I can't believe I am ending my internship in just two short weeks.
I have learned and accomplished much more than I expected, and certainly much more than I have in previous internships. The entire experience has been a relentless emotional roller coaster of challenge, thrill, frustration, fun and stress. As with any internship, things didn't go smoothly one-hundred percent of the time, but through all of the hiccups I also received priceless lessons in humanity as well as the workplace. The international aspect brought a new dimension to the experience in so many ways- from the people I was working with, the struggles and successes of international communications, and the many cultural boundaries and dissimilarities within the office that were tested and oftentimes expanded.
I was not the only international employee at The Nature Conservancy- the office consisted of myself, Australian, Chinese, European and South American employees, and the daily interactions between continents almost always ended in a new piece of information or a deeper understanding of a culture previously foreign to the other party. The Berlin office is still quite young, so most of the international employees were also new in Berlin when I arrived, and it has been amazing to watch the transformation and blending of cultures that has managed to take place in a year. There were wine tastings in the office, Wok-parties, Christmas Market visits, and bar crawls. I am convinced that everyone in the office, not just the new intern, came away from the year with just as many challenges overcome and cultural frontiers transcended.
I will miss this internship more than any other that I have left behind in the past- the last day is always sad, but there's never a feeling of finality as stark as this one. Not only am I ending a job, I am leaving behind an entire country and a culture so different from any I will have the chance of encountering in the United States.
I'm not sure how much of a difference I made in the community as a result of my internship. I know I gave a lot of my colleagues a more favorable impression of Americans, and I know I took a lot of work off of the hands of my very grateful boss. But I would say that Berlin's community is the one that made a difference within me, not the other way around. I have learned so much about myself and others, and I think it would be naive to say that I brought a lot to the table other than a set of helping hands and a foreign perspective.
Regardless, I am proud of my accomplishments, and I am completely satisfied with the experience. I hope to continue my commitment to community upon returning to GW by simply encouraging others to get out there and do what I did. It's tough sometimes to find the motivation to work when you're abroad for such a short amount of time, but the things you'll find out about yourself and others are more valuable than a few extra hours exploring your city.
I plan to return to Berlin, maybe indefinitely. I cannot believe I am finally leaving. This city could not have been a better fit for my time abroad, and I am so sad to see that time end. When I return to GW, I will most definitely bring on a storm of encouragement for any sophomores and juniors considering a time abroad. There is no better time to go for it- stick your neck out, take a chance, and you will discover something wonderful. Regardless of your love for the city, you will find out things about yourself that are truly impossible until you're put into a situation like studying abroad. There are valuable lessons in independence, self-motivation, and being able to examine your home culture critically from the outside.
I will stop my sermon before this gets too lengthy- I think it's the longest post I've written this semester, but with good reason. Endings always make me nostalgic, and this one is making me quite excited as well.
Thanks for listening.