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Generation Global

Twentysomethings are becoming more and more aware that the whole world is open to them. We turned to two of them to discuss their global life. In each case, it began with their participation in our TANNER program.

I don't think the pandemic will really change globalization.

Lena Weiss, Germany

Lena Weiss

Lena Weiss, Germany stayed with a host family in the US in 2012. She later studied in Mexico, where she reconnected with Carlos, who had been a guest of her family.

My family had welcomed “TANNER youth” from other countries into our home on several occasions. One of them was Carlos, who is from Mexico. We had an incredibly good time. He was even introduced to snow for the first time when he stayed with us. I traveled to the United States myself a little later. For an 18-year-old, it didn’t get any better than that. I wanted to experience things on my own and improve my English.

I stayed with a family in rural Kentucky. Everything was big there: the house, the cars, the refrigerator, the washing machine. The natural world was impressive as well. I took my first ride on a four-wheeler and caught fireflies. The TANNER program piqued my interest in another foreign stay, and I chose Mexico for my semester abroad. Carlos certainly played a role in that, since he had told me so much about his country. I had learned Spanish in the meantime, and Carlos’ family made my introduction to Mexican life easier when they invited me to stay with them a couple of days. Mexico is fascinating and the Mexican people are quite warm. But life is different there. They are satisfied with very little. I learned to appreciate things that we take for granted: hot water, a good health care system, and security. I lived near Puebla in a kind of gated community. I definitely benefited from my time there. It helps to be open to other cultures. The responses you get will be positive.

It’s cool to have friends around the world — I can thank my time abroad for that. The globalized world is very important to me. I now work for a company that does business around the world. We mainly speak English there. Our success is based on globalization. We benefit from our connections to other countries. I want to go abroad again but for a longer stay. This is expected of anyone aspiring to take on a leadership role at our company. South America would appeal to me. So would Asia. I don’t think the pandemic will really change globalization. I don’t think there is any way around it in the world of business today.

The globalized world is really important to me.

Benjamin Grant, USA

Benjamin Grant

Benjamin Grant, USA spent two weeks with a host family in Germany in 2011 and his interest in foreign countries was aroused. 

When I was 17, I spent two weeks in Weinheim, where Freudenberg is headquartered. The place is close to Heidelberg. To go abroad was a unique opportunity. I wanted to experience another culture all by myself. On top of that, I left North America for the first time in my life. Why I chose Germany? You should know that I grew up in Michigan, where cars are very important. In addition, I was already interested in engineering. Germany with its famous car makers seemed like a natural choice to me.

In Germany, I stayed with Yannick and his family. He was a year older than I was and had visited me half a year before. I was surprised how different Germany is compared to the United States. It felt like a more mature place, especially regarding the younger people. Yannick and his friends talked a lot about politics, something I didn’t do that much in the U.S. What surprised me as well: Everyone spoke English. The U.S. doesn’t do a very good job on learning foreign languages. I took Spanish lessons for a while, but I can’t speak it at all. So, to travel halfway around the world to see my peer group speaking fluent English was amazing.

Another striking thing was that you just had to walk down the road every morning to get fresh bread. And in Germany, it is astonishing to see how long some places like Heidelberg have been around. In a nutshell, I pretty much liked everything. The TANNER program aroused my interest in other countries and cultures. It opened my eyes.

The globalized world is really important to me. I work as a manufacturing engineer and collaborate with teams in Germany, Canada and Asia. My company lives and breathes globalization on a daily basis and I enjoy collaborating with a lot of smart people. I definitely will look for projects abroad. On a personal level, I would like to see the world become united as one. From an engineering point of view, I would put it this way: In the long term, it will be good for the planet not to be that competitive. Let’s share information across borders.

What is TANNER?

TANNER is the Freudenberg Group’s international youth exchange program. It was developed for the teenage children of Freudenberg employees. Since 1999, the participants have had the opportunity to spend two to three weeks with host families who live at one of the Freudenberg Group’s locations around the world.

This article originally appeared in ESSENTIAL, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies’ corporate magazine that covers trends, industries and new ideas. To read more stories like this, click here.

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