"I had no idea up until two weeks before whether or not I'd be getting on a plane to Germany...But luckily, I got what I needed from the Summer Internship Awards."
Program of Study: History and German
Internship: Aktion Suhnezeichen Friedensdienste (Action Reconciliation Service for Peace)
Location: Berlin, Germany
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
Technically I was an intern in the fundraising department, but I worked in a lot of the different departments. I worked at the events that they participated in, like Kirchentag, which is a big, yearly Protestant festival in Germany and has about 100,000 participants. The next month I was in ASF’s group in the Christopher Street Day parade (Berlin’s Gay Pride) making people aware that there is discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity all over Europe, the United States, and Israel (those are the lands in which ASF has projects). We were also at the first United Nations Peace Festival and at study/work/volunteer abroad fairs. I did a lot of work with database management and translating. I spent four weeks on their 94 page annual report, not to mention other smaller jobs. Once everyone felt comfortable with me they just started asking if I could look something over they had translated or just asked me to translate. I did other publicity work, also, as well as regular office work.
How did you find your internship?
I knew someone who did a volunteer service with them at Auschwitz and he put me in contact with the organization. This happened all very matter-of-fact-ly. Working in Germany was something I was considering and he was helping me with my cover letters and resume in German and I asked him if he knew any contacts. He sent an email with my resume and that was that.
What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
While I was searching I found the CDO tremendously helpful. They go over cover letters and resumes, they know where to look, and they have contacts. I spent a lot of time in that office as well as on idealist.org, where I found a lot of interesting internships.
Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
By the time I was offered the internship I was sure I wanted to be in Germany for the summer. It was the only internship I was offered, though I would have gladly taken it even if I’d been offered others. I looked for internships that fit within my interests and at first I just looked for paid, thinking Summer Internship Awards could never cover my summer.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
Funding. I had no idea up until two weeks before whether or not I'd be getting on a plane to Germany. I applied for the Summer Internship Awards but I didn’t know if I’d get enough. I spoke with every department on campus that could even remotely be considered relevant. No one had funding. But luckily, I got what I needed from the Summer Internship Awards.
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
Work experience in a field that is definitely an option for my future, as well as fluency in German. I went with very few expectations-- not in a negative way, but in an open way.
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
I could see myself working for an organization like ASF, as well as in the international non-profit sector-- in international education, international volunteering, and/or peace work.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
The 94 page annual report; translating that was definitely the most difficult. It was written in very complicated German about complex topics. It was also one of the things I am most proud of. Also, finding funding for an unpaid internship.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
Contributing to the peace work that AFS does was probably the most rewarding aspect, as well as the relationships I built with my colleagues.
Any funny/ embarrassing things happen during your internship?
A few coworkers and I were coming back from lunch and got stuck in the elevator. After the ordeal one of them came back and told the others that we had to alternatively breathe so that we could survive in the thin air. A few days later I left my keys at work and went home, which took 45 minutes and then realized while I was at the grocery store that I left my keys at work. I went back, and found some of my colleagues enjoying feierabend (the time after work, with Feier meaning celebration and abend meaning evening-- that is a glimpse into the German mindset) at an outdoor cafe. They gave me a key to the office and I went and got my keys. They always made sure I had my keys after that. Other than that, living in a foreign language is always funny/embarrassing.
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
I saw what a desk job in a non-profit was like. I also got a real taste of what it felt like to be a part of an organization, which was really great.
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Be open and get to know your colleagues and your organization.