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#2 - Between work, thanksgiving and christmas

Jara is doing an internship in Mobile, Alabama and talks in the second part of her blog about her tasks at Evonik and about holidays in America such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Hello, everybody,

in my last blog I told you about my first experiences in Mobile, Alabama. This time I will tell you about my work at Evonik and about American holidays, because my internship took place in winter and, so I was able to experience both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the U.S.

I feel like I really arrived now in Mobile and at Evonik and am busy day after day with a wide variety of projects. The department I belong to is called Process Technology and Engineering North America, or PT&E for short. PT&E is a service unit that specializes in the assessment, development, testing and integration of innovative ideas and processes. We work in project teams and develop processes and performance optimizations or design plants. We accompany the customer from the original design to the final implementation. Most of my tasks; however, belong to the Process Control working group. There, I support the development of DCS systems, which are responsible for the control and process control of plants. Since PT&E has customers worldwide, I have been able to support projects at various locations in the U.S. and even a project in Shanghai. Moreover, I can also work on my very own projects. I am supervised and supported by my colleagues of course, but I can work pretty much autonomously on topics such as process optimization. For example, I develop ideas for more efficient wastewater treatment or for the optimum use of plant components such as heat exchangers. I am very happy to be able to take on such a variety of tasks and to expand my theoretical knowledge from university with practical experience.

As I have already mentioned, I was also able to experience Thanksgiving in the U.S. You must know, Thanksgiving does not have a certain date, but always takes place on the fourth Thursday in November and is traditionally spent with the family, which means celebrations with friends and colleagues usually take place beforehand. At these events or dinners, so-called "potlucks", which means that everyone brings something to eat, are very popular. I was invited with the whole department to Evonik´s “Thanksgiving-Potluck” and also to a "Friendsgiving" that was organized by a couple of friends. At both gatherings, there was a lot of food you are already familiar from TV and, due to the amount of leftovers, you still can enjoy Thanksgiving even after the actual party. I noticed that thanksgiving was all about gratitude and company, just like you know it from movies.

The Christmas season in Alabama, however, differed very much from my ideas and expectations. I always had the idea that the American Christmas season was characterized by glittering, luminous (and perhaps a bit kitschy) decorations, at least one Santa Claus in every mall and a dazzling pre-Christmas period in general. I was even looking forward to it to be honest but the actual Christmas time was a little different. There were some decorated houses, but the Christmas spirit mainly came from things we did together such as a "cookies and carols" among colleagues where we actually sang Christmas carols together. Christmas in Alabama may be less dazzling, but much more contemplative and peaceful than I thought.

One exception was the “Bellingrath Gardens and Home”, though. It was once the personal garden of Walter Bellingrath who was Mobile Coca-Cola Company president and built a magnificent home that is today a museum. At Christmas time, it is traditionally decorated just as one imagines Christmas in the U.S. (see picture).

I then spent the holidays in New York. I found out that the subtle decoration in Alabama was more of a regional thing because "the Big Apple" went all out for Christmas time. You could see all those kitschy decorations you always see on TV and in Movies. New York became one of my favorite cities on this trip but all the reasons why would take me a few pages of utter enthusiasm on my part, so I will just say I warmly recommend a trip to this impressive city.

I hope I was able to give you another insight into American culture and, above all, how much culture depends on regions. I am already excited about what I will tell you in the new year. In this sense: 

Happy new year!
 

See you soon,
Your Jara


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