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Meet Henk-Jan in New York!

Meet Henk-Jan in New York!

The part I enjoy most about being here is discovering new stuff every day. I think that's the main reason internships abroad are exciting." - He arranged his J-1 visa through Stage-USA. We asked Henk-Jan some questions about his time in the USA. 

Why did you choose to go abroad? And why specifically Newark, New Jersey
Going abroad is mandatory for my education; we should get at least one experience abroad. Newark is the place where my company is situated. A company that grows vegetables vertically providing local production. Newark is next to New York, so that's awesome. It takes only 20 minutes to be in lower Manhattan. The combination of a company I greatly admire and a fantastic city only being 20 minutes away was a combination I couldn't say no to.

How did you find your internship?
I found the company through my teacher. He manages a vertical farm in Singapore and through the industry he met the executives of the company, which he could introduce me to. This provided me with a nice way to introduce myself to the company. This is a company that grows vegetables vertically in a controlled atmosphere. This allows them to use very little land and still get significant production which they can export locally, reducing the climate impact. The essence of my project boils down to creating an optimal and automated nutrient recipe for the plants to grow in, increasing yield and consistency.

How do you feel about your internship so far?
It has been great so far. I was amazed by how easy it was to get used to the environment. Part the ease of integrating has to do with New York being relatively European, as compared to the southern states. The part I enjoy most about being here is discovering new stuff every day. I think that's the main reason foreign internships are exciting.

How does the New York culture differ from your culture and what has impressed you the most?
I have the idea that people are more self-centered, I know this sounds negative, but on the other hand, they are very hospitable. Especially at the company, they make you feel very welcome and try to make you have a good time. I have also experienced New Yorkers as friendly and always ready to help you out.

Could you take us through a day? What is your routine?
I usually get up early, at around 6 am, and arrive at work at 7 am. I start my day by reading my emails and reading some news. After this, I start working on my project 
on which I spend most of my time. Today we had a lunch&learn. We have those on a weekly basis. Today, for example, the lunch was with two guys that had worked in the financial sector. They told us about their work before the company, their life lessons and what advice they have for young people starting to work after their education is finished. The lunch&learns are always exciting because you are granted insights you wouldn't usually get. I usually have lunch with all the interns, this summer approximately 9 interns worked at the company. Last week I went rock-climbing with some interns at a climbing hall, after that we went out for dinner which was paid for by the company. I live in New Jersey, which is just a 15-minute bike away from my internship, so I usually go by bike. The city is not made for cycling, but I just cycle on the sidewalk.

What is your housing situation? Do you live in an apartment? Roommates? Housemates?

I live in a house with eight people, two live downstairs, three live on my floor, and three live above us. I do not see or talk to them often. We have several nationalities living there, such as Chinese and Russian. I found this apartment with help of the previous intern at the company; I could take over her apartment.

Have you made any trips so far?
I made no trips outside of New York so far. New York on its own has so much to offer that you won't be able to see it all in ten weeks. I took the ferry to Staten Island which gives you a good look of the Statue of Liberty, went on top of the Rockefeller Tower, which gives you an amazing view over the city and went to some of the world-famous museums. The nightlife of New York is also recommendable.

What are your future plans?
I am going back to school to finish my Bachelors. After this, I am planning on going to Wageningen to do my Masters.

How has this experience abroad helped you grow both professionally and personally?
I think being abroad separates you from your own culture, providing you with kind of a helicopter view of what you have and what other cultures have. You start to see the differences. It's also cool to learn about a culture almost every non-American knows, but not really knows. Getting a more defined idea of what America is, is really cool and valuable. I think the main change I experienced here is getting a more broad view of the world I live in. I think this view broadens the more you dig into any culture.

Why would you recommend others to do their internship/traineeship abroad?
Yes, definitely. I do not see any reason why not to do this. It is fun, fun to explore by yourself, you are the only one responsible, which is great, you have so much freedom to do exciting stuff.

If you could express your internship experience in three words, what would these be?

Intellectually challenging