by Patrick Molligo
After several weeks of juggling term papers, rugby practices, and even a bit of traveling, I’ve finally seemed to settle back into a somewhat normal rhythm here in Berlin. One major advantage of studying in Europe for a full year (as opposed to one semester) is the enormous amount of free time I have in between terms. For about two months my only academic obligation is to choose my courses for the summer. Otherwise, I can more or less do anything I want until mid-April.
Given the stress that comes with final exams and papers, many students choose to take a break from Berlin and travel. In fact, I believe several of my fellow students hopped on a flight the day after their work was completed. I certainly plan on doing some more traveling during my time in Europe (my likely next destinations are Prague, Krakow, and Budapest). However, I’ve decided to use my two months of freedom for an internship.
It feels as if it’s been an eternity since I first arrived in Berlin and began my guest stay with a host family. I still make sure to stay in touch with them though, a decision which has paid off greatly. My host mother is heavily involved in politics, and when I mentioned that I was looking for potential internships, she offered to send my Lebenslauf (resumé) to some of her colleagues. I initially assumed that nothing would come of it. After all, I’m neither a German native-speaker nor a student of political science. But as luck might have it, I received an email in January from a member of the Senatskanzlei (Senate Chancellory) of Berlin. After a rather brief interview I was offered a six-week (unpaid) internship at the Berliner Rathaus, which is, for lack of a better description, the mayor’s office. What’s particularly exciting about this opportunity is the fact that Berlin, in addition to being the capital of Germany, is also a federal state. Therefore, the men and women I’m working with are policy-makers on a rather large scale.
I was, however, clueless about what my job would actually be. In the U.S., depending on who you work for, internships can range from boring and clerical to engaging and interactive. When I discussed my job with my landlady, she seemed to lean more towards the former.
“Bin eher gespannt, zu sehen, was ich morgen beim Rathaus machen muss,” I said to her on the night before my first day. ”Ich kann dir schon sagen,” she answered, “Kaffee kochen.” While I knew that I was lucky just to have received the internship offer in the first place, I was certainly hoping that I’d be doing more than making coffee for six weeks.
As it turns out, the internship has proven to be quite exciting. As far as menial, clerical tasks go, I have virtuallly no part in them, which actually surprises me seeing as how there are always bottomless stacks of paperwork to be completed in government offices. Instead, I’ve been assigned a couple of small research projects, which I’ll be presenting in the form of a written report at the end of my time here. There is of course the added challenge that I’m writing in German but, with several long term papers under my belt, I’m confident that I’ll do just fine.
What’s probably most exciting about this job is the fact that I get to commute to Alexanderplatz every morning. It’s not so much that Alex is a fun and interesting part of Berlin (I’ve been here so many times that I hardly even notice the enormous Fernsehturm anymore). Instead, it has to do with a feeling of integration.
Alexanderplatz, the Berliner Rathaus, and other landmarks have simply become the backdrop to my life here. Don’t get me wrong, Berlin never ceases to excite me and there’s plenty that I’ve yet to discover, but as I begin my last few months abroad I can’t help but feel that I truly fit into this city more than anywhere else. In fact, there’s more than good chance that I’ll be back for graduate school, but that will have to be the topic of another post…
This post was originally published on Mehr ein Weltteil als eine Stadt and was used here with persmission of the author.