By Claudette Jerez
WIESBADEN, Germany -- The Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has entered its 16th year with Europe District. This year, four seniors from historically black colleges and universities have arrived here to put their educational background to practical use.
The AMIE program provides the interns with a definite real world experience explains AMIE program director Darren Walls, a district project manager, who has been with the Corps ever since his two summers as an AMIE intern when he attended North Carolina A&T University.
"They get to work in their chosen field, as well as, see how the government works versus private industry," Walls said.
The students have been working hard participating in projects with district employees.
Allison Townes, an architectural engineering student, and Chaz-Richard Tolbert, a civil engineering student, are working at the newly renamed Clay Kaserne on the housing project.
"We've been doing inspections of the houses at Newman Village to make sure they're suitable for the families moving in," says Tolbert, an upcoming senior at Alabama A&M University.
"We have to make sure people are wearing their hard hats, and the right shoes… that's critical," adds Townes, a senior from North Carolina A&T University.
Apart from doing inspections, Townes said what she wants most is to gain international experience.
"I also hope to gain understanding of professional engineers," Townes said. "I want to understand the construction side and the structure of a contract. I'm gaining teamwork experience because you can never do a project by yourself."
According to the AMIE website, the goal of the program is to act as a promoter and encourager to minority students to pursue engineering careers and as an avenue for members to exchange "best practices" and solutions for development of a diversified engineering workforce.
LaKeeVia Jackson, a civil engineering senior from Morgan State University, said the internship is giving her a lot of needed experience.
"I've noticed that in order to get a job when you graduate, you can't only have a good GPA. You need to have work experience as well", Jackson said. "Working with two project managers, I'm gaining PM experience."
She admits that having worked with an engineering consulting firm before she is still torn between working in the public or private sector.
But, the work is not the only reason the interns wanted to work for the district.
Although the majority of the interns had never been to Europe before this summer, one student lived not far from here when he was ten years old.
Now, a senior at North Carolina A&T University, Lucas Suarez, a civil engineering student, considers his second stay in Germany a completely different type of experience than the first time he lived here.
"I'm seeing things from a different perspective," Suarez said. "I get a lot of the insight from the professionals and engineers here, a lot of advice, and a lot of career guidance. It's very helpful."
"This is my first internship. What I plan to gain from this experience is a network of friends and new colleagues from all sorts of places," he added. "Professionally, the people are very friendly and assist me with any tasks I need to complete. I like the environment and I could absolutely see myself coming back to work here."
Residing in the city of Wiesbaden, the AMIE interns have been exposed to many cultural events including the Wilhemstrasse Festival, the Union of European Football Associations Euro 2012 championship games, a traditional 4th of July celebration at the newly renamed Clay Kaserne, and the Johannesberg Festival in the nearby city of Mainz. They also plan to visit Barcelona, London, Rimini, and other major European cities before departing in August.
"Just the added benefit of working overseas I think is a plus because it's something exciting and new as opposed to just finding a regular internship. They get to travel on weekends and explore new cultures," Walls said.
Tolbert admits he still feels a bit like he's still in the United States.
"We always hear American music, never German music. They're so friendly here," he said. "They say they don't speak very good English but when they start talking it's almost like you forget you're in Germany. It feels like America again."
Townes finds the environmentally friendly habits of the Germans refreshing and new.
"I like how many bicycles there are here, and all the bike lanes. You don't see that in the U.S.," she said. "Even though Wiesbaden isn't a huge city, I like how easy public transportation is here in Europe. Cars are not always necessary."
All the AMIE interns agree that the experience, so far, has been a once in a life time opportunity.
"I love this internship," Jackson said. "The experience has been very valuable and I will definitely utilize skills that I've acquired to move ahead in my career."
Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering
North Atlantic Division
US Army Corps of Engineers