I first visited Berlin when I was sixteen. I was doing a foreign exchange to learn French in Lausanne, Switzerland, and a friend of mine’s family had moved to the German city for a year. At the cusp of upper teenage-hood, I was in the throes of puberty’s lingering social anxiety, but forcing myself into new cultures gave me access to a side of myself I hadn’t seen before. I became independent and self-assured, and this new confidence allowed me to explore Berlin without the hesitation I would have had a few months prior. I spent the week wandering through Mitte and Kreuzberg, and though my trip remained surface-level, visiting historical sites and tourist attractions, I felt a connection to the city that I knew I needed to deepen. The street art that covered most buildings' surfaces, the estranged and beautiful fashion that roamed the flea markets, and the peaceful energy that vibrated from the youth that dominated the city parks all struck something tender in me. I had to go back.
I ended up attending a university in London for my freshman year, enamored by Europe and what it brought out of me. I went back to Berlin with some friends over our fall break, staying in a youth hostel near the East Side Gallery. Though this trip was short, rained on, and a repeat of tourist attractions for my companions, the pull to the city I had first felt at sixteen remained.
I ended up transferring to a school in my hometown, a picturesque and kitschy Upstate New York “city” known for its horse races, to save money. The move had an ultimatum in my head: I could withstand suburbs for a few more years if I could continue my independence over school breaks. So, for my first summer back home, I knew where I needed to go.
I searched the internet and consulted my school’s study abroad office, and discovered the best way to get an internship abroad was through a program like IES Abroad, because they would provide housing, community, academic credit (you can’t get paid without a visa, so credit ups the program from just “experience”), and most importantly, an internship placement. I filled out my application promptly and eagerly awaited my internship options.
My major is Multimedia Journalism with an arts concentration, and I was hoping to get an internship in the creative field, though something in communications would have fit my interests as well. When I received my list of options I was asked to rank them. Making creative content for a sustainable fashion company was my highly desired number one. After a few weeks, instead of hearing back from IES Abroad about any of the companies, they sent me a new list of options. This one caught me off guard; it was three educational institutions that would want me to do more administrative tasks. I quickly emailed IES Abroad to see if there was a mix-up, and we scheduled a Zoom meeting. They informed me that the companies they had originally sent me weren’t accepting interns anymore for various reasons and that they didn’t have any further connections in the arts or communications. They promised they would keep looking, but that there was a good chance I would be stuck interning for something that wasn’t within my line of interest.
I thought back to my time abroad in high school, where I had learned to be independent and self-assured. I wanted to get the best out of my summer in Berlin, and that would mean finding an internship that I felt excited about. On a whim, I DMed an artist who I had a distant mutual with and asked if he needed any help. Somehow everything aligned; he has a solo show coming up in November, and although he usually hires an assistant, he hadn’t for the summer. As a conceptual artist, he maintains a multimedia approach that I work with in my studies and art. IES Abroad legitimized the internship, and now I am two days away from embarking on my trip.
It’s funny how things always find a way to work out. I would have never guessed at sixteen that I would get to go back to Berlin to be a studio assistant for an artist, receiving access to a world that seemed so far away but so alluring. Although I was stressed about the lack of communications-based internships through IES Abroad, it allowed me to pursue an internship that will fulfill me more than making social media content for a company would have. Now I get to deepen my connection to Berlin and step into the art scene of one of the most innovative cities in the world. I cannot wait.
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I am Multimedia Journalism student at Skidmore College. In my free time, I make a lot of art and go on as many adventures as I can with my friends!