Date of the interview
You earned a degree in International Taxation and Law from Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. What motivated you to study here in Kleve?
Well, to be honest, it was a no-brainer. When I first came to Germany, I wanted to study law. As an English native speaker, it was obvious that I could only study in English and Rhine-Waal was one of the few universities in Germany offering English courses. When I saw International Taxation and Law I thought: “Perfect, this is what I want to major in!” I only later discovered that it focused more on taxes than on law, but I loved it so I stayed.
Were you aware that this University was relatively new and if so, were you afraid that this might somehow be a problem?
Many Zimbabweans are enrolled at Rhine-Waal, hence the University is very well-known within our cultural spheres. Before I came here, it was still in Emmerich [Note: interim campus before the Kleve Campus was built], so I knew it was still a small university but I was willing to take the chance because the programme was in English.
What was the topic of your bachelor thesis?
My thesis was on the action points of the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan adopted by the OECD and G20 countries. Two years ago, the EU decided to introduce this country-by-country report for all big multinational companies. Its goal is to improve transparency so that companies give an overview of profits earned worldwide, the taxes paid and so on.
That was the trending topic in taxation and l so happened to do my internship with RWE, one of the biggest energy companies in Germany, and during my internship, it was of course also a very hot topic in the company. Hence, I decided to write my thesis on that with RWE. I’d always recommend people to try writing their thesis with a company if they can because what I experienced was that I had the theory part from the University but then at the company, I had the practical side and was able to combine both. You have the advantage of having two supervisors, your professor and someone from the company and you get many practical examples from the company so you have a lot of material to work with.
Can you recall a particularly funny, sad or otherwise memorable event that occurred during your studies?
I’d say that the last semesters were a bit challenging because in my fourth semester I remember that I had some issues with my health. I was hospitalised for two weeks and afterwards I had so much catching up to do so it was very challenging. At that time, I was considering doing an extra semester but I decided not to and in the end, it worked out really well.
Another memorable experience was that my thesis was one of the best in our faculty at the time and was nominated for the “Katjes Prize”. I didn’t win, but just to be one of the nominees was a great honour.
What are the different job perspectives for graduates of International Taxation and Law?
The taxation and law programme is a very good programme because there are so many different directions in which you can branch into. You can choose to be a tax advisor, which is actually the path that I’m trying to pursue, you can be a consultant or you can even go into accounting and finance or into management controlling systems. It’s very versatile and there are many opportunities. Additionally, during the course of our studies we had a lot of projects and these projects really introduce you to companies like the big four (Deloitte, PWC, KPMG and EY): they give workshops, reach out to us and send us invitations. The feedback that we receive from these companies is usually very positive because they always say that our study programme is one of the more unique ones in Germany. Normally, in the field of taxation, most people just do vocational training to become a tax accountant and our university is one of the very few ones that actually offers a specialized degree in that direction. That’s definitely an advantage on the job market.
Today, you are pursuing your master’s degree in economics at the University of Hagen and you worked as a research assistant at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. Can you describe what your typical working week looked like and some of your main tasks at the time?
At Rhine-Waal University, my contract was for 19 hours per week and my job was very flexible, so I did a lot of home office. Ideally, I was on campus two days per week, so usually Wednesdays and Thursdays and l used the rest of the time for studying. Seeing my master’s is distance learning, I usually go to the library and study there. However, I must say that sometimes I had more to do for work, so I dedicated maybe four days to just work, but then at times there was less to do, and I could spend more time on my studies. It’s was very flexible.
As for my tasks, before I graduated I was a student assistant for one of the professors in the faculty and during my time there I helped students with homework and all the Moodle activities. After l graduated, I kind of had the supervisor role for the other student tutors. Apart from that, I was mostly responsible for project planning and execution, for example, I had to plan a tax simulation project from scratch, then initiate it with the students and grade them. I was also partly responsible for an international taxation project we had with the HAN University in the Netherlands.
At times I had to help with creating slides, doing research, writing or translating articles. I was part of a team translating a textbook, written by one of the professors into an English script so that our students could use it. So overall, I had very diverse tasks and that was the fun part of it; it was not repetitive and a continuous learning curve.
What are your plans for the future when you have finished your master’s degree?
Once I’ve finished my masters, I’ll need two to three years’ work experience before I’m allowed to take the exam to become a certified tax advisor in Germany. So, after my masters I will go out into the working world, gather the required years of experience and during this time I will prepare for the exam.
Which advice would you like to give our students?
I would say that our students have to be more involved. What I observe now is that most of them just come to university, sit through the lectures, write exams and go home. They are not very involved. For your working life or your future it is very important to be involved in some projects and network, because this is where you get soft skills. All extra-curricular activities are important so that is what I would ultimately advise them: guys, get involved more!
Also important is the use of the German language. For most of our international students German is not a must, but I have to say it really helps if you learn to speak a bit German and to make use of the language courses which are offered here because they are being offered for free. You will also find that it helps you when you speak a bit of German in your job interviews and for part-time jobs and it will look good on your resume when you can show that you studied in Germany and were able to reach a certain level of German proficiency, although you studied in English. For example, when I came to Rhine-Waal they advised me not to stay with the students in a shared flat but to stay with local people so I was renting a room with a local old lady and I was forced to speak German all the time. That helped me a lot to improve my German.