Doing an internship abroad with Eucor

Yolène Chareyre is a pharmacy student in Strasbourg (France) and embarked on the adventure of a three-month internship abroad at the Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology in Freiburg. In an interview, she tells us about her motivation, the difficulties she encountered, and the people who had an impact during her time in Germany.

Ms Chareyre, You are a pharmacy student at the University of Strasbourg and are currently doing an internship at the Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology in Freiburg. Could you describe your career in a few sentences?

I am currently completing the third semester of my master’s degree program with a focus on the industrial area of pharmacy studies. In this program we have the possibility to specialize in one of the three fields of activity: general pharmacy, hospital pharmacy or industrial pharmacy. All students from the industrial area must complete a six-month internship, three months of which must be in France. I chose to do the remaining three months abroad.

What attracted you to do an internship abroad and work in a foreign language?

I have always been very interested in Germany and since I am Alsatian, I was taught German from a very young age. The idea of working in Germany or Switzerland has always appealed to me. However, you have to know that it is relatively complicated to do a hospital internship abroad. In general, it is sometimes difficult for us pharmacy students to find our place in the hospital, although the hospital internship is an integral part of our studies. That’s why I said to myself, I have to take advantage of this opportunity.

The language is a challenge for me. Not only the German language, but also the medical vocabulary, which I don’t always know, even in French. That makes the work very challenging. In the hospital pharmacy, there is a pharmacist who is about my age. We talk to each other a lot and have developed our very own language, a mixture of German and English, which is very nice.

How did you find your internship and how much time in advance did you start researching?

I have been thinking about the idea for a year and a half. By studying in Strasbourg, I am considered a French worker, which means that I could not take the internship that was reserved for me starting from my second semester. To be able to go abroad, I had to submit an application to a jury that met in December 2021. There are other students besides me who are doing their internship in other places. However, these are all French overseas territories such as Guadeloupe or La Réunion. This trimester, I am the only one doing my internship abroad and the first one going to Freiburg, which meant I needed good contacts to do so. It wasn’t easy, especially since no one could travel during the pandemic. So I started looking in January 2021 for my internship in summer 2022. I really wanted to go abroad. One thing led to another and I met Joern Pütz, the vice president for Franco-German relations at the University of Strasbourg and former vice president of Eucor. He put me in touch with Medical Center Freiburg and it worked out right away.

And why Freiburg and not some other German city?

Freiburg is not that far from Strasbourg. And with the ongoing pandemic, I couldn’t imagine going very far away. If there was a problem, I could always return. Also, at the time of my internship, there was the 9-euro ticket, which was really great. I could be in Strasbourg in an hour fifteen by train and 50 minutes by car. But on the other hand, maybe I met fewer people because of that, because I didn’t have to rely on them. If I didn’t have anything going on, I could go to my family’s house. I have less of the ERASMUS feeling than other people who come to Freiburg from Mexico, for example.

How were your first few weeks at the Medical Center?

I get to participate in the patient visits at the Medica Center together with the doctors and the residents. Since my internship supervisor Prof. Dr. Voll, knew that I was studying pharmacy, he suggested that I spend part of my internship in the hospital pharmacy. We made a joint agreement that I would alternate between two weeks here in the Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology and two weeks in the hospital pharmacy, and I would do rotate for three months. Unlike the clinical part, my work in the pharmacy is much more practical. We are in production and prepare eye drops, for example, or bags of parenteral nutrition for newborns.

What do you think is the added value of this experience abroad?

For me, it’s a way to broaden my horizons. It helps me understand how others function. I am convinced that each country makes an important contribution. In the pharmacy, for example, I learn why there are medications in Germany that are not approved in France. I also like the German way, the Stimmung. For my future, it will definitely help me to get to know a new culture and to live here.

Not only do you work in Freiburg, but you’ve also been living here for a month. How do you feel about Freiburg?

Finding an apartment was very difficult. You have to know that Freiburg is very student-oriented and at the same time rather small. And people like to stay here. Since I arrived in June in the middle of the semester, the search was very difficult. I searched on wg-gesucht, a German shared flat exchange, but since I will only stay for three months, the selection was limited or people were looking for someone to rent for longer. Finally, I found a room for subletting with a woman. At the beginning of August, I then moved into a shared apartment with a young woman my age.

Have you received financial aid from your university or other scholarships?

First of all, fortunately I receive a salary for my internship here in Germany. Furthermore, because I took care of my internship search early, I was able to apply for scholarships, including the excellence scholarship (bourse d’excellence), for which you have to present your topic well in advance. In addition to the excellence grant, I receive ERASMUS funds, the AMI grant (Aide à la mobilité internationale), and a grant from the Région Grand Est. To get these three scholarships, you had to be very organized and prepare a lot of documents.

Have you met other students in Freiburg?

In Freiburg, the ERASMUS network is very active and I have met many international students. You know, when two people from different backgrounds meet, it is always different than two French people, for example. Since there is sometimes a language barrier, people resort to other forms of expression such as emotions, eye contact or joint activities. I discovered something in myself, a part of my character that I didn’t know yet. I am very happy to be here despite all the difficulties.

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. Anything else you would like to add?

I find that the people here are indescribably friendly and kind. My six months of internships in France and Germany were marked by encounters with people who have so much to give and have given me so much. In France, I did an internship at SAMU 67 (Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente – the French emergency medical service), where great people work. Later, I would like to be like these people. There is one thing that struck me in Freiburg, and that is the word “free” in the name of the city of Freiburg. That is exactly the feeling I have here. My three months here feel like freedom to me, just feeling comfortable and carefree. The name of the city couldn’t be more fitting.

A novelty on the European Campus: Yolène Chareyre’s internship is a first in the Eucor context, which would not have been possible without the great commitment of Prof. Dr. Jean-Yves Pabst, Coordinator of the Master’s Program in Pharmacy, Prof. Dr. Joern Pütz, Vice-President for Franco-German Relations at the University of Strasbourg and former Vice-President of Eucor, and Prof. Dr. Reinhard E. Voll from the University Medical Center Freiburg.

This is a real milestone because it’s the first time a pharmacy student has been able to do an internship abroad, and another student has already contacted me for 2023.

Dr. Joern Pütz, Vice-President for Franco-German Relations at the University of Strasbourg and former Vice-President of Eucor

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