It has been about 2 weeks since I returned home from my summer internship in Berlin, and I have been reflecting on my experience. It was truly one of the most unique experiences of my life, and I am so glad that I decided to do it. Being able to experience another country as not just a tourist, but as a part of their society was unlike any other. Simple things like grocery shopping or taking the subway to work was always a new opportunity to experience another culture to the fullest. Personally, throughout the program, I could feel myself growing and changing. At the beginning of the program, I would be nervous to leave the apartment myself and try new things. I would always have a good time trying out new restaurants, parks, and places with other people, but I struggled to find it within myself to go alone. But, during the middle of the summer, I began to be more comfortable with public transit and understand the layout and “vibes” of different neighborhoods within Berlin, and I found myself going alone to new places. After a group trip to Amsterdam, I feel that I fully gained the confidence within myself to be alone and went on a day trip around Berlin. Finding this level of independence within myself made me feel really proud of myself and the progress I made.
Academically, I felt that I grew slightly during my time in Berlin. The majority of my projects at atip:tap were based on research and writing deliverables, which I am very familiar with. The main difference between these projects and school projects was that I wasn’t necessarily receiving a grade or rubric. Therefore the quality of these papers was based on how well I had understood the topic and what I felt was right. I really enjoyed this level of independence and personal discretion that doesn’t really happen that often in school. I felt that I could really delve into the topics I was interested in and create works that I was proud of. For example, with my PFAS paper, while I had to write an overview of the topic, I could focus on how PFAS enter the environment, a topic I had a larger interest in. I also had familiarity with laws in Germany and the EU due to other tasks I had to complete at work, and I could work those into the paper. This made me feel very proud of my paper and I can see stark improvements in my writing when I have genuine interest in the topics.
During my time in Berlin, I definitely grew the most within the professional realm. I had previously never worked at a conventional workplace and I was nervous coming into the internship. I had heard about Germany being a forward and direct culture, and I was not sure what quite to expect. But, when I got there, my boss and every coworker I met was so kind and helpful, it pushed away any nervousness. Granted, at times, there was a definite directness when my boss explained tasks or wrote emails. But, I appreciated it because it allowed me to know exactly what she wanted and complete the tasks successfully. Having to come into the office daily and work within set hours was a bit of an adjustment for me. Typically in college, I work late at night because that is when I feel the most productive. Therefore, beginning to find my productivity during the day and early in the morning was a struggle at first. But, developing a set routine throughout the summer helped with this tremendously, and I was able to adjust. Another point of growth I felt within myself was how I communicated to my boss and coworkers in the office. Starting the internship, I was shy and indirect with what I was trying to say. I didn’t trust my own opinions or feel comfortable bringing up new ideas to my boss. During the midterm review, I remember reading that my boss felt that I could have more initiative and be more creative in my work. This was a bit of a wake up call for me for me to start to trust my ideas and vocalize my opinions. During my project with submitting German laws for a database, my boss let me decide on the best way to go about the task. I made sure to explain why I chose my ideas and be confident in my decisions.
I plan to take this confidence, creativity, independence, and self trust into the rest of my time at Pitt, as well as the rest of my career. I think that trusting yourself is a huge part of being successful at school and in a career in any field. It will help me believe in my ideas and establish me as a capable and creative individual.