warehouse where I was able to learn first-hand about their logistic operations. I also assisted at the HELUKABEL booth at IMTS, North America‘s largest manufacturing technology trade show, which was a real contrast to life in the office.

On the weekends I explored downtown Chicago. The Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier and Millennium Park were at the top of the list of things to see, of course. Another great experience was the view from one of the glass balconies in the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), the tallest building in the ‘Windy City‘. In the evenings, I often treated myself to a delicious deep-dish pizza which is similar to a quiche. As a keen sports fan, I had a great time watching various American football games, and I even went to see German basketball superstar Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks play the Chicago Bulls.

I really like the American way of life. The laid-back people, vastness of the country, and the grandeur of the cities makes it easy for me to imagine living in the USA one day. I would like to thank the HELUKABEL team, led by President Markus Dannheim, for this unique experience.


Thailand

Thailand was the first Asian country that I, Judith Frank, had been to. I now have several more gigabytes of photos, my notebook is several dozen pages longer, and my perception of the world has been extended by a few degrees. A colleague wanted to know if it was true that Germans work hard, but enjoy life to the fullest just as much. Compared to Thais, they do. In Germany, people tend to separate their professional and private lives, but in Thailand they are strongly intertwined. Employees eat, play sports and spend their weekends together. HELUKABEL Thailand is very much committed to the well-being of their employees. To build team spirit, there is collective meditation before work, and yoga in the afternoon.

The Thai language is a stressed language. Stressing a syllable differently in a word completely changes its meaning. My colleague Aei made such an effort to teach me Thai. We spent so much time trying to get me to stress the right syllable. They were probably too polite to say whether I really made any progress. Beauty is very important for Thais. Both men and women take care of their appearance and make an effort to stay fit. The women put on make-up very carefully when they arrive at the office, especially if they‘re expecting customers that day.

I really appreciate my colleagues giving me the opportunity to discover Thailand in the company of locals, rather than from the perspective of a ‘farang‘ (foreigner). I have experienced Thais as very patient people. Their consideration is remarkable. Despite all the warnings, I never experienced any danger, but rather a great willingness to help. I won‘t forget these encounters for a long time and am grateful for everything I experienced.


South Africa

My name is Max Pleiger and the time I spent in South Africa with HELUKABEL, was one of the best times of my life. When I arrived at Johannesburg airport, I was relieved that Managing Director Doug Gunnewegh was there to pick me up. I don‘t think I would have handled driving on the left side of the road. It took just as much time getting used to changing gears with my left hand. Even after several weeks at the office, I was still attempting to get into the car on the wrong side in the morning. HELUKABEL South Africa recently moved into a larger facility. My job was to present evaluations, assessments and suggestions for improvements to optimise the new warehouse processes. Before l left Germany, the experts in Hemmingen gave me a few tips on what I needed to look for.

All 34 staff members made me feel very welcome – and not only during working hours. Many of them made the effort to show me their country in the evenings and on weekends. For example, we went to Soweto (South Western Township) where we saw Nelson Mandela‘s house – something you must do to understand South African history. One of my most unforgettable memories was the ‘Braai‘ evening with a colleague‘s family. There were all types of barbecued steaks, and pab, which is a sticky kind of rice. Springbok, zebra and crocodiles often find their way onto the barbecue too. I had several adventures with Doug. Motocross is a passionate hobby of his, so we spent several wild weekends touring cross-country. Errol, the sales representative for the area in and around Cape Town, even invited me to spend a few days with him and his family.

My stay in South Africa was really an unbelievable experience. The circumstances with which some people live, made me realise that even simple things shouldn‘t be taken for granted. Above all though, I will remember the warmheartedness of my colleagues.