Written by Mary Margaret Lyle
Kevin Harrow, a Textile Engineering major and German minor at the Wilson College of Textiles, spent six months abroad working in Germany at the Adidas international headquarters as a part of their Future Engineering team. Kevin worked alongside others generating groundbreaking products, concepts, and materials for use five to seven years in the future. While living in Nuremberg, Germany Kevin also had the opportunity to explore and travel on weekends, both sightseeing as well as playing competitive ultimate Frisbee. Kevin shares his experiences both growing as a professional and as an individual abroad in the Q&A below.
While working abroad, what was the internship experience like?
It was an amazing experience from day one. They didn’t treat me like an intern. I was on the Future Engineering team and trusted to work like an actual employee. I was technically an intern, but viewed an assistant to the head textile engineer there.
Right away they gave me several projects and everything was very hands on. I wasn’t assisting them by just doing busy work, I was working with them, taking leads and creating contacts for Adidas. I learned things about sciences I never even thought could be connected to textiles. I was even able to represent the textile department on one project because my boss trusted me to do the correct work and represent the team well.
I worked on several projects, both large and small. Most notably on the Adidas Speedfactory, which is manufacturing, but also in areas of chemistry, materials sciences, quality control and product development/design.
What are some new skills you gained from your time working abroad?
As far as work skills, I learned time management and to get things done on a real project and time frame, allowing me to manage long-term projects more efficiently. I had previously been doing all classes and tests and didn’t really get to apply anything, but this work experience allowed me to do so. I learned how to reach out and contact suppliers, all things that can be carried over to the rest of my time at NC State.
In terms of life skills, this was my first time having to be completely independent. I had to find my own apartment, pay my own bills and was basically starting over by myself.
How did your studies at NC State contribute to your success abroad?
My studies at NC State directly led me to getting the internship. My boss found me on LinkedIn because I was a textile engineer from NC State and had been to Germany before. Without NC State I wouldn’t have had the opportunity in the first place.
What was your most memorable experience from your time abroad?
My favorite part of my experience abroad was traveling almost every weekend and then returning back to the town I was living in. It was cool to have a group of people to come back to, as well as have friends in the towns I was visiting from past encounters, even in a different continent.
I explored Germany, Munich, Aachen, Netherlands, Vienna and Berlin, traveling a lot in Franconia and surrounding areas. One specific experience was in Berlin when I got to drive seven hours on the Autobahn, which has a cruising speed of 100 mph.
What advice would you give to current students at NC State hoping to study and work abroad in the future?
If you want to go abroad, you should do it. That takes out of consideration whether you think you can or can’t, the opportunity is doable. Go somewhere where you can’t speak the language; this helps you grow as an individual. I can recommend Austria, the German study abroad program I did as a freshman.
In terms of working abroad, it’s on you. Foreign employers are unlikely to approach you for a job, so you must find out what you want to do and go get it. My initial German internship came about by emailing the employer and straight-up asking if any internships were available. Although it is not as easy to work abroad as locally, due to the meshing of cultures and languages, you will get used to it and it will really benefit your professional career moving forward.
What do you see yourself doing next?
I’m in the Accelerated Bachelors/Masters program at NC State for textile engineering, which means I am also taking graduate level courses. Right now it’s a decision between if I get offered a job that I’m very happy with. This would preferably be in the sports industry, where I would have the opportunity to both create and innovate. Otherwise, I will come back to NC State and finish my master’s degree here.