PEP Story: Internship in New York City? No Problem for Students from OWL – They Experience Diversity in the „Big Apple“


PEP Story: Internship in New York City? No Problem for Students from OWL – They Experience Diversity in the „Big Apple“

Each year, the New York office of Campus OWL – the network of the five public universities in OstWestfalenLippe – gives a group of students the opportunity to complete internships in the USA. Campus OWL New York collaborates with the German American Chamber of Commerce New York (GACCNY) as the visa sponsor. The participants of the current cohort are fascinated by the cultural richness of New York and describe their stay as challenging and enriching at the same time. Lena Thiesbrummel, a bachelor student at Paderborn University, is one of them and wrote this article after interviewing her fellow participants during her internship.

The group makes its way through Chinatown’s winding alleys, which are rather atypical for New York. Fragrant delicacies on every corner, people swarming around. During their orientation week, the seven students from OWL still experience the city through the visitor’s perspective. However, after a week to get settled, they begin their internships. The Professional Experience Program, PEP for short, offers the students the opportunity to experience the cultural and professional diversity of the United States.

New York, City of Diversity – PEP, Program of Diversity

The fields of work of the PEP participants could not be more diverse: Music producer meets wood engineer; linguist meets logistician. Instead of seeing these differences as an obstacle, the group grows together because they see the differences as an advantage – as diversity that enriches. The students agree that this diversity is a strength of the PEP program and the city.

Betül Arik is studying Applied Entrepreneurship at TH OWL in Detmold. „I wouldn’t have done the internship without PEP,“ she says, highlighting the program’s support. However, she says, one should not underestimate the effort one has to put into organizing such a project. Despite all this, she considers the internship and the stay in the U.S. a complete success. „New York is ‚the place to be‘, especially for the startup scene!“ she tells. Betül is doing her internship at the German Accelerator, an organization that helps founders enter the international market, located in the center of Manhattan. Together with the others, she has really arrived and settled in New York. She sees the participants‘ diverse fields of work as enriching and says, „It opens your eyes to new things.“

Ferris Fechner raves about New York’s ‚Little Dominican Republic‘ and about how naturally cultures live door to door in this city. He is studying political science and economics at Bielefeld University. „International understanding comes to life here,“ says Ferris. That is also true for his internship at the American Council on Germany. The organization promotes political and academic exchange between the two countries and strengthens ties between Germany and the US. Ferris experiences how cultures work for and with each other. His job: He writes executive reports and organizes events. In this way, he has also been able to exchange ideas with personalities such as prime ministers and entrepreneurs. „Through this internship I perceive the city much more authentically. I am not just a foreign tourist but a true part of the city for a short time.“

Valuable Exchange of opinions: „A program like this brings people together!“

During the orientation week at the end of April, the group was able to better get to know each other and New York. Ferris says, „It keeps you from just being thrown in at the deep end and gives you a group to share the experience with.“ The program includes seminars on American work culture, diversity in the workplace and one’s own professional development. The seminars help students find their footing in their internships. This „theory part“ is embedded in a varied cultural program that includes visits to museums and concerts as well as a visit to the United Nations to enrich the OWL students‘ experience. For Dr. Katja Simons, head of the program and executive director of the Campus OWL New York office, the emphasis on diversity is very important: „This coming together of different disciplines creates quite a lot of creative energy from which the participants can draw for a long time.“

Nicole Salvi is studying business law at Hochschule Bielefeld – University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSBI). She particularly appreciates the network she can build through PEP. „These are strong connections that will last for long after this time,“ she is convinced. Nicole is completing her internship at the New York office of Arvato Systems, an international IT company that is part of the Bertelsmann Group. She is excited about the skills this program brings her. The internship gives her a different perspective on ways of working and helps her explore new topics. „I can really get involved here,“ she says proudly. She learns an incredible amount about herself and is happy to be able to share these experiences with the other participants. „It’s an investment in yourself,“ she says, referring not only to the professional experience she is able to gain here.

„Big Apple“ as a Melting Pot of Culture – A Trip Around the World in Just One City

During their internship, the OWL interns use their evenings and weekends to further explore the surrounding area. Nicole has stumbled upon a dog café in the middle of Brooklyn, Betül is discovering culinary curiosities from around the world, and Nina has been exploring the city’s trendy bars in addition to taking a salsa class. It is always exciting, because the city is home to such a variety of people that everyone can find something for themselves. When the group reunites in Manhattan after the first month of their internships, they are overjoyed by seeing each other again. They exchange their first experiences over dinner in a typical American diner. The group laughs and seems like a group of old friends, because sharing these experiences bonds them together.

At this meeting, they also see Patrick Stachon again, who is doing his internship at TÜV SÜD near Boston. Patrick is studying production and logistics management at HSBI, and even though he likes New York as the others do, he wants to put in a good word for Boston: „The mix of the beautiful historic city and the many young people – it has a charm all its own.“ He enjoys that he can ride his bike to the Atlantic Ocean in just half an hour. Patrick also really likes his internship; he is given a lot of credit and is responsible for developing key figures for the efficiency of projects. He especially appreciates the exchange with his colleagues. „I’m glad that the PEP program is giving me this experience.“

Jasper Klein is a prospective sound engineer from Detmold University of Music. At the Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, he is given the opportunity to look over the shoulders of the big names in the music business. For him, it is very enriching to observe the processes of recording sessions, and he appreciates the professional exchange he gets with his colleagues. „Without PEP, I wouldn’t have thought I could do this!“ Jasper really enjoys the group dynamic. That is why he is glad that the interns often do something together on weekends. On his days off, he likes to explore the city on foot, either by jogging through Central Park or walking along the Hudson River at sunset. The highlight for him as a pianist are the jam sessions where he can play together with jazz musicians from all over the world.

International work experience as a unique opportunity

Most of the internships take place in New York, but in addition to Patrick, Nina Drabon also had to make one shorter trip after the orientation week. Her internship takes place at the wood processing company Eastern Millwork in New Jersey. She holds a bachelor’s degree in wood engineering and is now studying interior design at TH OWL in Lemgo. Nina really enjoys her internship, explaining excitedly: „I’m learning all the technical vocabulary in English, and I get to directly apply my newly learned knowledge of 2D designs and cost estimates!“ After work, she enjoys heading into the hustle and bustle of New York; she has taken the city to her heart. For Nina, it is not the first experience abroad, but it is a very special one: „It would have been very difficult to gain work experience abroad without PEP.“

The participants of Campus OWL’s Professional Experience Program are as diverse as the different neighborhoods of New York. And just like this dazzling city, it just fits together. Everyone contributes to it in their own way. Nina sums it up as follows: „This experience is incredibly enriching. When going to concerts, I learn things about music from Jasper. I annoy everyone with architectural knowledge when I walk through the city, and Ferris explains the United Nations to us during our visit – it’s unique and amazing!“

While the current round of internships is still underway, interested students from the five OWL universities have until August 13, 2023 to apply for the next round in 2024.

Editor’s note: The students are speaking for themselves in this article and not for their internship providers.
Author: Lena Thiesbrummel (PEP intern at Campus OWL, New York City)

This is the PEP

The Professional Experience Program (PEP) was launched by the „Campus OWL New York Liaison Office“ in 2022 to give students from East Westphalia-Lippe (OWL) the opportunity to gain international professional experience during an internship in the New York metropolitan region. The program begins with an introductory skills seminar week in New York. During this time, participants learn in seminars and workshops how to expand their professional network and sharpen their job profile. They also gain insights into transatlantic relations and topics such as diversity in the workplace. The big advantage of the program: It brings together students from the five public universities in OWL from different fields of study, thus giving them the opportunity to exchange ideas and share their experiences during and after their internship.


PEP 2023: The participants

  • Betül Arik: Applied Entrepreneurship (Master of Science), OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • Nina Drabon: Interior Architecture (Master of Arts), OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • Ferris L. Fechner: Political Science and Economics (Bachelor of Arts), Bielefeld University
  • Jasper Klein: Sound Engineering (Master of Music), Detmold University of Music
  • Nicole Salvi: Business Law (Bachelor of Laws), Hochschule Bielefeld
  • Patrick Stachon: Production and Logistics Management (Master of Arts), Hochschule Bielefeld
  • Lena Thiesbrummel: English and Music Education (Bachelor of Education); English Literary & Cultural Studies and English Linguistics (Bachelor of Arts), Paderborn University and Detmold University of Music