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Lea von Salzen

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology | Arts + Social Sciences › Psychology
Co-operative Education › International Co-op

Experience Faculty
I wanted to gain experience for my resume that was unique to that of other students. I also wanted to live in a different city, and since I have family in Germany and have been there many times, this country is like a second home to me.
Application and Interview Tips

As with all federal government interviews, it is important for students to know that they are very structured and that answers need to include very specific details that the position requires. The student should know the job posting well and be prepared to answer questions relevant to foreign and domestic trade policy as well as know information regarding any current trade agreements or priorities for the Canadian Government. Students should feel very comfortable with the German language and possess at least C1 level German. French is only an asset. Students should listen very carefully to how the question is asked, and make sure to fully answer the question and provide adequate depth and detail.

Introduction + Preparation

I prepared by arranging accommodation, flights, and health insurance very far in advance. I also made sure to look into cellular phone plans, local personal identification cards and bank accounts as this all required a lot of time and information. I also applied for an international driver's permit so that I could drive while in Germany. I joined Facebook groups for people new in the city and familiarized myself with the job and surrounding city as well as I could before getting there.

Previous Experience

Overall, having previous experience was not very relevant to this position, besides the ability to write and research well. I would also recommend a course that covers current North American and European trade and foreign policy priorities.

During my Experience
Accommodation and Living

Housing was less expensive than Vancouver and relatively easy to find close to the city as it is a student city. Roommates are common and I would recommend finding a roommate as it helps with integration.

Day to Day

Officially, I am a commercial relations/trade intern. As Düsseldorf is a small team, I assist the trade commissioners and consular team with their duties. This involves assisting clients import and export with Germany and connecting clients to the right contacts. I have spent time working at the reception, taking phone calls for consular clients, accepting mail and doing other administrative tasks as well as performing research for the consular team on an as-needed basis when clients of the consulates are in need of certain information.

For the trade team, I conduct research on a variety of topics and attend virtual conferences. I have written reports on specific topics and have also organized and hosted a fun trivia evening alongside other interns to support mental health at work. I also produced visual content for the virtual Canada Day platform. I have helped coordinate and plan training sessions and am an active member of the diversity and inclusion committee. Daily tasks of the position vary greatly, and a curiosity and willingness to try everything are important. The tasks I do are not the same necessarily as during pre- COVID-19 times.

Accomplishments and Challenges

The main challenge I have faced is regarding moving to a new city during a pandemic and trying to make friends. With many social avenues being shut off, it has been difficult to make meaningful connections in a natural way. Facebook groups and walks with people I meet through these groups have proven to be effective, however.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

I was able to make valuable connections/networks while abroad. I made very meaningful connections within the Canadian Government that can help me in the future and have formed friendships and connections with local German staff. This requires some outreach on my part, but everyone is very friendly and inviting.  


Reflection & Tips

This experience abroad has solidified what I would like to work in the future and has confirmed that I could see myself seeking a position in the government in the future. I wanted to gain experience for my resume that was unique to that of other students. I also wanted to live in a different city, and since I have family in Germany and have been there many times, this country is like a second home to me. I wanted to practise my German skills and reconnect with my culture. I also liked the position and think that working for the federal government in a different country is a very beneficial experience for my career path and resume.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

This experience abroad has given me valuable work experience and has connected me to very useful contacts and references. It has clarified what I seek for in a position and a team and has confirmed what type of career I would like to have in the future.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

I would like to find a position that is more in line with my future career goals for my last work term, as I would like to find federal work experience related to the field of justice after this Co-op.