During the past few years, engineering professor Lorena Bearzotti (42) found herself both personally and professionally drawn to Germany. Following her latest visit, where she had been working in Hamburg for six weeks, Lorena told Employland about her experiences and impressions of life in Germany. She answered our questions from her home in Viña del Mar, Chile.
Employland: Lorena, you are from South America but were recently living in Germany while working on an extended research project. What kind of project is it? How long were you in Germany?
Lorena Bearzotti: I am originally from Argentina, and I am currently living and working in Chile, in the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Transportation School. I was in Hamburg for six weeks because I have been collaborating with two researchers from the Hamburg Research Center for Information Systems (HARCIS). The researchers came and worked with me in Chile this last year, so it was my turn to visit Hamburg to work with them. The project I am working on is related to ports, and spans various subject areas: sustainability, port governance, and developing information systems for decision support. These are projects tied to my university, carried out in part to provide us with partners at other universities across the world.
Employland: Why did you come to Germany for your research?
Lorena Bearzotti: Germany is a leader in research and innovation concerning logistics and ports. In 2014, I met a professor from Hamburg, and we started working together along with another professor from Chile. I also have three friends working in Germany who are also focused on this research, and we always talk about the opportunities working in Germany affords.
Employland: You said you like the culture and the society in Germany and are interested in living here. What exactly do you like about Germany?
Lorena Bearzotti: Well, perhaps the most important thing for a new person in a city, or even in a new country, is the possibility to move and navigate without a problem. Germany’s public transportation system is really good, and you can always find someone to help you if you are having problems with directions. I like the German lifestyle, the city organization, the cultural activities, and the symbiosis among different cultures. For example, after work at the university, you and your colleagues can go have dinner in tons of different restaurants with traditional foods from around the world… that is amazing!
I also love the German language. Yes, I know that is kind of strange, most people find it to be a little harsh… but I like it, and I am trying to learn it! I would like to have a higher proficiency level for my next trip to Germany. Finally, I like the German landscape, its vast history, and the opportunity it provides to visit many historical sites.
Employland: You said you had the opportunity to travel here for work and holidays – where did you travel, what did you like, and why?
Lorena Bearzotti: In addition to teaching and researching, I love to travel… It is one of my favorite activities! Especially because I love history, and Europe is home to many special historical sites. In Germany, I have visited Berlin (twice), Lübeck (a beautiful medieval city, it is amazing), Rostock (another amazing city…it has a cathedral with an ancient astronomic clock, and a beautiful organ) and of course during the weekend I spent my time exploring Hamburg.
Employland: What are some cultural differences between Germany and Chile?
Lorena Bearzotti: I think my first problem was with the stores here in Germany. In Chile, stores are usually closed early in the afternoon, and they stay open late every day of the week. My first weekend in Germany I went to the supermarket on Sunday and it was closed! Another difference between the two countries is the way the day is structured. I am used to having lunch and dinner much later than is typical in Germany. Germans tend to eat at times that are early for me, but after the first week I did not have a problem!
I must say I felt safer in Germany than I do in South America. When walking home at night after work I did not feel scared … that is amazing.
Employland: What are the differences between the German and Chilean academic cultures?
Lorena Bearzotti: One basic thing is the semesters in the two countries are organized differently. I think I prefer the German academic culture, though it is not so different from Chilean academic culture, except in the process to become a professor. In Germany, becoming a professor is very difficult with many steps, I like that, but I know that it is so complex.
Employland: What is your educational background?
Lorena Bearzotti: I am an Information Systems engineer and I did my PhD in Engineering, I obtained both degrees in Argentina. After that, I did a postdoc in Chile and now I am a professor.
Employland: You left Germany in the first of April. How did that feel? What do you miss most?
The last week in Germany was amazing, but I was certainly a little sad … I would have liked to stay in Hamburg for a few more weeks. In this moment, I am writing from Chile, and I am missing my time in Hamburg, the work with the other researchers, the activities at the university, etc. I am happy to be here at home, but in some way my heart chose Hamburg as home too. The experience was incredible.
Employland: At which institution are you learning German? You said you like German, what do you like about the language?
Lorena Bearzotti: I am learning German in my university here in Chile, in collaboration with the DAAD. This is my second course, I am doing the A2 level.
I love German, but I don’t really have an explanation as to why. Since 2014, I have listened to a German FM radio station (Absolut Relax) everyday while working in the office. But, again, I don’t have an answer. I guess in some ways I find German amazing: I like the sounds, the words… I hope in the future to have the skill to read books without a problem…That reminds me, I actually have many books in German! Several years ago, before I was even dreaming of Germany, some friends happened to give me books in the German language. Funny!
Also in our blog: Number one country in the world for Logistics, great opportunities to network with people from all over the world and a drive to improvements in business culture: This is what motivated Vinicius Andriolo (32) from Brazil to undertake his next career step in Germany. Find out more in this interview! Also interesting: Darlan (25) left his home in Brazil behind him to pursue a career in Germany. He described his route to Germany in this post. In this Guest Commentary you will learn what steps Darlan had to take to obtain a work permit, how long the process took, and how the uncertainty felt.