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Success stories - former students tell their stories

What career advantages does experience abroad during your studies have?

In today’s globalised world in which firms increasingly operate internationally, overseas experience is more and more important. Those who have been abroad during their studies bring not only valuable intercultural skills but also an expanded network and a broader perspective on the working world. According to our students, wider horizons, better career opportunities, language skills and greater independence are all benefits of spending time abroad during their studies.

We asked two former FHNW School of Life Sciences (HLS) students how their experiences abroad during their degree have influenced their careers.


Andrea Otter-LeisibachPatrick Hauck
HLS Studies

BSc in Molecular Life Sciences, specialisation in Chemistry

MSc in Molecular Technologies

BSc in Molecular Life Sciences, specialisation in Chemistry

MSc in Life Sciences, specialisation in Chemistry

Stays abroad during studies

BSc Thesis Linköping University, Sweden

FHNW International Student Project "Insight China"

MSc Thesis Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

BSc Thesis University College London

FHNW International Student Project "exploreASEAN”

MSc Thesis Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA

Current positionInnovation Project Specialist for Market Ready Solutions, DSM Nutritional Products, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USASenior Scientist, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Basel, Switzerland

What motivated you to go abroad during your studies?

Andrea: I had several motivations for the stays abroad. On one hand I wanted to perfect my English, and that happens best when no one in the area speaks German. On the other, I wanted to work somewhere different from the local industry, which I already knew from my training and which I’ll probably get to know enough in my professional life. I also liked the idea of immersing myself in another country and another culture, as I have always enjoyed travelling.
Patrick: Stays abroad enrich your life. Since I had already spent a year abroad before my studies, it was immediately clear to me that I wanted to do my BSc and MSc theses abroad. You get to know new people and cultures, develop professionally and personally, and discover new aspects of life from a different perspective. Later on, you would want to share the experiences you had in the world with your children and grandchildren.

My motivation is to broaden my personal and professional horizons, to have stories to tell about my experiences and to use what I’ve learnt to help other people.

Patrick Hauck

How has your professional career developed since you graduated from the HLS?

Patrick: After doing my Master's at the HLS and my MSc thesis at MIT, I had the opportunity to start a PhD at the University of Zurich. It was important for me to set myself a deadline to find out within the first year whether a PhD really fit my ideas for the future. Therefore after 8 months I voluntarily decided (also due to my health history) to leave the academic path and return to industry. I have been working at Novartis for more than two years now.
Andrea: After my Master's thesis, I worked for a year and 9 months at the FHNW in Muttenz as a research assistant in nanomaterials and surfaces before taking up a position at DSM Nutritional Products in Kaiseraugst. I started as Associate Scientist R&D Analytics, was promoted to Scientist III R&D Analytics before moving to Project Management in November 2021.

What do you think are the advantages of international experience for your career?

Andrea: A stay abroad brings new experiences and personal enrichment, strengthening both your professional and social skills. For me, international experience brought a better understanding of large and small differences between cultures and made me feel better prepared to work in an international role. It also helped me in my move to the US in 2021.
Patrick: I think international experience is valued in CVs and companies for the following reasons:
• Getting out of your comfort zone
• Building and expanding a network
• Personal and professional development (expertise, soft/hard skills, independence, language, etc.)
• Expanding and understanding cultural horizons
• Benefiting from self-reflection - How do I deal with setbacks and successes for example?
• Profiting from shared experiences

One of the many differences between a holiday and living abroad is that you have to do the weekly shopping. For me, the feeling of having arrived in a country is also related to finding products that taste the way I expected, or even better!

Andrea Otter-Leisibach

Both students highly recommend doing part of your studies abroad. The experiences they were able to gain are valuable not only for their careers but for their whole lives. These are experiences that have shaped them and that they will take with them on their professional and personal journey. In Patrick's words: Experiences that you can tell your children and grandchildren about.


Many thanks to Andrea and Patrick for the interview.

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FHNW School of Life Sciences

FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland School of Life Sciences Hofackerstrasse 30 CH - 4132 Muttenz
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