When she headed off to Germany for an internship with Audi just after graduating, Corina Baini knew she was taking a risk.
"I'd never been outside Australia before - everybody said I was crazy to go," the RMIT engineering alumnus remembers.
"They were all telling me I shouldn't do it: 'you don't speak German, you're giving up all these job opportunities here, it's going to be freezing cold, you're going to a little village, you'll be bored'."
Sixteen years later, she is still living in Europe - though now in sunny Barcelona - and working at senior levels of the automotive industry.
"The internship organised by RMIT was the foot in the door and the start of an amazing journey," Ms Baini says.
"I didn't intend to be away so long and certainly didn't expect to still be in Europe nearly two decades later - who knows what my life would have been like if I hadn't gone!"
Ms Baini undertook a placement with Audi through the RMIT International Experience and Research Program (RIIERP), which gives about 200 RMIT students each year the chance to undertake vocational training and research projects at top businesses and institutions in Europe, Asia and North America.
After graduating from RMIT in 1997 with a double degree in aerospace engineering and business administration, she set off to Neckarsulm in the south of Germany to start her year-long Audi internship.
She worked on crash simulation for the Audi A2, while learning German at the same time.
"The Finite Element Modelling program I was using at work wasn't too different to what I'd used while doing my degree - but it was all in German," she says.
"It was a big motivator to quickly pick up the language, although German was not that easy to start with!
"But I was also keen to learn quickly, so I'd have my cassettes in my Walkman and would walk along to work every day counting 'eins, zwei, drei', listing off the days of the week, expanding my vocab."
By the end of her RMIT internship, Ms Baini didn't feel ready to return to Australia, so she worked to secure a permanent role at Audi.
With support of an Audi mentor, she spent a year on a rotation program in the company's headquarters in Ingolstadt, before settling in the technical clearance department.
Ms Baini worked on the Audi A4 in a technical coordination role bringing together various areas with sometimes conflicting needs - from design engineering, to production, quality assurance and after sales.
Always up for a challenge, in 2003 she took up an 18-month job exchange to Barcelona working at SEAT, which, like Audi, is a member of the Volkswagen group.
"The work was similar to what I was doing at Audi but this time, in Spanish," she says.
"Because the staff there didn't have much English or German, at first I would often just point and use sign language, but eventually I learned enough Spanish to communicate with the technical words required! "
Ms Baini returned to Barcelona permanently in 2007, leaving Audi to take up a role with SEAT and has been the head of different departments within Chassis Development ever since.
The journey she began all those years ago at RMIT has taken to her to unexpected places, and Ms Baini is enthusiastic about encouraging others to take up any international opportunities that come their way.
"I would highly recommend to anybody that has the chance to work overseas - especially through an internship program like RIIERP - to go for it," she says.
"On my very first day at RMIT, one of the first things they said was: 'we're not going to teach you anything here - we're going to teach you how to learn'.
"And that's been true - I've learned so much over these years in these different cultures.
"I always try to absorb what I learn, not just into my way of working, but my whole way of living."
Director and founder of RIIERP, Professor Sylvester Abanteriba, said alumni of the program now held significant positions in major corporations around the globe.
"Ms Baini's experience and achievements epitomises the essential goals of the RMIT International Industry Experience and Research Program - to help produce competent graduates capable of working and living anywhere on the planet as global citizens," he said.
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