Just smile and wave

June 11, 2015

(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)

^ that has been me since I got here. It’s taking me a while to get back into speaking German, to say the least, so I spend about half my time saying “Oh, ja” and smiling and nodding. I’m getting good at my fake I-totally-understand-you-right-now face. In all seriousness, though, I am getting back in the swing of things and everyone has been really nice about speaking more slowly or rewording things to help me when I ask for assistance. Also, everyone has been nice in general because I’m pretty sure there is something in the water here that makes people more friendly (aka beer (should I stop making that joke?)). Anywho, I am back in Germany this summer to complete an internship with a city outside of Munich, which I will call Stadt F, in various social services departments. I have already realized that I am so incredibly lucky to have this opportunity so I’m trying my best to take it all in and have a wonderful time! I like to lay things out by day. This may get tiring once I have busier days and too much going on to really write a blog post about, but for now here we go.

Sunday: I arrived with all of my luggage - yippee! My host mom and sister met me at the airport with the sweetest “welcome” sign and lots of hugs. I was so happy to see them again even though I was super jet lagged and everything is kind of a blur looking back. I slept a good amount this day, then in the evening went with my host mom to the Olchinger Volksfest. It reminded me a lot of the Kentucky State Fair with rides and carnival games and such, but it was smaller and just for the city of Olching. It also had a big tent and beer garden that we definitely don’t have in Kentucky. I got to have some of my favorite foods while listening to a band cover the most confusing assortment of American songs (Kelly Clarkson’s greatest hits, “Surfin’ USA,” “YMCA,” and my personal favorite “It’s Raining Men”) in between beer drinking songs that I don’t know the names of. It was hilarious and fun and I’m glad I got to experience that!

Monday: Long but really good day. I woke up later than I wanted to (who is surprised? no one) but still made it to my first day of my internship on time, quite a lucky feat. I pretty much instantly decided I love the Rathaus (city hall). It’s a beautiful old building but very modern on the inside. There is also a lot of cool art inside and great views of cute downtown Stadt F from all the windows. I met a lot of people with whom I will be working this summer. As far as I understand, the next few weeks at my internship will be spent getting familiar with the many different social services departments and the people who work in each. After that, I can decide where I would like to spend more time working as well as create some kind of project to complete. I really like the flexibility the internship affords and it seems like it’s basically everything I could have hoped for - a look at German social services and the many aspects that separate it from American social services from an insider’s perspective. I left this day feeling so incredibly lucky to have this chance. I hope that I can keep my momentum going and remember constantly what a gift this opportunity is and how excited I am right now.

Tuesday: I started this day by missing my bus (I could explain why it wasn’t my fault but I doubt that would matter to any of my loyal readers (looking at you, dad)). Once I got to work, though, the man I’m working with this week was very understanding and it was no big deal. I’ll refer to him as Herr M for the sake of, you know, he doesn’t realize this weird American girl is writing a blog about her time working with him. He works in an office I’ll call the SB, which I’ve come to gather is basically the first contact that citizens have with the city’s social services department when they come to the Rathaus. He talks to people with a wide, WIDE variety of economic or social issues and figures out how he can help them or refers them to the right social services department. Since he has contact with people from all realms of social services, he is doing a lot this week to explain to me the structure of the city government and social services, as well as some outside organizations (non-profits, etc) that work closely with the city. Since I’ve been there, he has done things like help a young man receive financial assistance to get his driver’s license so that he can get a job that requires him to drive (driver’s licenses in Germany cost a lot), and work with a man who emigrated from the UAE to get his daughters to the country with him. I got to be extra involved in a meeting with a man who comes originally from Nigeria and speaks very little German but speaks good English. Herr M speaks very little English but was helping the man craft a resumé and cover letter for a job application in German, so I ended up being the translator and even helping form some of the cover letter. It was a fascinating experience and also interesting to learn more from Herr M about immigrants in Germany. He said that every day, an average of 300 people migrate from other countries to the Munich area. 300! Germany is popular for immigrants due to its strong economy and the wide breadth of social services it offers to immigrants or pretty much anyone in need. Herr M also explained how he believes the large number of immigrants have given Germany more of a chance to lead the charge on fixing the problems in other countries that send immigrants here. He said that from a German perspective, immigrants don’t leave their home countries to come here just because they feel like it. There are usually larger issues at play that force them out of their home countries, so the focus should be on helping solve those issues that force people out and helping those who are staying in the country in the meantime. Did I say “immigrants” enough in this paragraph? Immigrants. I’ve been able to have a surprising number of enlightening conversations like this with Herr M and others since I’ve been here and while I can understand a lot more than I can say in return, I feel like I am learning so incredibly much already.

Wednesday: Okay, admittedly, this day I was not feeling great from when I woke up so I was kind of in a weird disposition and everything I wrote down in my little notebook from this day is quite strange. I was only at work for about three hours before coming home sick, but in that time I got to meet the head of Human Resources and sit in on a couple more consultations with citizens. Herr M has also been making this helpful little web diagram for me demonstrating various problems citizens could have and different ways the state has of supporting them. I’ll probably have to continue to reference that diagram throughout my internship to remember what different office names refer to, etc. Herr M has been super helpful this week and I hope to get to work with him more in some of my free weeks later on. Another thing from this day - I made the same joke about inviting Obama to Munich with me on Air Force One at least three different times. It was a hit every time. Americans! So spunky! Obama is popular in Stadt F and apparently in most of Germany. They all enjoy that he’s been here this week and may or may not have worn Lederhosen. Also, here is the view out one of the city hall’s office windows:

SCHÖN!

Today, Thursday, I was home again with this unfortunate fever/sore throat. The fact that I’m genuinely disappointed to have to miss work is a good sign, I think. I leave early in the morning for a weekend in Prague with some friends from school! This summer is off to an amazing start and I’m so looking forward to all that’s in store for me here. I am the LUCKIEST.

Liebe Grüße,

Kaitlyn

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