“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.” – Lewis Carrol
As I head into the final weeks of my Secondment, I wanted to pause and reflect on the past couple of months living in Germany. Working at PKF Fasselt Schlage provided me with insight on work culture differences between firms in Germany and the US (there are more similarities than differences, in my experience), allowed me to build both professional relationships and personal friendships with individuals at PKF Fasselt Schlage, and finally, pushed me to step out of my professional and personal comfort zones.
One of the benefits of going on Secondment in Europe, especially Germany, is how convenient it is to travel to different countries, even for just a weekend trip. Living in Köln for three months gave me plenty of travel opportunities, both local (in Germany) and intercontinental. Before leaving Chicago, I had planned out a few specific travel destinations however, I left a majority of weekends open to see where the wind would take me (pun intended). Prior to my Secondment, I never traveled internationally solo – which was one anxiety that I needed to overcome in order to make the most of my time in Europe.
This past weekend, I experienced one of my personal highlights of my Secondment – visiting the Swiss Alps in Interlaken, Switzerland. This was not on my initial itinerary however, after doing some research on paragliding and Switzerland, I knew this was an opportunity that I did not want to pass up. What I failed to research ahead of time was how to paraglide…
While driving up the mountain, one of the instructors explained what we would be doing as we signed our waivers. Basically, you and an instructor are attached to a canopy, each wearing a harness that is built like a backpack. You then proceed to run down a hill at full speed until your feet are no longer touching the ground. At that point you sit back in the harness and proceed to descend back down to the ground…they lost me at “running down the mountain”. I am not the most graceful person and was struggling to walk down to the loading area, so I began to think, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Once strapped in, my instructor Domi, asked if I was ready to go. With no turning back, I said yes and heard the countdown…3…2…1. I started running and felt like I was running in slow motion – not because of the stress in the moment, but because we were literally pulling about 50 pounds of equipment that was gradually filling up with air. It only took about 20 seconds and we were in the air. Seeing the nearby lakes, forests and mountains from that high up was so peaceful and the view was incomparable to anything that I had ever seen before. About halfway through the flight, I was even given the opportunity to steer the wings of the paraglider! The flight ended with an adrenaline-inducing spiral dive, which caused us to descend at about 25 m/s (~56 mi/h) before slowing down to a safe landing.
During the past few months I took chances, built relationships and made decisions for which, in the end, I have no regrets.
To Mueller & Co., PKF Fasselt Schlage, the PKF Network and to all who have made my three-month exchange possible thus far, I would like to say thank you for this opportunity of a lifetime.