by Justine Steiner
Finding a German company willing to give an internship to an 18-year-old American girl with no experience and rough German skills isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. But somehow, I managed to do just that.
After being accepted into the Congress-Bundestag Vocational Youth Exchange Program, my next step was to decide in what field I wanted to intern. I decided to take a leap of faith and try to somehow work in the fashion industry—a passion of mine that was put on the backburner due to the limited possibilities available for a girl growing up in small-town Nebraska. I was lucky enough to be placed with a host family in Berlin, the so-called “fashion capital” of Germany, and that’s when I began my internship search.
I started off with a simple Google search, where I came across the fashionunited.de website which listed tons of fashion internships available in Germany. Luckily enough, I found an internship that I thought I would enjoy doing. I talked with my area representative from Open Door International e.V. (the organization behind my program), and she decided that I should go ahead and give it a shot. After all, I didn’t have anything to lose.
My area representative first contacted the business owner of my future internship company and told him the details about my program and asked if he would be willing to read over my application. With luck (from the Fashion Gods, I’m assuming) he said yes. As excited as I was at that time, I had no idea the work that would come with applying to an internship in Germany.
First things first: the resume and application letter. I first took to creating a German resume, or CV. I had help from my teacher at the Academy for International Education in Bonn so, although it took some patience, it wasn’t terribly hard. The application letter, however, wasn’t so easy. Thankfully, I had help from a friend who previously interned in Germany and was fluent in German. With the letter and CV finished, I sent them off to the boss of the company and then awaited a response.
About a week later, I received a response. However, it wasn’t the “yes, we would love to have you!” I was hoping for. It was the “we want to have a phone interview” response instead.
At that time, I was definitely not ready to try and have an interview in German over the phone. However, the Fashion Gods were on my side once again when it came to the interview. The boss had no problem speaking English with me, and he understood that it would have been hard for me to completely explain why I wanted to intern for him and why I was interested in fashion. We did the second part of the interview in German though so he could get a sense of the level I was at. Before I knew it, the interview I had been longing for was over, and I was stuck waiting a week for a response.
I finally received a phone call while I was waiting in line at the post office. I took a deep breath before answering and prepared myself for the worst, but there was no need to. It was a yes!
I am now happily working with my internship company, stoffbruch, which is a small fashion label based in Berlin. I help out on the management and marketing side and I have been surprised at how well I like it. I’ve learned so much already in the past three months—like running an inventory system, marketing through social media, managing an online store, and how partnerships with other business work. Plus, I even got to travel to Austria to help set-up and run our booth at a tradeshow.
Although it took some time and hard work, my internship experience so far had made everything well worth it.
Oh, and I forgot the best part—I get free clothes from the new collections. This internship certainly isn’t a bad start to my future fashion career.
Read more about Justine’s adventures in Germany at Justine takes Germany.