The opportunity to work in a new culture, experience new places, new food and new people is once in a lifetime. I talked about relocation to the adidas Group’s headquarters in Germany in my last post and promised to give you some more insights into the hurdles you have to overcome and the cool surprises you experience as a foreigner living abroad. I, therefore, spoke to Philana, a South African who relocated to Herzogenaurach in August 2011.
Philana, how did you end up being part of the adidas Group in Herzogenaurach?
I`m a Functional Trainee for adidas and my focus area is Product Development. Before I became a trainee I was doing a Masters in Biomechanics at Nevada University, Las Vegas. During this time, I also did an internship with adidas in Portland, US.
After 8 months, my internship was coming to an end and I was looking to join the adidas team on a permanent basis. I found the Trainee Program on the Career Site. I only realised after applying that the traineeship was based at the adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. But that got me even more excited about the program because if I got awarded the opportunity, I would move to another country – and I live for exciting and new adventures.
After my first interview for the program, I knew that it would be an amazing opportunity, and had all my fingers crossed.
The process was incredibly quick and, the following week, I got a phone call with an invite to a two-day assessment centreAn Assessment Centre (ACAn Assessment Centre (AC) is a process used in the selection of qualified individuals for a job or role in an organisation. It employs a variety of techniques and multiple observers in a closed setting to evaluate candidates.) is a process used in the selection of qualified individuals for a job or role in an organisation. It employs a variety of techniques and multiple observers in a closed setting to evaluate candidates., at the headquarters in Germany.
And, as they say, the rest is history …
What was your initial impression of the adidas Group headquarters in Herzogenaurach?
I was so surprised with what I saw. I didn’t know what to expect and, when I got here, I was incredibly impressed by the entire set-up of the headquarters. The campus is massive and there are sporting facilities spread all over the campus for the employees. I got a great feeling; the atmosphere was energising and the employees I spoke to had a great amount of experience in their respective fields. I immediately recognised great potential learning mentors.
I was also impressed with the manner the assessment centreAn Assessment Centre (ACAn Assessment Centre (AC) is a process used in the selection of qualified individuals for a job or role in an organisation. It employs a variety of techniques and multiple observers in a closed setting to evaluate candidates.) is a process used in the selection of qualified individuals for a job or role in an organisation. It employs a variety of techniques and multiple observers in a closed setting to evaluate candidates. was conducted. It was an eye-opening experience for a South African farm girl. The brand centre is the building where the assessment took place and the building in itself is greatly inspiring, with the walk of fameThe Walk of Fame is located at the adidas Group Headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. It is a corridor highlighting past milestones and future innovations of adidas, such as original worn athlete’s memorabilia, pictures and historic achievements. representing the history of this great company.
To summarise, the headquarters completely bowled me over!
Compared to that, what is your impression of Germany up to now?
Nuremberg was the first German city I explored and I fell in love with it. The city has a castle and the feeling of the old-town is something so unique and special. It made me think of scenery from a fairy-tale; I loved the typical romantic feeling the town gave me when walking through the streets.
I also noticed that everything in town was easily accessible. While staying in the city for the assessment centreAn Assessment Centre (ACAn Assessment Centre (AC) is a process used in the selection of qualified individuals for a job or role in an organisation. It employs a variety of techniques and multiple observers in a closed setting to evaluate candidates.) is a process used in the selection of qualified individuals for a job or role in an organisation. It employs a variety of techniques and multiple observers in a closed setting to evaluate candidates., we were shown several beautiful spots and restaurants, and there was such a wide variety of things to do and see. I loved every minute in Nuremberg.
There is also a wide variety of sporting activities in the area, too. Nuremberg is a very green and beautiful city and perfect for hiking and biking. Also, if you want to watch sport, there is always the Nuremberg football stadium and other annual sporting events, like the massively famous Red Bull district ride. No matter what your interests are, there is always something to do in the city.
What motivated you to take the leap and move to Germany?
From a personal point of view, the opportunity to live in another country, to travel Europe, and as Nuremberg is so central, I knew travelling would be easy and a realistic aspiration.
From a working point of view, this opportunity was a dream come true and the best possible next step after my internship. It also gave me the opportunity to continue to work abroad and gain more international experience.
It ticked all the boxes of what I wanted for the next stage in my life and I had no doubt about taking the leap.
How did the adidas Group support you with your relocation?
Wow, the support was incredible! You name it, adidas did it. The mobility team helped me to get a work visa and also allocated a relocation agent who helped me find accommodation. They helped me with pretty much everything – be it my insurance, taxes, transport or living costs and so on.
And when I arrived, they helped with the transition by providing me with one-year online German classes.
The team was fantastic; I literally just had to sign papers.
Let´s talk more about your experiences as an expat in Germany. When did you first think, “Okay, now I´m in a different country”?
As soon as the plane landed, I realised that I am in for a new adventure, and I still remember trying to buy a train ticket, instructing the taxi driver on where my hotel was. It was all so new and one obvious reason for an uncomfortable feeling was because I could not speak any German and, on that particular day, everybody I reached out to could only speak a little English. Also, withdrawing money from the ATM, as funny as it may sound, was all German, so definitely something to get used to.
I didn’t understand anything around me and that was the first time a thought, “This isn´t the States anymore.”
Was there ever a moment where you thought “I want to go home”?
On special occasions I have thoughts about wanting my family and friends from back home
with me. But I have formed my own group of family and friends here.
Also, my work is my passion and keeps me intrigued in the environment. I am here because I chose this opportunity and even though I miss home on occasions, this is exactly where I want to be.
What advice would you give to someone who recently moved abroad and is struggling with the new culture?
I would advise them to reach out to social networks like Couch Surfing and Facebook – look for groups of people in the area with the same interests as you and get involved. Embrace the environment you are in; you have to be willing to share some of yourself and make the connections to build friendships.
My friends are diverse and from basically everywhere in the world; that means I have enough people to do different things with. I`ve made close friends here who are always around me, who I share things with. They are my family away from home. My friends here are what make a big difference – so I would encourage you to make the connections and it will make all the difference.
How do you get inspired as a trainee in product development? Where do you draw inspiration from in Nuremberg?
On my working days, I draw my inspiration from the people I work with and the campus; it´s an energetic environment and a city in itself. There are many different creative corners and many different creative people you can draw creativity from.
I love the atmosphere on the campus with its new modern, state-of-the art buildings. I work in Laces, which is the newest building on the campus; it´s an architectural masterpiece. I love walking to my office every morning and feeling that addictive atmosphere. I simply can’t explain the atmosphere the building has. You get a feeling that great things come to life here; it´s vibrant and innovative.
From an activities and lifestyle point of view, Nuremberg offers the best of both country and city life as there is always something to do. Weekends are always filled with decision making on whether to attend a music festival, beer festival or the numerous markets; you are never short of something new to see and experience in Nuremberg. The historical combined with the modern facets of the city is a truly unique mix to draw inspiration from.
If you want to get more information on what it is like to relocate to Herzo, visit www.herzo.adidas-group.com