Armando Herrerra-Reyna, a junior raised in Mexico City who attended a German school there for 10 years, had never visited Germany until he flew to Stuttgart for his first MISTI internship.
For three months, he worked at Behr, the worldwide company that manufactures engine-cooled systems. His job was to design sensor technologies.
“At MIT, you work with the most up-to-date theories in the best labs. I tended to be so technical and took for granted that people would understand what I was saying. I had to learn to communicate much better, to listen, persuade, and explain.”
When a problem arose on his project, he says, his solution was to change the whole design. “But by listening, I realized it wasn’t the best option. I grew to respect that the Germans did things another way, that they were raised differently, and I could learn from them. I began to trust them, and I became much more tolerant of different attitudes.”
He says that having studied German customs was invaluable. When his boss invited him to dinner, his impulse was to say no because he felt shy. But because he had learned that Germans often are reserved unless they sincerely want you as a friend, he realized the invitation was an honor.
“Knowing this made it possible for us to become close friends.” Herrera-Reyna says that his showing deep interest in German culture made the Germans show interest in him. When he walked into work on the day of the Mexican elections, he says, the whole office cheered. “Their excitement about my country made me feel so at home.”
This year he is headed back to Stuttgart for another MISTI trip, this time with DaimlerChrysler. “I always thought of Germany in the context of industry,” he says. “Not anymore. I still admire the engineering, but now I think of the people.”