My Accounting Experience Abroad

International|Schneider Downs

By Katharina Lange

“Katharina, what would you think about spending some time abroad as part of your trainee program?” Ulrich Britting, the shareholder of the German accounting firm BEST AUDIT GmbH, with whom I have been working since September 2012, asked me.

Obviously I didn’t have to think long about this opportunity, as working in the U.S. has been one of my greatest desires since starting my dual Bachelor degree at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and University of Applied Sciences in Muenster, Germany. Through contacts within the network of PrimeGlobal, one of the largest associations of independent accounting firms in the world, it was not difficult to find an affiliate accounting firm that would happily take me on for this experience - Schneider Downs and BEST AUDIT have been working together on audit projects for many years.

Then, after a year of waiting and organizing, I finally arrived in Pittsburgh and immediately fell in love with the city – fairly high skyscrapers conveying a big city feeling surrounded by mountains, deep-green landscape and countless bridges over rivers whose names I still have to learn to pronounce.

The first days at Schneider Downs were all about settling in and getting to know the office and its people. Also, during the first few days, I not only got the opportunity to see a Pirates baseball game with the Schneider Downs new hires at PNC Park (with its breathtaking view of Downtown Pittsburgh) but also a pre-season Steelers game. Even though everyone said that a pre-season game is not as exciting as a regular game, it was an amazing experience! Many thanks to Mary Richter, tax shareholder of Schneider Downs, for making this possible.

From day one, I was welcomed as a full-team member by my colleagues, which made working in a different environment very easy and enjoyable. Due to the relationship of Schneider Downs and BEST AUDIT, I was able to work for an international client whose German statutory audit was conducted by my German colleagues while I was part of the audit team here in the US. Being able to connect both audits and supporting the Schneider Downs team in case of questions helped both sides to better understand each other and will lead to even more efficient cooperation in the future.

During my time at Schneider Downs, I found out that working for an American accounting firm is not very much different from working at BEST AUDIT. Even though some accounting principles of U.S.-GAAP differ from German GAAP, auditing is mostly done in the same way in both countries. Confirmations need to be prepared, samples to be picked, work papers and memos to be written. However, doing all this in a foreign language (my mother tongue is German) was challenging but also a great opportunity to improve. With the help of my colleagues at Schneider Downs it didn’t seem to be an issue at all.

I am very thankful for the time I was allowed to spend at Schneider Downs, for not only developing professionally, but also personal, through meeting wonderful people, making new friends and getting to know a small but still significant part of the U.S.

To say it with an alteration of a famous quote: Some people [and places] come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.

Katharina Lange, BEST AUDIT GmbH

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