The classes portion of our program finished up last week. I really enjoyed the excursions we did every Tuesday most of all. Some memorable ones included: Touring a mosque in Kreuzberg, seeing an outdoor theater production in Monbijou Park, and touring a German radio station. We had a 3-hour lecture (in German) most days of the week. Some of the presenters were really charismatic and interesting. Most were not. Germans and Americans definitely have different styles of teaching. Germans are sort of stand and deliver, or rather, “let me pour information at you and hope you absorb it.” At least at my university, when classes are that small (our group is only 11), it’s much more discussion-based and interactive. Still, it was a great experience – I learned SO much more about Germany. Politics, economics, the social system, migration, journalism, ethics, the arts, you name it. I was particularly fascinated by what I think of as their “socialist tendencies.” Like, did you know that every parent in Germany gets a small sum – I think it’s like 110 euro – per child, per month, up until that child is 25 years old? So German young adults stay dependent on their parents, at least financially, until they’re at least 25.
Another interesting thing is the subsidizing of the arts. Berlin has not one, but three operas, and all of them are largely state-funded. A normal, adult, non-student opera ticket costs around 55 euro, but without the subsidy, if the opera needed to support itself, tickets would cost around 130 euro. Berlin gives out 113 euro per person per year in subsidizing the arts. This concept is completely foreign to me. In America, if it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t stick around. On one hand it sounds nice, but on the other hand, when you think of all the tax money that goes into that, it’s kind of dumb. Especially when opera is just not that popular anymore – people have brought up the argument “well why do you subsidize opera but not hip hop? I like hip hop more” which is pretty solid. It made me think a lot – the Berlin government (and, in turn, the taxpayers) is paying through the nose to keep a dying art form alive, because it’s considered high art, even though it’s not popular. Madness, eh?
My internship started on Monday. I was so nervous. I had a dream I missed the first day and they fired me. But I woke up on time and was ready to go and had just gotten out the front door when I noticed my bicycle tire was flat. So I had to lock my bike back up and walk to the train station and wait for the train, and I wound up being 10 minutes late instead of 10 minutes early. But nobody said anything and the person I was supposed to meet with was actually not there yet, so that’s good.The second day I was 15 minutes late because I got there on time but got lost inside the building (my parents are reading this, shaking their heads and going “what? No! Not OUR daughter!”) and nobody told me you need to update your electronic key every few days or it doesn’t work. I assumed I was on the wrong floor and tried my key in various doors on all five floors before returning to the lobby and asking for help. I’m learning that it’s hard asking for help and I hate bothering people, but it’s worth it. “Wer nicht fragt, bleibt dumm,” a fellow intern told me. “He who doesn’t ask remains stupid.” Truth.
The first couple days were pretty disorganized in terms of me being handed off to various people, but it’s gotten much better. I’m doing a lot of “grunt work,” which mostly consists of formatting articles to go online. Adding hyperlinks, selecting and adding photos, re-writing headlines and teasers to better fit online, etc. Today was the first day I asked to write something, and my “boss” said I could, so I wrote a little opinion piece on how I think it’s dumb that in Berlin the government pays you to go to the opera but you have to pay to use the restroom. I also threw some stuff in about how it sucks not having drinking fountains around or free tap water in restaurants, and how the German social system is so great I’m shocked that these two basic services are lacking from it. Hopefully it’ll be published online tomorrow or next week!
There is one other intern who started the same day as me, Georg, who is from Austria. It’s nice not being the only newbie. There’s also one of the Russians from the parallel program, Indira, who’s been there for weeks, and another intern from Germany who’s been there for two weeks and is very helpful.
It’s been a good first week.