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Graham Collaborative Innovation Fellows Gain International Experience While Remotely Helping Germany-Based Manufacturer

Logo for the company Krones

COVID-19 meant many York College of Pennsylvania students would miss out on study abroad opportunities. Thanks to the work of a former student, they made the best of the situation.

Just talking about “German engineering” gets Cole Medvesky ’23 excited about his career path. As a top exporter of machinery and industrial equipment, Germany has led the standard in how engineers think, invent, and create. So, when York College of Pennsylvania offered Medvesky, a Mechanical Engineering student, and several of his peers an opportunity to work with a Germany-based manufacturer, he jumped at the chance.

“If we can learn how people from another culture approach things, I see that as an added benefit to my overall education,” Medvesky says. “That’s only going to help me be a better engineer.”

While COVID-19 made studying abroad nearly impossible for many college students, Medvesky and other Graham Fellows found a unique opportunity to get as close to an international experience as they could—without ever leaving York.

Working connections

John Kershner ’20 took numerous trips to Germany during high school. When he started at York College as a Mechanical Engineering student, he used one of his connections as an exchange student to make a point-of-contact at Krones, a packaging and bottling machine manufacturer. He would later start a co-op at the company, where he worked in the mechanical design department to design and test new systems for the manufacturer’s experimental bottle-filling lines.

“The opportunity to live and work abroad, and work with people of a different culture, taught me so much, and it especially reaffirmed my goals for later in life to eventually work abroad full-time,” Kershner says.

He returned to York College to help his fellow classmates also find opportunities abroad, but the pandemic changed the plans he had in the works. Working with his Krones contacts, they adapted the plan to have York College students work virtually alongside German college students to help Krones develop and enhance the cleaning process and recycling program.

Now, students could learn about the German language, dive deeper into green initiatives in other countries, and create international connections they can carry with them for a lifetime.

Getting to work

In weekly video calls, York College students connected with German students who were trying to help Krones find more efficient ways to clean and then repurpose the bottles that go through their facility. Because of Germany’s strict recycling guidelines, it’s common for ketchup bottles to later become water bottles or find another purpose beyond their first intention.

Celeste Barber ’24 saw how Krones was hoping to make its sanitation process more efficient, and she suggested exploring UV sanitation, which is commonly used in the medical field. It was one of many suggestions that students came up with, as well as other ways to use less water, increase dry times for the cleaned bottles and more. At the end of the program, the students presented their suggestions to a board of engineers.

“That back-and-forth communication that we had to do taught me a lot about working together to solve problems in efficiency,” she says. “I’d like to work in engineering design someday, so learning how these processes are approached from a different cultural perspective was incredibly helpful.”

Barber is set on finding opportunities, like this one presented to Graham Fellows, that set her apart in her field. She knows she never wants to “just work in a cubicle.”

“The amount of outlets that York College provides adds layers to my education,” Barber says. “It’s been a good experience. I don’t think I’d be having as much fun learning as I am now without those opportunities.”