Das Leben als Praktikant bei der COPLAN AG – aus der Sicht eines amerikanischen Studenten

Was genau machen Studenten während ihres Praktikums eigentlich bei der COPLAN AG? Das erzählt uns Zach Tourgee, der derzeit ein sechsmonatiges Praktikum an unserem Standort in Regensburg absolviert. Er erzählt uns von seinem Alltag und seinen Aufgaben in der Abteilung Projektmanagement (Schwerpunkt US-Projekte), die er seit Ende Februar unterstützt und wie er eigentlich zur COPLAN AG gekommen ist.

Zach, the stage is yours!

Hi my name is Zachary Tourgee and I am a student from Rhode Island. I am doing an internship here at COPLAN AG and want to share my experiences with my time here at COPLAN and in Germany in general.

I am 23 years old and am a native Rhode Islander. Rhode Island is the smallest state by land area in the United States of America. It is in the northeast United States and is called the Ocean State because of its relatively large amount of coastline for its size.


Praktikant Zach Tourgee
Zach Tourgee
Logo der Universität von Rhode Island
Logo der Universität Rhode Island
Karte der USA mit dem hervorgehobenen Bundesstaat Rhode Island

I study Civil Engineering and German Language at the University of Rhode Island (URI) in South Kingston. I am studying as part of the International Engineering Program which aims to give engineering students a larger cultural experience. Engineering students will learn a language and learn about the country that speaks that language. Ultimately the student will travel to their country of choice and study at a partner university there and work at an internship. This year abroad will usually be in the student’s 4th year of study. I completed my year abroad in my 5th year of study due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first half of my year abroad was spent at the Technical University of Braunschweig. I took many courses at TU Braunschweig both for German and Civil Engineering. The university experience was very different than in the United States as for many of my courses the only grade that mattered was the final examination. I learned a lot about German culture while living in Braunschweig. I also travelled to different locations around the country such as Hamburg, Berlin, and Nuremberg.

Gebäude der Ingenieurwissenschaften
Universitätsgebäude der Ingenieurswissenschaften
Campus URI
Luftbild des Campus der URI

In my 4th year of study at URI, all the students going abroad in the next year had to apply for internships in their host countries. The program director, Sigrid Berka, helped me get an internship here at COPLAN. COPLAN has worked with students from URI for many years. I applied to the internship and was quickly accepted and started contact with my boss, Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Christian Suess. Christian first called me in June 2022.

While I was living in Braunschweig, I travelled to Regensburg to meet Christian and learn more about the city I would be doing my internship in. The visit was brief as Christian had to return to work, but the visit was overall very nice.

I first started at COPLAN on February 27th and was received a grand reception to the office. I was greeted by all my new coworkers, a small banner, and a cake. My first day at COPLAN was mostly about setting myself up in the office and learning about what I will be doing during my internship.

I have worked on multiple projects during my time at COPLAN, each with their own difficulties that needed to be worked around. The first project I worked on was a combined project of refurbishing helicopter landing pads and the construction of a Military Police station in Bulgaria.

My first assignment was to remake the organizational chart for the project as some of the members of the project had changed. Once I had remade the organizational chart, I then had to remake the schedule for the project. The project start date had been pushed back and the project would move the project end into 2025. Making the project schedule gave me an opportunity to learn about German and Bulgarian holidays that needed to be put on the schedule.


Dipl--Ing. (FH) Christian Suess und Praktikant Zach Tourgee
Program Manager Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Christian Suess und Zach Tourgee am ersten Praktikumstag Ende Februar
Renderimg Entwurf von Zach Tourgee
Entwurf Militärpolizeistation (Rendering)

Once I had finished some of the administrative documents for the project, I was then assigned with fleshing out the design analysis of the helicopter refurbishment section of the project. I enjoyed doing this as it brought together many aspects of my education as a civil engineer and allowed me to delve deeper into the project and gain a greater understanding of the engineering. The project refurbished 6 helicopter landing pads, 4 near a shooting range, and 2 near an observational tower. The landing pads aren’t designed for helicopters to stay on them for extended periods of time and this was a design issue that had to be worked around. My design analysis went into depth about what the projects difficulties were and how they were solved or were being solved. After I put as much information as I could into the design analysis, I was taught how to perform the calculations for the thickness of the concrete for the landing pads and added those calculations to the design analysis.

Helicopter Pad
Arm/Dirarm Pad
Arm/Disarm Pad

After completing the design analysis for the refurbishment of the helicopter landing pads, I started a report called the “Engineering considerations and instructions for field personnel” for the military police station. This part of the project is the construction of a military police station with 2 holding cells, offices, and an armory. The engineering considerations and instructions for field personnel is a document meant to convey to field personnel about what aspects of the project need to be carefully monitored to ensure the project goals are completed.

Another project that I have supported during my time at COPLAN was the Airfield Upgrades in Slovakia. The Airfield Upgrades project came in two parts, the first being a parking apron and the second being an arm/disarm pad. The arm/disarm pad is where aircraft have munitions either loaded on or off them. The pad being separate from other facilities minimizes the destruction that could result from accidents with the munitions. The arm/disarm pad at the Airfield should be able to service 4 aircraft at once. The design vehicle for the arm/disarm pad is a combination of the F-15 and F-22. My primary goal with the arm/disarm pad was to help find the best location for the pad given the building codes that needed to be adhered to. 

The primary concern for the location of the arm/disarm pad is the lateral clearance zone of the runway at the Airfield. All obstacles need to be at least 140 meters from the centerline of the runway. Then from 140 meters away, obstacles need to stay under a plane that rose 1 meter per 7 meters horizontally. The best way to find a position for the arm/disarm pad with the clearance zone, was to draw a 3-dimensional model of the pad and clearance zone and find a position where the aircraft would be outside the clearance zone. To do this I used the 3D drawing program, Sketchup, which I learned how to use and improved my skills with over the course of my internship.


Gruppenfoto COPLAN Regensburg
Gruppenfoto der Regensburger Kollegin und Kollegen während eines Besuches von Dr. Niko Tracksdorf (Assistant Professor of German Co-Director, German International Engineering Program URI), der die URI Studenten in Deutschland betreut. v.l.: Ahmad Morjan , Anne Remus, Dr. Niko Tracksdorf, Zach Tourgee, Christian Suess, Wolfgang Laumer

For the rest of my internship, I’ll continue to work on projects with Christian and learning more about Germany and the engineering done here at COPLAN. I’ll then be leaving the company and returning to the United States at the end of August.

Thank you Zach!

Du willst genau wie Zach auch mal ein Praktikum bei der COPLAN AG machen?

Dann plane DEIN Projekt, bewirb dich bei uns und werde COPLANer! Am einfachsten geht das als Initiativbewerbung.

Wir freuen uns auf dich!