We l.o.v.e. Europe- Experience as a Host Family – Part 1

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I am Christoph Rahier and me and my family hosted two interns during the “We l.o.v.e. Europe” project. It all started on Monday the 8th of May 2017 during a so called ‘sensi-session’ (‘sensi’ stands for ‘sensibilisation’ / ‘sensi’-sessions are organized regularly by the Mechelen plant management to involve the employees in a conversation with the past, present, but especially the future of the company. Q&A is always the most important agenda point). The plant manager of the Mechelen plant explained the actual plant facts and figures, included  all upcoming activities. One of these was the “We l.o.v.e. Europe” project initiated by HRCorporate and we discussed about the fact that it should be nice if the young trainees could stay in a guest-family.  I returned home that evening still having in my mind the two headlines out of the explanation why Conti is supporting the “We l.o.v.e. Europe” project: “it is often that those lacking experience with other cultures and nationalities are most concerned about losing their own national identities” and   “especially the underprivileged lack access to the opportunities a united Europe offers”. During evening dinner at home that day, I spoke with my family about sensi-session items, and my oldest daughter Hélène (16 springs young) was immediately interested in the topic, especially due to the fact that she had that day an inspiring discussion about the EU in her classroom. And then, between one and the other, and before we really realized the consequences, the “family council” consisting of my wife and my two daughters decided to participate as guest family in the project.
Proud as I was with this small family decision, I went to the Mechelen management with the positive message the next day and my right arm is still in pain from the shoulder knock that I got from the general managing director.

Monday 15th of May 2017

First meeting with HR Mechelen to decide about some details of the practical organization: first wave should be from the 6th of June till the 18th and from the 18th till the 2nd of July. Wow, we had not expected that the project should pop-up so fast, but after some reviews with HR management and the local buddy in Mechelen the agreement to put all the lights to green was quickly made. Thank God there was an extended Ascension weekend in sight, so that we had some extra time for a clean-up and to organize the warm welcome. Just 2 bicycles were missing in order to fix the transportation of the participants from the host family to the Continental location and for the way back (3.5 km!) on all the days of the internship, but also this was solved in no time with some support of my colleagues. First reaction of my daughters Hélène and Caroline after arriving home that evening: “Daddy, is it really necessary to initiate this project during exam time? “. Second reaction: “Let it be, who else out of our friends can say that they have two private teachers to prepare our German language exam planned for the 14th of June?”

Monday 5th of June 2017

Public holiday before the “great experience” will start on the 6th. Final touch on preparing the accommodation for the guests and some shopping for food and drinks. A quiet 2nd Pentecost day, convinced that everything will go smoothly. But returning with my wife from our weekly walk in the local park, our youngest daughter Caroline was waiting at the front door with the message: “Daddy, the HR director has called you and you should not hesitate to call her back ASAP!” The first, but also the last time, that I leave home without mobile phone and now this… . At the end the message from the HR director was that our first guest had arrived one day earlier then foreseen, but no worry a taxi and hotel room was already arranged for him. So, the best thing we could do was to jump in the car, drive to the Mechelen train station and with the photo of Patrick on the screen of my handy, try to find him. No need to explain the reaction of some persons in the station after my question: “are you Patrick and are you joining the Continental project?”. But, after checking some places where the W-LAN WIFI signal was the best, we could  quickly sing together the Kum ba yah-song. The weather was fine for a BBQ and the first evening with our guest was quite a success. Our guest Patrick is really kind and we talked about each and everything during dinner.

Tuesday 6th of June 2017

Project Kick-off day: First guest Patrick was introduced in the Mechelen plant and could easily find his way. Nice photos were taken and I returned home with beautiful flowers to please my wife. Quite a nice experience.  The second guest Maximilian (Max for the friends) should arrive in the afternoon and will be picked-up by a Continental employee @3 PM at the train station. Due to some train connection problems, arrival was later than 5PM, but this was not at all influencing negatively our first contacts with the family during our common “spaghetti bolognaise” experience. In the evening, a small welcome drink for our guests and the internship responsible Greet was helpful “to break the ice” and to fix the bicycle issue.

Wednesday 7th of June 2017

First day this spring that I could finally find a trigger to take my bicycle to go to the office. As I needed to show the way from our home to the Continental plant, I was riding on head. But that time, I could not realize that this should be the first but also the last time that I arrived the first… Patrick and Max were very enthusiastic and motivated to start this first official day of the practicum. Afternoon time with customer meeting showed the negative aspect from coming by bicycle, first pass home to pick-up the car and drive to Brussels, after the meeting in the evening, the other way around. But my weight… is reducing drastically. During the evening, Patrick and Max told me how surprised they were about Continental people’s warm welcome in the plant and that they were impressed to experience the high level of automation in the plant. But after dinner and a small city walk, they preferred to go to bed as the traveling and work from the last days were quite exhausting. On the other hand, also we are very impressed about the fact that our two guests are “buddies” for each other and are showing a high level of interest and commitment. In the meantime I needed to hurry to catch my flight for another business trip.

Thursday 8th of June 2017

Leaving for a mission of duty and on the same time organizing guest-family things, is only possible when your “sidekick” is supporting you 100%. Thanks to my wife we could do all these. Our two guests are quickly integrated and they easily could find the way to the plant and the “downtown” area in the city of Mechelen by themselves. The evening “skype” in my hotel-room with the home base showed that everything was running well and that our guest are even better without me and could handle lots of things autonomously.

to be continued…

 

Alice Nistor

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