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I am a 16 year old who is currently at an intermediate German level. I also have previous experience on working with data science - specifically, Bayesian statistics. I would like to do a summer internship at a recognised German-speaking university for practising my German and getting work/research experience. How should I go about this?

After contacting many professors, many have excused themselves with COVID-19 or their lack of open positions for interns. What can I offer them that they don't have?

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    I disagree that this is a shopping question. The OP is asking for advice about how to approach a problem, not for lists of openings. And, ignore downvotes. They mean little, especially if there is no explanation. – Buffy Apr 1 at 19:01
  • Welcome to the site. See the help center for acceptable questions here, though some people are a bit too quick to judge: academia.stackexchange.com/help – Buffy Apr 1 at 19:17
  • As a side note: you still have much to learn. For example, on sites like this, it is usually a good idea to not immediately accept the first answer that comes in but wait a bit (and maybe longer if you ask a question about working in Germany right at the beginning of the very long Easter weekend in Germany where both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays...) – cbeleites unhappy with SX Apr 2 at 12:51
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Being under age (< 18) means all kinds of hassle in Germany for employment or similar situations, and university administration will want to avoid this additional complexity for research interns (which are anyways organized in a very different fashion in Germany compared to what I hear of the US).

However, there are research institutions (and universities) that offer Schülerpraktika, i.e. internships for 10+th graders. These internships are usually organized by the school, though. So totally different logistics. Also, they usually take place during the term and are therefore much shorter (e.g. 2 weeks) than what you are likely looking for.

many have excused themselves with COVID-19

Which is likely a very valid excuse:

  • many universities and research institutes are rather closed down wrt. physical presence for months now, and have announced that they will continue like this for the summer term. Also larger scale politics seem particularly unpredictable right now.
    The professors will have to put an emphasis on their already existing students who are hampered in doing the labwork they are required to do by their curriculum first. Volountary internships will have to wait until other things are working smoothly again.

  • There may (will) be additional hassle, e.g. with accomodation since you are under age, and e.g. you may be required to quarantine on arrival in Germany. But unlike an adult student who can legally be told to organize themselves beforehand how to handle this, you are under age which would put additional legal and moral duties to the professor.

    E.g., right now, I don't think the regulations would grant you an exemption if you're already vaccinated. I certainly hope they will by summer, but I wouldn't bet too much on this seeing that right now not even closed groups of vaccinated inhabitants and staff of old age homes are allowed to meet...

OTOH, you could learn a whole lot about the cultural differences between Germany and the US right now...


All that being said, I'm not a professor but I've been at a research institute (doing statistical data analysis among other things) that regularly offers Schülerpraktika. I have no idea about their Covid policy wrt. internships, but you may contact me (see profile) and I'll have a look at your application and see whether/where I can introduce you.

All in all, I think you may want to postpone this till next year, or at least wait and see how things look wrt. COVID-19 in a month.

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I assume the chances of scoring what you ask for (an internship for work / research experience) are rather low, for a few reasons:

  • Are you sure your level of expertise in Bayesian statistics is enough for working in a university research department? Usually people do that after a few years of university studies, and research groups like to work with people who have established their skills.
  • Also, in my experience, it is hard even for Bachelor students to get internships in research groups (see also @Buffy answer). Internships at companies may be easier, but not easy.
  • Also, interns usually get rather boring assignments at company internships (especially at your age). You may be lucky, of course, but you can't rely on being lucky.

Maybe there are other options for practising German? It seems like it might be a good idea to try to pursue both of your goals (German, research experience) separately.

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  • My level of expertise on Bayesian statistics is quite basic. I can help with debugging and troubleshooting linux systems but that's about it. What companies would you suggest to ask for internships? – david david Apr 2 at 10:31
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You are very unlikely to be able to make successful contact with a professor acting on your own. Especially with cold emails. They almost uniformly get ignored as people are busy and have lots of responsibilities already.

If you are really serious about this, you need to find someone who can act as an intermediary. Someone who is a peer of the people you want to ask. One of your own instructors might be able to help, provided that they have kept contact with their professors. But the intermediary has to be someone who knows you well and can vouch for your seriousness.

It is much harder to turn down a request "look at David..." than it is to turn down one "look at me...". The intermediary needs to have an idea of what you can offer and something, even minor, about what the needs are.

Assuming you can find an intermediary then keep an open mind about what to work on. It may be that something "interesting" is available, but not data science.

If you can manage to get someone to open a conversation with you then you might be successful. Otherwise, get what guidance you can from those about you.

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  • Are you suggesting that I get serious about their research with them and then offer myself as an intern? – david david Apr 1 at 19:07
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    I'm not sure what you mean by that. But a request "out of the aether" is likely to be ignored if it comes directly from a 16 year old. – Buffy Apr 1 at 19:09

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