HAVE YOU MET CHEPCHUMBA MATELONG?
How would you describe your first three months in Germany in 3 words?
I would say it has been my best experience for the last 29 years. Germany is “enjoyable”, “safe” and it has become “home” for me. It is an environment in which I could fit in well because there is a lot to learn. It is a dream come true.
Is there a cultural aspect you find especially interesting?
Oh yes! People here keep to themselves and maintain a serious face. They do not say “hallo” on the road like I am used to. Africans would greet or even go to the extent of hugging. This is one difference regarding cultural aspects.
Also, I really appreciate the transport system here, it is really developed. It is among the most developed transport system I have come across.
How do you spend your free time at Bonn?
I really like meeting people. I am always the person who plans for dinner and lunch. I also travel around Europe on weekends. And, most importantly, I like reading books. I also like to watch documentaries about different topics. That is what I do in my ‘Freizeit’, as they put it in German.
What surprised you the most regarding the daily life in Germany?
I am a person who can adapt to things, no matter how funny or weird they are. I always look on the positive side to explore. But the most surprising thing I found here is the different types of bread and sausages, and how Germans like to eat these two.
How do you profit from your contact to your fellow fellow?
When I was applying at the start of last year, what I wanted was to grow in my career, since I had felt some stagnation. I was so happy when I got accepted, and I would say it has been a milestone in my life.
I made friends with my colleagues. It is a great feeling to meet people from different professions and backgrounds! For example, I developed interest in Artificial Intelligence because of the data scientist friends I have made in AK. The field looks interesting and just seems to be the thing for the future! So, I would say I am proud to have developed meaningful relationships with over 50 professionals from different African countries within a short period of time. That is a great achievement.
What was the most important aspect about learning German for you?
I have a high affinity to learning languages. There is a lot of grammar to learn while reading German. I would say it has more grammar than English. For instance, there is only ‘the’ in English, but in German there is ‘der’, ‘die’ and ‘das’ for the word ‘the’. I was told that this really takes time to learn, but with some time, it sticks through daily conversations.
What has really helped me in the language learning is watching movies in German – I am curious of how they pronounce certain words.
What are opportunities for you to practice German outside the course?
I recently tried writing an official German mail, it was not easy, but I realized that I could do it. In general, there are a lot of pop-up learnings! For example, in an office, you can write emails in German to communicate with your boss or colleagues. Or sometimes you receive an important letter by post and you have to understand it despite the hard vocabulary. But if you develop interest in learning, then it becomes enjoyable.
What has also helped me is communicating in German while shopping. If you ask Germans “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”, they will answer “ein bisschen” — meaning ‘a little’. But when you hear them speak, it is actually good, not just “ein bisschen”. But for the last one month, I don’t think I have used “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”, I have been able to speak my broken German in the shops and they would actually smile back at you and feel good that you are actually trying.
What are your general expectations towards the company phase?
I am going to Merck KGAa in Darmstadt. I will be working with global patient team on Pharmacovigilance. I will first say that this is a good field to get experience in. I really have a lot of expectations because it is a new field for me. I am really looking forward to learning case reporting and assessments, to being able to read customer requirements and to being able to satisfy them. I believe I am going to use my time well in the company and use it more so to network.
Is there anything that makes you nervous?
Yes of course, doing something new often makes me nervous at start. What if they are expecting much more from me and I really do not have enough to offer? I do not know, if I have the right skills to be in the field. But I believe it is my time to be open minded, learn and give my opinions.
What would you like to see from your partner company for your onboarding?
There is not much more that I expect apart from being welcoming, which means being friendly towards me and the other fellows. This means an environment for us to open our minds and a platform to give in our ideas. Another aspect would be that they are ready to incorporate us into the teams and show us the way they do things. But also, if we have a different idea, they should be ready to take that up and discuss. I am looking forward to mentorship in case we are not doing well. They should be able to encourage us to look at the positive side and to let us grow in the field together with them.
How do you think the company can profit from your professional experience and your expertise?
I have 5 years of experience working in the health care industry. I have worked on customer care management, quality management systems, and disease diagnosis. I have interacted with patients and listened to their experiences. I have knowledge on how to bridge the gap between customer requirements and customer satisfaction. I believe that the company will benefit in terms of what really happens when their product is on the market. Is there a gap in reporting adverse events and effect? They will benefit with respect to the product production and through my interaction with patients. I have knowledge of what patients or clients want or prefer and what is currently on the market. I also believe I will contribute to the positive working environment by bringing an ‘African spirit’ to the team.
This interview was conducted by Matthias Ogiermann. Matthias was an intern in the AFRIKA KOMMT! programme from October 2021 to March 2022. He studied Geography and Mathematics in Münster, focusing on Development Geography and International Cooperation.
He particularly enjoyed being an intern in the programme since it allowed him to meet many brilliant young leaders and visionaries from Africa and exchange with them about their ideas for sustainable development in both Europe and Africa. When not interning, he is enthusiastic about listening to podcasts and hiking – as a Geographer self-evidently without map and without getting lost.