Oct 09, 2020

Middletown Teen Gives Advice to Younger Students as He Looks Ahead to Career

By Lori Draz and Christopher Drew

Christopher Drew

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Middletown’s 18-year-old Christopher Drew. Christopher just graduated from Christian Brothers Academy and describes himself as a future engineer. He is pretty certain that this is his career path, thanks to his participation in internship programs. Christopher tried several occupations to help him determine what he liked and, more importantly, what he didn’t like to do in a future career. He is a strong advocate for internship programs that offer meaningful experiences for students. He is also an equally strong advocate for students learning languages and more about cultures around the world. It helped Christopher tremendously and can help other students too. Here is Christopher’s story.

Just four years ago, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life after high school. I knew I liked applied math, but I wasn’t sure what field I wanted to pursue.

If only there was a way for high school students to do a trial run of a career to see how they like it. As it turns out, internships were created for this very purpose. In the United States, internships for high school students aren’t really readily available in a variety of professions. This is not the case in other countries. For instance, in Germany, ninth and 10th grade students are mandated to take two weeks off from school to do an internship. Companies have fully fleshed out internship programs that offer meaningful, hands-on experiences for students, giving them a much better insight into a number of specific career options. This is a win-win situation for all involved because students get a better idea of what they want to do, and companies get to see potential future employees who are actually interested in the work of the company.

Why do I know so much about what goes on in Germany? Well, I have been speaking German longer than I’ve spoken English, as my mother immigrated to the United States from Germany.

I also bolstered my knowledge of the German language and culture by attending weekly meetings at the German Language School in Holmdel. I met kids from all kinds of backgrounds. Some were from other families who spoke German, and many didn’t speak it at all. Thanks to my fluency in the German language and the connections I developed with friends in Germany, I was able to complete an internship as a rising junior and as a rising senior.

My first internship explored the usage of math in the financial sector. To do this, I spent two weeks working at a branch of Deutsche Bank in the Frankfurt metropolitan area. Overall, the experience was quite fulfilling. While I decided that banking was not the career I want to pursue, the internship allowed me to better understand the world we live in. Deutsche Bank is well-accustomed to hosting high school interns; therefore, they already knew which tasks could be entrusted to an intern. Learning how banks operate in greater detail was totally worth the two weeks I spent there.

By the time I was looking around for my second internship, I had a better idea of what I wanted to do. I like to tinker and work with my hands, so I managed to get myself an internship in a maintenance facility for DB Cargo, the German national rail company’s cargo division. This internship was much more aligned with my interests than the bank, yet I enjoyed the second internship less. The facility was not as accustomed to having short-time interns, and for liability reasons, I wasn’t able to do as much as I would have liked. Still, the experience was valuable.

My internships helped me determine that I would like to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. For a variety of reasons, I flew back to Germany, and after quarantining for two weeks, I began my university education at the Technical University of Darmstadt located in the Frankfurt metropolitan area. Studying in Germany from outside is not easy, but it is also not just for German citizens. I am able to study in Germany because of my knowledge of the German language which was expanded and reinforced from classes at the German Language School.

I didn’t realize that this weekly program would change my life, but I am so glad I put in those extra hours on Thursdays. That time has paid off is so many ways. I can easily communicate with family, plus it helped me find my future career path.

I highly encourage any readers who are younger than me to take other languages seriously. The world is a big place, and the more languages you speak, the better connected you are. I also highly recommend that students who are struggling and don’t have a clue what they want to do with their lives should look for internships and try as many as you can in as many different fields as possible. Knowing what you don’t want to do is almost as valuable as knowing what you want to do.

I would also like to suggest that more businesses of all kinds create solid internship programs that welcome high school students to learn more about careers. Not only is it a both a generous investment into the future and the community, but you may just find your next great employee.

Finally, I encourage everyone to learn about your culture and the many other cultures around the world. Being able to converse and to appreciate people of all kinds will make your life richer and more interesting.