21 Jun 2015
(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)
As mentioned in my previous post, I am learning a ton already here in Deutschland. I am still so thankful for this experience and become even more so all the time, but it’s still been interesting to navigate. Basically, imagine all of the awkwardness that comes from being a clueless intern with no idea what you’re really doing and fumbling around an office setting with a bunch of professionals. Then, double that awkwardness because you’re also still learning the language that the professionals speak and understand 1/2-3/4 or what they’re saying. I may be selling myself a little short on the fractions, but you get the point. Fortunately, I am surrounded by some of the most friendly and gracious people I have ever met and I just keep meeting more and more of them. That’s why I titled this “fake adulting” - in a lot of ways, what I’m doing here this summer seems very independent and adult-like. In other ways, though, I’m like a tall and mature-looking baby whom everyone here is helping learn how to walk and talk. It’s like a practice run for different things that I’ve imagined myself doing after I graduate college, but with a lot of much appreciated assistance. As I type that now, I realize that is basically the dictionary definition of what an internship should be. So alles gute! My host parents, for example, have taken me into their home once again without asking anything in return and feed me all the food I could want, give me a comfortable living space, and help me figure out all kinds of stuff from which bus to take where to tons of linguistic and cultural nuances. I’ve been sick off and on since I’ve been here (my theory is that adjusting to the weather has been hard) but they have gone above and beyond to make sure I have all that I need to get healthy again. They check on if I’m happy and how I’m doing being here without other Americans this time, and have talked about planning some day trips for us to take on the weekends. I seriously don’t know how I got so lucky to have these people in my life.
At work, everyone is so very welcoming. I’ve had to miss a few days for sickness, which I really don’t like, but they’ve been very understanding. While I’m there, people do a good job of speaking to me like they would to any coworker, checking for my understanding, then reiterating if necessary. There are so many awkward moments but I chalk that up to me being foreign, an intern, and just an awkward person in most situations, so who knows if the others actually notice the awkwardness? I’ve gotten to do a lot of fascinating things this week. On Monday, I worked with Herr M again and on our lunch break, he took me to get “the best pretzel in Stadt F.” It lived up to the hype and may actually be the best pretzel I’ve had in Germany…but that’s hard to determine for certain. I got to visit this place called the Bürgerpavillon, which is basically a neighborhood center in the middle of this neighborhood with a lot of low income families and government housing. They have after-school homework help for kids, German language classes for immigrants, and activities and day trips for senior citizens. They also run a nearby playground that is used by hundreds of neighborhood kids. It reminded me a little bit of a few places I have volunteered in back home that are private institutions, but the Bürgerpavillon is connected to the city government. I find that interesting about a lot of the social support institutions here - many are connected to and receive funding from the government. I find this to be one of many demonstrations of Germany’s commitment to the social welfare of its citizens. The next day, I visited an organization which I’ll call FW. As far as I understand, they help people with all kinds of housing issues as sort of a preventative measure for homelessness. They’ll help people find apartments, fill out applications for unemployment or other types of benefits, help sort out problems with landlords, or other housing related issues. I sat in on their open hours in which people come in for consultations without an appointment. It was hard for me to understand a lot of the problems specifically, but I can tell that they deal with a wide array of issues and many types of personalities. Working at this particular institution seems challenging, as it requires a balance of helping people where they can and initiating a little bit of tough love; that is, they can usually help to a certain extent but sometimes the clients are the ones in the wrong in disputes with landlords or they have used their earned benefits to the full capacity already. My supervisor gave me some magazines on social support and an annual report from FW that I’m hoping to get more time to read and learn from to better understand the things I’m hearing and seeing. I continue to sit in on many meetings with citizens, more than I could or should possibly write about here, and I’m so intrigued by and thankful for it all. I can’t believe I get another couple of months at this place!
On the lighter side: At FW, the wonderfully nice Frau A offered me water, then proceeded to take a glass of normal tap water and put it in a Soda Stream machine to make it carbonated before giving it to me. I was laughing so hard on the inside and forced myself to drink it even though - for some reason - I cannot drink carbonated water without naturally making a displeased scrunched up face. Fortunately, she wasn’t watching me drink it.
Also, brief interactions with strangers that would normally be quick and easy for me are made so uncomfortable and funny by my limited German language competence. Examples: opening the door when clients ring the doorbell at FW and asking them to have a seat with no real explanation of “someone will be with you soon” or anything, or answering the phone in my supervisor’s office while she is gone and making no sense to the point that the caller hangs up thinking he has the wrong number. These are times I just have to laugh at myself internally and be thankful there is no one filming me.
Another major plus from this week - I was at the grocery store with my host mom looking at yogurt and noticed this man standing over me. I looked up and it was one of my very favorite people, my German professor from Transy! It was so sweet and funny to see him out of the blue like that. I knew he was going to be in the same area this summer (he started the study abroad program that I went on last summer and is staying in his former host family’s house) but come on…running into each other at the grocery store? Small stinking world. Hoping to meet up with him soon to get dinner or something fun like that because I love catching up with familiar faces while abroad.
Today, I finally went into Munich for the first time since I’ve been here. Still love the city and it was fun to walk around and see some of my favorite places, but then I got a little bit lost and found some really beautiful and quiet places I’d never been before. Yay getting lost! I found my way back to familiar places, though, and I’m home now so don’t worry, Mom… I’m hoping to do that a little more on some of my weekends here - not necessarily the getting lost part, but definitely the casually exploring pretty places part. I also have a small list of museums to make it to at some point because I’m a big N-E-R-D.
Oh, last odd observation - one of the funnier things I’ve noticed has been that my name and its spelling (Kaitlyn Hill - but mostly the Kaitlyn part) make absolutely zero sense to Germans. Just none of it. I got this sense last summer, but it’s become more apparent as I’ve met tons of new people the past couple of weeks. I usually have to pronounce it multiple times and slowly. I’ve thought about just changing the spelling and the closest thing I could make would be Kätlen, which just looks like I’m trying too hard. Oh well. Too American for my own good. An old German man did break out into the song “Kiss Me Kate” when I met him this week, though, which was both endearing and slightly unsettling. Just another day in the life…