Week 1: Off to a great start in Berlin

One week down in Berlin! I can not believe that I have already been here for a whole entire week as it still feels like it was just yesterday in which I was leaving Pittsburgh. My trip consisted of a flight from Pittsburgh to Toronto, Toronto to Munich, and then finally Munich to Berlin. Initially, Going into the trip I was slightly worried about my connecting flights since I would only have an hour layover, however, I ended up having ample time to find each gate so it worked out well. Once I arrived I was pretty exhausted since I was not able to sleep much on the plane and jet lag was pretty brutal the first few days to say the least. Nevertheless, once we got into Berlin and settled into the hotel we hit the ground running as Intrax set up a 3 hour walking tour throughout parts of Berlin which all started at the Brandenburg Gate. The tour was easily one of my favorite events Intrax set up for us as it was really interesting hearing all the history with regards to east/west berlin, talking about the history of the brandenburg gate, seeing the memorial to the murdered jews of europe, standing over the bunker in which Hitler spent his final days, taking pictures at checkpoint Charlie, and even seeing the hotel that Michael Jackson dangled his baby out of the window of. Our tour guide was an American from NYC who moved to Berlin when she was 16 which also was nice being able to get some good recommendations with regards to cool places to visit throughout the city.

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Throughout the week we did a lot with Intrax for orientation such as taking a 2 hour language class every day in which the main thing I learned to say was “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” or “I do not speak german”, go to several museums/art installations, visit various political parties in Germany such as the CDU and the Green Party, and visit Germany’s Coca Cola Headquarters. All in all, it was really nice having Britta and Intrax show us around and get us acclimated to using the public transportation which is truly amazing here.

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On the time on my own I have found it really easy to travel around the city because as mentioned above the public transportation is so easy to figure out and extremely efficient. So far I have been able to go to some cool places and restaurants such as Burgermeister, the Monkey Bar which is on the 10th floor of one of the bigger buildings in Berlin, explore an abandoned railroad station that houses some cool nightlife areas, go to a popular techno club, visit Berlin’s largest park called Tiergarten, go to the famous East Side Gallery which is a mile long stretch of the Berlin Wall which is covered in art, and also visit a very cool rooftop bar called Klunkerkranich. Nevertheless, I have so much more I hope to do!

I also wanted to touch on some of the biggest cultural differences between the US and Germany and more generally some of the little things that I have found interesting thus far. Although at times it can be a little overwhelming and stressful not speaking German, it has been super nice given the fact that I have yet to encounter a single person who does not speak at least some English, and it is often funny that people can tell we are Americans right away and do not even bother trying to even speak German despite the fact a few people on the trip can speak fluently. It is interesting to see that another country is essentially almost bilingual and does not get too annoyed with having to switch back and forth something I do not think people would be too happy to take on in the US. Another thing that I have found interesting is how there is such a large focus on climate change and preserving the environment here. Although it is partly due to the fact that we are in Berlin, one of the world’s most liberal and LGBTQ+ friendly cities, there seems to be a huge concern with what Germany’s impact on the environment is. For example, we learned that most Germans have numerous garbage cans at home that specifically label different types of plastics and waste so that it can be more efficiently recycled. Furthermore, mostly all of the beers and drinks here are served in glass and once you are done with your glass you take it back to the store in which you bought it or another local shop in order to return in to be deep cleansed and then reused, and by doing so you even get .50 euro or so deposit back per bottle. Another thing with regards to food is also that Germans do not use ice in their drinks and also serve water “with gas” which means that it is plan water which is carbonated. Lastly, I have noticed that there seems to be an emphasis on being straight-forward and punctual. Whenever a meeting starts at 11:00 am you best believe that everyone will be right on time and that the meeting will end on the dot as well. People also move very fast and will get a little annoyed if you are being slow to get on the train or taking a little too long to bag your groceries. Overall, however, I do find that the US and German cultures have a lot in common and I am slowly getting adjusted to having to hear and read German everywhere.

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On Monday the 20th I officially started my internship with Sirius Facilities, a publicly traded commercial real estate firm which is dual listed in both London and Johannesburg that  operates business parks, office, storage, and manufacturing space throughout Germany in which their main business strategy consists of buying older industrial spaces and revamping them into modern and custom-fit spaces. Sirius has experienced a lot of growth over the past two years in which it has seen a 50% increase in properties of the past year or two while also now housing roughly 100 employees in their Berlin office. With the company I will be working within the Finance department under my manager Mr. Kelly, and Irishman, who I am personally extremely excited to work under. Working in the commercial real estate industry I personally believe that it is extremely important to be someone who is able to build and foster personal relationships whether it be with capital markets providers, other firms in the industry, or the tenants in which you are doing business with. Like most businesses there is a heavy emphasis on personal relationships and trust. I also believe that you need to be someone who is constantly keeping up to date with market events and willing to adapt to change as the industry itself is fairly cyclical. Finally, I think that within in Berlin it is especially necessary to be aware of the housing crisis that they are currently experiencing at least from an ethical standpoint. Berlin over the past 10 years or so has experienced skyrocketing housing prices which has pushed a lot of residents outside of the city. This all is caused by numerous things such as foreign investors buying property, doing nothing, and then selling it whenever the land value appreciates. Additionally Berlin has a limit on how tall buildings can be and they essentially do not have a single skyscraper the whole entire city. This was something we discussed heavily when we had our trip to the Green Party and thus it is really interesting to see how it impacts the industry I am working in even if Sirius is focused on workspace as 25% of new buildings still need to be dedicated to affordable housing.

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One week down in Berlin and plenty more to come! I can not wait to see what the next week has in store. IMG_8234