Reid Allen always wanted to sit beside his Dad at the dinner table.

Allen was inspired by his father, with whom he often worked on cars and raced go-karts on the weekends.

At 13, Allen began dreaming of a career in Munich, designing racecars for BMW Motorsport. At MIT, he studied German, just in case his dream came true.

Then, as a sophomore, he landed an internship in Munich through MIT’s International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI). After learning the language, culture, history, and politics of a country for two years, MISTI students work for up to one year in labs and offices around the world.

Allen spent the next year at BMW Motorsport in Munich.

“I always dreamed about working there someday, but I never thought it would happen so soon,” says Allen, who worked in a group of 10 engineers.

The team designed BMW racecars — the suspension pieces, aerodynamic parts, the chassis parts, and Allen was even put in charge of designing the entire cooling system on one of the newer cars.

Later that year, he and his teammates drove 155 miles per hour on the Autobahn (“The sensation of speed is incredible. You just hope you don’t hit a pothole,”) and they also drove together in BMW wagons to watch a race at the Nürburgring in Nürburg, Germany, the toughest, most demanding race track in the world, a 14-mile track with hundreds of twists and turns. “To be there with the contingent from BMW Motorsport was awesome.”

Hands-on experience, he says, is invaluable. “Going to Munich was enormously confidence-building. I designed 100 parts on BMW racecars that are some of the most successful racecars in the world. I know now that I am a successful engineer.

“Now if I am in class learning thermodynamics, I think, this is exactly what I did at BMW. I know how the equations apply. I’ve experienced it first-hand.”

The peak of the BMW experience, though, he says, was when he first met his boss, who turned out to be an industry star that he used to watch on TV. Once the man sat at his lunch table, and Allen nearly gasped. “It was amazing,” he says.

“I never expected to establish myself in the racing industry this early,” he says, adding, “I’m already getting job offers. Hands-on experience opens an enormous amount of doors.”