Berlin Outreach and Learning From The Community

My name is Andrew Murray and I am undertaking an international internship in Berlin through the IIP program through the University of Pittsburgh. I am going into my senior year at Pitt and cannot wait to be able to live as a young professional in a bustling city that is an epicenter of global politics, a major interest of mine. To start on a personal level, I live outside of Boston in a suburban town called Acton, which is about a 45 minute drive from the city. The dynamics of Boston along with its surrounding metropolitan area led me to discover a fond interest in policy making and working with a community that wants to change its course. I knew I enjoyed politics around seventh grade during election time when the debate around who will be commander-in-chief was running rampant in all classrooms. This led me to pursue a double major in both political science and urban studies, which is what I am on track to complete at Pitt and something that I am enhancing with my internship work. 

The internship in Berlin will be heavily focused on community outreach and is something that will add to my past professional experiences. I have worked for a state senator in Massachusetts which was very much involved in getting in touch with constituents and bridging the troublesome divide between politician and lay person. This is an issue that is important to me and one that has been a focus of mine in and out of the classroom. It was eye opening to see how valued it was for people to be in contact with local leaders, even if it was simply a birthday card or a handshake. This ties into my secondary interest in urban planning and how local leaders can help shape their surrounding area in a way that will give the community their own spaces and not ones that feel like they belong to the state of bureaucratic entities. For example, the senator I was working with worked to rethink and rework the downtown area of the struggling city he represents. This decreased congestion and led to the ability for more public spaces to open up that gave way to events like fundraisers, community gatherings and promotions for new restaurants. These types of moves help to show me that politics is not useless and just needs to be rethought in a way that gives the public areas back to the people who want them.

I chose to look for internships that were geared towards making a more just neighborhood that works for everyone and not just a few. This program allowed me to do this while gearing my focus on Europe and how processes differ in a place like Berlin. It was vital for me to see the political landscape, even if it is on a smaller scale, in a new environment that seems to be doing different and more productive things. This way, I can learn and take what has been working for Berlin and add it to future employment endeavors. I chose this IIP internship because it was closest to achieving this goal. The company that I will be working for next week is called Kiezconnect, which refers to itself as “moderators” of local initiatives that work to make Berlin fair and just for those living in and around the city. The organization works to get these voices heard on a policy-making level, and makes sure that everyone is able to have a say. Kiezconnect attempts to bridge the gap between civil groups and the federal government, which is extremely enticing to me given my personal background interests in the field. 

As I stated before, the biggest personal gain I can achieve through this internship is the ability to take what is done well here in Berlin and capitalize on that knowledge in the United States where I know I will inevitably work. I personally will grow as a person working, living and struggling to keep up in a new city. Although it is a daunting task, I know I am ready for it. Using public transportation, communicating in a language not known to me, and overcoming difficult obstacles within my projects are all things that will better prepare me for future employment opportunities. Academically, this internship will provide what a classroom cannot. The theories and readings that I have done surrounding this topic is not enough to understand the dynamic of a neighborhood and policy building. An actual experience will tie this all together and help me to further synthesize what I know, and point out the gaps in what is still unknown or confusing to me. Finally, the internship will point out to me what I might like and dislike about the field, and further narrow my employment path. This is what an internship should be for and is absolutely going to help further shape my professional career in a profound way.

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