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York College student engineers himself an international future

John Kershner stands at the base of a mountain with a York College t-shirt on.

John Kershner ‘20 wanted to find a way to combine his talents as an engineer with his love of the German language and culture. He started with classroom work. In 2016, John came to York College of Pennsylvania as a Mechanical Engineering major. Later, he added a minor in German to his resumé. When it came time to pick his second co-op experience–York College requires three before graduation–he had an idea. “It’s not defined where the co-op needs to be,” he says, so he looked into trying to land one in Germany.

He had a connection to a student there and got a little help from a couple of York College faculty members. Professor Mary Boldt, PhD, a German professor who adapted the curriculum for him during his first year at the College, helped him with the visa documents. “Google Translate can only do so much,” he says, “and I had trouble understanding everything I was reading.”

Joanne Wilkes, Director of the Engineering Cooperative Education Program, helped with his application to the German company Krones AG. John says she also helped show the College this was a worthwhile co-op where he’d be doing rigorous engineering work. Not long after, he found out he was accepted for the co-op and would spend his 2019 spring semester in Germany.

Immersing in German culture

During the Krones AG co-op, John worked in 3D modeling with computer-aided design software and made technical drawings. He says the experience was great in many ways for his career aspirations. “I was able to enhance my German language skills,” John says. “I lived with other German students and made many German friends. Most of the folks in my department spoke limited English, so this forced me to become a better German speaker and listener.”

While John improved his German language skills, he believes his time in Germany will also help his career in another way. “I would like to do engineering design work, eventually getting an MBA or other master’s degree to move into management,” he says. “I want to work for a multinational company and be able to communicate with people in different disciplines.”

His time in Germany helped toward this goal by letting him better understand not only the German language, but also its culture, too. “Learning about a different culture changed my perspective on communicating with people from different countries and those who have a different perspective,” he says. “I think this will make me a better colleague.”

Possible because of York College

John is now doing his third co-op with German-based Voith Hydro in York County. He sees the benefits of his overseas work. “I understand my German colleagues at Voith well because of the perspective gained in Germany,.”

York College, John says, has helped all along the way. “We had exchange students from a partner school in Austria in 2016, my freshman year, who were in majors like Sport Management and Business,” he recalls. “I visited them in Germany, and they have helped me understand more about the German language and culture outside of engineering – only possible because of the program York College has.”

Finally, the Graham Scholars Program at York College helped pay for the cost of overseas travel, and co-op program director Wilkes wrote an email to get him an interview for his co-op at Voith.

For all these reasons, he recommends York College for engineering students who want a broad horizon. “The classwork prepared me for the internships that are preparing me for my career,” he says. “Employers tell me this is a big reason they like York College.”

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