After reflecting on my time in Berlin, I can see the massive amount of growth I have had through the internship program. It has taken a little while to decompress from the trip because it was a quick sprint of a lot of stimuli being thrown at me in both a professional and social context, which was expected. On a personal level, I feel like my work abroad made me more adaptive to different social settings and external obstacles. When dealing with speakers of a language I am not familiar with, it got frustrating at times when I was unable to share or be heard. I coped with this by not getting wound up and instead using this time of silence to be more reflective and see the ways in which I can help. It was interesting to be sort of “forced” to adapt, which is the best way to learn. Apart from the language barrier, there were consistently different people I met of all types of demographics that saw me as the outsider – in a friendly way – but this dynamic took time to get used to and now I can say it will be easy going forward to ease into a foreign culture based on this experience.
On an academic level, I feel like I got better at taking feedback and applying the criticisms my supervisor gave me. This is because in German work culture it is more hardcore in terms of correcting those around you and cutting to the chase on what could work better. After adapting to this harsher style, I used it to my advantage by asking questions about the critiques and using them to make my work better, as opposed to feeling as though I was “wrong”. This is absolutely something that I will take with me to Pitt. Using constructive criticism is very important, and not letting it throw you off track is key. When Fiete, my supervisor, would give me many different things to change about my work, I instantly did it and continued to ask him about ideas on how to make it even better. This allowed me to lean into the criticism while also making it personal to what direction I saw it going in.
In terms of professional growth, the internship taught me many things about how to balance work and life. It was my first 9-5 job that actually had a true commute, so this was the first learning curve. Navigating Berlin’s public transportation helped me to get a feel for what I might be doing in the future in terms of traveling to and from work. It was a good exercise for learning how to prepare for the day both physically and mentally. Visualizing the tasks ahead of me while walking and taking the subway was a good way to make myself feel like I was ready for whatever was about to be thrown at me. Apart from the commute, learning the German way of balancing work and life was a great start for my professional career. Although there were many outliers to this, the people I was around typically stressed the importance of not worrying about work once you are done for the day. In U.S. culture, it is typical to almost have your whole life revolve around work, but Berlin seemed to operate differently. People made sure to enjoy the rest of the day outside, with friends or on their own doing something they enjoy. My supervisor made it clear that he never wanted me to stress out about work when the clock hits 5pm. It was a relaxed work environment in this sense, and helped me to really consider the importance of balancing work and life.
The program led me to these points of growth and so much more. I am interested to see how my busy work life will be affected by my experience in Berlin, and I will work to incorporate these into my schoolwork, especially when I get stressed out about assignments and workload. I will go forward with better ability to take criticism, and a more constructive outlook on work. I will tell myself that since I successfully navigated working in a foreign city, Pitt cannot be that difficult, especially since I have been there for three years already. Using the personal, academic and professional skills I strengthened in Berlin, my final year at Pitt will be a time to continue to sharpen them in anticipation for work life. The internship helped to positively change many of my perspectives on professional life, and continuing that momentum throughout working in the U.S. will be the best way to carry on my growth.