Leadership and Hamburg in a Day

Despite having the opportunity to spend two months in Germany, it occurred to me this week that despite traveling to several other countries in Europe over the weekends, (Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, and more to come!) I have done almost no exploring of my host country, Germany. In fact, up until this past weekend, I had not been outside of Berlin. Well, actually, we went to Potsdam to see the Sanssouci Palace back during our second week, but that was less than an hour away from our hotel. Wow, I can’t believe that trip was over a month ago already.

Anyway, even though there are still plenty of things to see and do in Berlin, I decided that I wanted to try and see at least one other German city this summer. So, on Saturday I took a day trip three hours north by bus to see Hamburg. I did not have nearly as much time as I would have like to see everything on my list, but I had a great time. I spent a lot of time walking around the Warehouse District, or Speicherstadt, and the harbor. As much as I have come to love Berlin, Hamburg’s rivers and port were absolutely incredible.

One thing that near the top of my to-do list in Hamburg was the Chocoversum, or the Chocolate Museum. Perhaps not most education museum in Europe, but it looked like a lot of fun and I knew I had to check it out. Unfortunately for me, on the day I was there, they were only offering tours in German. While my Deutsch skills have vastly improved from this time last month, I was in no way prepared to listen to a 90 minute presentation and be able to understand any of the information. Yet, I knew this was something I really wanted to do, so I went anyway, and I was right – I didn’t understand anything that was being said.

I still had a great time though. Just seeing everything was interesting enough, and the free samples certainly helped as well! Plus, about halfway through the tour, I met a very nice German woman who offered to translate the important parts for me. While I still think I would like to have been on an English tour, this was certainly an experience I do not regret having.

I knew when I applied for this program way back in January that I wanted to spend my weekends seeing as much of Europe that I possibly can in only two months, and I even have my last few weekends already all planned out. However, there is a part of me that wishes I could just dedicate the entire two months to seeing Germany. There are so many German cities I want to visit, and that is not even mentioning the German countryside and small-town culture I wished to see. I mean, there’s enough to do in Berlin alone to keep us occupied for well over two months. I have learned very quickly that part of the summer is not nearly enough time to experience all of Germany, let alone all of Europe. I still plan to see as much as possible in our last three weeks because I am not sure when I will have the opportunity to see Europe again. At least this short summer has taught me that I will be back eventually. I need to.

Before this internship, I would describe my leadership style as “as-needed,” meaning that while I could step up and take on the leadership role any time I wished, I was also always happy to let someone else take on the responsibility if they wanted to. While I would not exactly call myself a follower, I was definitely passive and did not really inspire confidence in anyone who did choose to follow me.

“Confidence” is the key word here as this is the number one thing I can say that I have gained from the international internship experience. Although my supervisor’s main advice for me during my performance review was to not be afraid to express my opinions and to trust my own judgment, I can definitely say that I have gained more confidence in myself and my abilities over the last five weeks.

While I wouldn’t say I had self-esteem issues before, I would often second guess myself, and this would get in the way of being an effective leader. Since starting at JUNIQE and being trusted with all business orders from the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden, I have learned to manage my self-doubt and to trust myself more. I would say that above all else in regards to leadership, I have become a more effective leader as I have become someone that others feel more comfortable following.