Leadership & Family Visits

I can’t believe I am now halfway through the internship. It feels like I just got to Germany yesterday, and there is so much I still want to do. 

This week at work, I have mainly been working on my supervisor’s presentation to the Board of Directors. He is presenting the Year End Financial Review to them, so I am helping him organize the information and format it in an easy-to-understand way. My supervisor is also teaching me how to do a reconciliation. I am comparing two values, finding the variance, and recording it in SAP. I like this task because I learned about variances this year in my Managerial Accounting class, so it is interesting to apply what I learned. 

My sister visited me this weekend. She is also spending the summer in Germany, but she is on the other side of Germany in Bochum. She is a civil engineering student at Lehigh University, and she was invited to participate in the Ruhr Fellowship this summer. It is similar to the internship program I am in. She is working at Emschergenossenschaft, which is a wastewater management company. She likes it because she is very interested in sustainability and saving water. 

I took my sister to see the Brandenburg Gate and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We then went to Kreuzberg and sat along the Spree River as the sunset. On Sunday, we went to the Mauerpark Fleamarket, which she loved. There were many vendors with clothes, jewelry, antiques, art, etc. One thing I love about Berlin is how strangers come together and create a community instantly. At Mauerpark, random people were dancing and singing together and having a great time. 

Before going abroad, I didn’t realize how different perspectives and values can shape what people do with their time and their lives. For example, in the US, education and family are highly valued. So, people value going to college, getting a good job, having stable relationships, etc. While these things are also valued in Berlin, I think others are valued more, like having fun, being free, and expressing yourself. These values are portrayed through street art, nightlife, and the lack of marriages and committed relationships. It also seems like there is art everywhere you look – not just street art, but also friends talking and laughing together, singing, and dancing. I like how enjoying life is a priority for Berliners. 

At Pitt, I am in the Certificate Program for Leadership and Ethics. As part of the program, I took a Service Learning course, which is a course where students break into teams and help a local business or non-profit solve a problem they are facing. My team did our consulting project for the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority. Also in this course, we learned about servant leadership. We learned that the best leaders are not those who are authoritative or pushy but those who are good listeners, empathetic, healing, and have awareness. In fact, people who are typically viewed as leaders because they are more outspoken and authoritative are not always be the best leader in practice.

Therefore, before coming to Germany, I was trying to form my leadership style into being a servant leader. When I am in a leadership role, I think I am gentle and empathetic. I believe that I lead by example, I prioritize acting ethically more than performance, and I am vulnerable about my shortcomings. When I am in a leadership role, I ask for help and do not pretend to have it all figured out. I believe others perceive me as someone they can come to who will give up their time to help them. 

My leadership style has been challenged, however, since I have been working in Germany. I am used to ‘blending in’ with others in the room, even in leadership roles. However, now I am the youngest person in my office, from America, and I cannot speak German with them. At lunch and throughout the day, my coworkers constantly ask me about America and want to get to know me. It is interesting and fun to learn about them and compare my experiences to theirs, but it can also be exhausting. 

So, this experience challenges me to adopt a more proactive leadership style. At school, I am used to always being told what to do. At work, I often have to push myself outside of my comfort zone, be flexible, and be open to anything. This is helping me to be a better leader because in my future jobs and positions, I will need to take initiative. Being outside of my comfort zone and putting myself out there helps me grow and be a more confident leader. 

Next weekend, I am going to Amsterdam with five other American students who are also doing internships in Germany. I am very excited because I have wanted to go to Amsterdam for years. I bought tickets for the Anne Frank House, which were surprisingly difficult to get. The tickets are released six weeks in advance, but I didn’t even know I was going to Amsterdam six weeks ago. I was constantly refreshing the website to buy tickets hoping somebody would cancel, and luckily, more tickets were released. I am currently reading her diary to prepare for my visit.

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