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By christinatometchko

Four months, five countries, eighteen cities, and countless flights later, my semester studying abroad in Barcelona has finally come to an end. Traveling around Europe and volunteering abroad have given me the opportunity to experience an abundance of culture and history and in the process have taught me so much about myself. As one chapter of my life closes and the next one opens, I'd like to end by sharing the three most important things I learned while volunteering and living abroad:

1. Nothing is as difficult as it seems

During my first day volunteering at the Pare Poveda Elementary School I was overwhelmed at the thought of teaching an entire class of 6th grade students by myself. While it was challenging at first, it got easier and easier each week and by the end of the semester I was more than comfortable handling an entire classroom on my own.

The same can be said about my study abroad experience as well. At the beginning of the semester the thought of being away from my family and friends, living in a foreign country, and speaking a different language seemed extremely daunting. Four months later and I can't even believe that these things once worried me. Over the course of the past few months I've fallen in love with Barcelona, the Spanish language, and all of the new friends that I've made while abroad.

2. Different doesn't equal wrong

Spanish students have longer school days, two-hour lunch breaks, and classes in three different languages. While a typical school day in America looks very different from this that doesn't necessarily mean that one education system is right and the other is wrong. Focusing on the positive aspects of each of these systems will allow us to create an even better education system that provides the best, most comprehensive education possible for students across the world.

Additionally, it's important to remember that while Spaniards may lead very different lives than their American counterparts, that doesn't mean that one country is right and the other is wrong. Us Americans can learn a thing or two from the Spanish by spending more time with family and loved ones and eating a healthier diet filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. On the contrary, Americans can teach Spaniards to give their bodies a break by not eating so late at night and going to bed earlier than usual.

3. The only way to truly understand and appreciate another culture is to fully immerse yourself in it

Speaking Spanish with my friends and host family, keeping up on national and regional politics, and volunteering in an elementary school were just some of the ways that I tried to immerse myself in the local Barcelona culture. Each of these things taught me so much about Spain, Cataluyna, and Barcelona and really helped me to appreciate all of the unique facets of Spanish culture.

Studying abroad is an amazing experience that not everybody is lucky enough to have. If you are one of the lucky ones it's important that you fully immerse yourself in the experience and learn as much as you can about the country and city that you'll be calling home for the next few months. Follow that advice, and you'll be sure to have the best semester of your life!

By sdemetry

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.


By sdemetry

Hello again GW!

I am writing once again from an airport terminal- but this time I am on my way back to schoolwork and reality: vacation has ceased.

Surprisingly, my internship was put on hold after a long discussion with my supervisor the day before I Left. We both agreed that whatever work I was putting in 'on the road' would not be my best, and it would also take away from the limited time that I had with my parents.

I could not be happier with that decisions. After 3 weeks of living out of a car, whirlwind days of touring and hotels, I am certain that it was the right one. Playing tour guide was stressful enough- I definitely didn't need any more work added in.

I return on Monday, and I am expecting a fair amount of work to accompany the start of my second semester. Before I left, emails were sent out to a few international coordinators asking for information by the time I returned, and with that information I will be developing a new library of Country Profile Reports for TNC.

Though I have been checking my emails regularly, I haven't received any of that information yet, so it will be interesting to see how my first week back unfolds.

Until then I don't have too much more to share. The biggest thing I have learned thus far is not to stretch yourself too thin while you're abroad. Enjoy your internships and classes, but make sure you leave yourself time to enjoy the fun parts as well.

Bis bald!


By sdemetry


I am currently getting ready for an extensive European road-trip  the same one mentioned in my last blog post- and my internship has been temporarily put on hiatus for the next few weeks. My boss was nice enough to grant me a vacation period, though I am still checking in via Email to make sure nothing pressing comes up during my extended break.

However, things have not been so smoothly sailing as of late. I got my first lesson in "office politics" last week, when a miscommunication between my boss and her colleague was funneled down the chain of command, and the intern (me) received the blame in the situation. After a scathing email was sent my way accusing me of things I was certain had not happened, I responded in shock and attempted to explain my innocence in the situation by giving the only proof I had- an email that had saved in my outbox. My boss begrudgingly admitted that possibly something else had gone wrong, but was quite rude to me for the following week, until her colleague came clean and apologized to me for causing the misunderstanding a few days later.

This challenge taught me a lot about office politics, a phrase I wasn't totally familiar with before, and how issues in the workplace tend to work themselves out. It was a very disconcerting feeling to be blamed for something that I was clearly not responsible for, and after everything was worked out, instead of an apology, all I received was a flippant remark about "office politics." The workplace works exactly like a food chain;  those at the top are in control, while the little guys at the bottom struggle for survival. Because fault lay in the hands of someone higher up than I, it was easy for them to blame the intern, who has no real stake in the game. I am not at risk of anything other than getting a bad recommendation in the future, whereas the big fish in the office could have their careers on the line when it comes to of work-related errors.

I was totally freaked out by the thought of being blamed for something I had not done, and I had no way to express it without disrespecting authority, so my decision was just to profusely apologize and accept defeat. Luckily this time, I came out on top, when the bigger fish decided to take a noble course of action, but in many other situations, I can see things staying as they were. Next time, I'm not sure if I should stay quiet and accept the blame for something I know I am not guilty of. It's a very tricky situation, and when you're at the bottom of the chain of command, it is even more intimidating to speak up for yourself. I didn't know how to handle it correctly, and I am still unsure of whether or not I took the right course of action. But, that's what I'm getting experience in- handling myself in a work environment, learning which battles are worth picking, and learning how to deal with those who have more authority than myself in a respectful way without belittling myself.

There are many lessons that I'll be taking away from this internship, and I think this may be one of the most important ones.

Other than that, things have been the same in terms of my workload and types of tasks. I am excited for a break, but I know I'll be doing a few things throughout the vacation via Email. The amount of work I've done from home for my internship most likely outweighs the amount that I have done in the office. That being said, I'm sure they will think of something that needs to be completed within the next 3 weeks.

Until then, I will leave you with nothing more than a small token of advice- don't let the small stuff get you down. I fretted for days after my boss sent me the initial accusation email, but it was all for nothing. Even if I hadn't been let off the hook in the end, there was still not much that I could do about it. It is best to accept the small things, and work that much harder in your next task, than to focus on things that you cannot change about your past work. It's the same with every experience in life! I never thought I would be applying that wisdom to the workplace, but it is definitely fitting in light of my recent experiences.

Check back next month for more updates!

Until next time,


By sdemetry

Hello Again!

As I sit in an airport terminal in Norway, I think my ideas for this blog entry are quite fitting.

My internship has been going extremely well lately- lots of new tasks and responsibility have been handed off to me. But I am now entering a school vacation period- the German university system runs quite differently from ours in the US- and that is where the root of my current challenges lies.

It is difficult to work while traveling- limited internet access and no one to bounce ideas and questions off of in the next room adds hours to seemingly simple tasks. I am, however, about to embark upon a month of nonstop travel, with a load of nonstop assignments to do "at home"  I am a bit worried about deadlines and questions, but I think given the proper planning and considerations, I will be able to be relatively successful. Other than that, the challenges have been relatively minor recently- I have gotten into the flow of working and I know the routine of the office. It is starting to feel really comfortable.

My boss has given me more responsibility, and we have begun speaking more as equals, which is a huge accomplishment in my eyes. I have worked hard to earn the respect of my employers, and it is really starting to pay off.

I am excited for this period of travel to be behind me so that I can finally get back into a normal routine. It is hectic and stressful to think about work while reminding myself to also have some fun and let go of responsibilities- I am holding myself to a bit of a double standard- but it's nothing that I can't handle, and something that I am actually extremely thankful for. Not everyone gets these kind of opportunities, and I have to embrace and appreciate them while I still can!

I will keep you updated as to my struggles and successes, but as for now that's about all I have to share!

Mit besten Grüßen,


By sdemetry

Hello again!

To those of you who are reading my blog for the first time, please allow me to reintroduce the program I am taking part in and the internship that I am chipping away at.

I arrived in Berlin in August to study for the academic year with the IES Abroad Berlin Program. We take classes at a German University, live with host-families throughout the city, and are lucky enough to call what we're doing a "full immersion" type of experience.

It has been absolutely amazing thus far, and I would recommend it to anyone. Not only to study abroad, but to make sure that you do it for an entire year. No matter how corny it sounds, it is absolutely true that the majority of students will never have an opportunity like it again- and it is DEFINITELY one worth having! It seemed like as soon as the semester students were gaining their footing, they were back home for Christmas. Though it was difficult to spend the holidays alone, it was also an exercise in reflection and appreciation, and if confronted with the decision again, I would always make the choice to trade one family-free holiday season for a year of growth and cultural adaptation.

Even though the German culture is totally Western, there are stark differences in personalities and customs that take a while to identify, and an even longer while to adapt to. But that learning curve is one of the greatest things about studying abroad- you're forced to question yourself along with every value you were raised with, and really hold a mirror up to your own culture, which can lead to more appreciation as well as more revulsion.

But, I digress.

The main reason I am appointed to blog for GW is to share my experiences interning in Berlin. I was lucky enough to carry on an internship acquired in DC last year to the Berlin branch of the same organization, and that has been what I have devoted a large chunk of my time too whilst abroad.

The organization is called The Nation Conservancy, and they are the largest environmental nonprofit organization in the United States. My tasks in DC vary greatly from what I'm expected to do here- whether that is a sign of cultural difference or just more responsibility coming with more hours worked, I'm not sure. But, I've been tasked with some pretty major projects since I started my time here, and it has been an unbelievably worthwhile experience thus far.

In general, I help out where needed, receiving assignments on the fly rather than weeks in advance. However, I am also tasked with one large project after another, which I do in the background of whatever pressing tasks arise. So far I have completed three major projects, and they have been utilized in professional settings around the world.

The fact that anything I have done has left the desk of my boss has boggled my mind. In DC, I was never trusted with a task larger than scanning old legal files and shredding them. Nothing I did was given much credit, and I felt pretty disposable. But the work environment is much different in the Europe office, and not only am I fully appreciated for my work, but I am also given advanced tasks that require diligence, creativity and brainpower.

So, now you know what I'm doing in Berlin. I think I've cleared up everything possible for the time being.

Please check back for some more in-depth posts in the coming months!

Until Next Time,


By sdemetry

Liebe GW Studenten-

I hope you are all enjoying the winter months in DC. Take full advantage of the snow that you appear to be experiencing- it is a slush-fest in Berlin, and no one is enjoying it.

I can't believe I'm even saying this, but it is finals week here- that means that the semester is ENDING. I cannot believe that I've already been in Berlin for half of a year, it's flown by... luckily, I'm staying here through the end of next semester. I am definitely not ready to give up the my newfound wonders and all of the small joys of European life in exchange for America just yet.

So far my internship with The Nature Conservancy has been great. As I mentioned last time, I'm getting a lot of experience that I wasn't able to get in DC, and that has been a major plus for me. Being trusted with concrete and legitimate tasks is the most gratifying thing about being an intern, because you actually matter. Now that I've come to realize that,  I definitely do not want to return to the days of coffee-grabbing and staple-removing any time soon.

But, even though my internship has been amazing, there have also been some rough spots along the way. The German office is run much differently than the American- I mean that as generally as possible, not simply in terms of TNC. The start and end time of the work day is much more lenient, there are wine tastings mid-day and the employees all seem to be friends with each other. This is awesome, and I actually like it a lot more than the American mentality, but it can be very detrimental to one's work ethic. I have had multiple experiences where, since I am the intern inhabiting the once empty "party" desk, I have been asked to shut my laptop, stop working for the day and enjoy the party. They're using my table anyway, so there is no "need" for me to be working. I generally laugh and shrug it off, shift to the very edge of the desk and attempt to continue my work while they set up the cheese and crackers- but when there is a party happening on your desk, it is near impossible to get work done. However, I am happy to say that it isn't a challenge that I haven't overcome. For every minute I allow myself to slack off and enjoy the party, I either stay late, or if that isn't possible, work from home on my assignments. Using this ingenious technique, I've managed to keep my output at the same level, party or not. Not too complicated of a concept, but it really does take motivation to do intern-work from home with a full course load.

Other than that the only other challenges I have experienced are due to the international nature of the company. It isn't uncommon for my boss to be out of the office for weeks at a time, and when he isn't there, it's difficult to get work done. Things need to constantly be edited and proofed, and when there is no one around to instruct me, the days can be pretty unproductive. But that's to be expected. The office doesn't regularly have interns, so they sometimes flounder around in the overseeing of my work and assigning of new projects, and the projects are much more involved than the average intern, as I previously mentioned.

I have definitely made a small difference in the Nature Conservancy Europe, and of that I am very proud. The assignments I have completed have been put into direct use, from budget planning to powerpoint presentations, and I have been able to see the result of my work clearly. I am also excited that I've been able to talk in German in a professional setting without much difficulty.

As I continue my research into the coming semester, I hope to become even more adept at conversing "auf Deutsch" in a professional setting. There are many facets of this internship that I can work on and improve over the next few months in order to make it as beneficial as possible. So far, it has been absolutely worth it. I've had an amazing experience and I don't think it's comparable to anything I could do in the United States.

With that, there isn't much left to say! I am now preparing to take some time off of my research to take a much needed Christmas vacation in Salzburg. The holiday season is upon us, and I cannot wait to experience it through a European lens.

SO: Happy Holiday Season everyone, I hope you're all ready to take a little break from your internships as well.

Until Next Time,


By sdemetry

Hello, Hello GW,

Once again, you are reading the musings of Stephanie Demetry- a Junior spending one year in Berlin. Unlike my last few entries, however, there is much more exciting internship-related information to relay as I round out my third month of work with The Nature Conservancy.
Let me start by saying that I have been given much more freedom and responsibility than I was anticipating. As an intern with TNC's DC branch last spring, I was not trusted with very many concrete tasks- as many of you are probably familiar with, I instead ripped out staples, scanned and shredded documents for 16 hours a week. Here in Berlin I have already prepared power-point presentations for the Team to present at international conferences, developed a public funding strategy for a project involving reform of the timber industry in Southeast Asia, and am currently working on starting and building up a database of company profile reports for all organizations involved with TNC.
It has all proven to be a lot of work in combination with my studies, and I've been expected to work outside of the office as well- however, it's extremely rewarding.
I would like to think that I'm making a great impact on the local community- my powerpoint animation skills have been highly praised, and the new, young, "tech-savvy" intern, as I have been unofficially labeled, will be trusted with various important presentations throughout the year as well. I am particularly proud of the fact that I've managed to hoodwink everyone into thinking that I am some sort of Microsoft Works Guru.
All that I have done here in the last three months is real work that will benefit TNC both immediately and in the future, and that not only keeps me motivated to keep doing my absolute best work, it also makes me much more appreciative of, what I consider to be, a "true" internship. I am not being taken advantage of as unpaid work, but rather I feel as though I'm being treated as an equal in the office- they really want me to learn the ropes and become more comfortable with international environmental conservation. I feel much more like a colleague than a volunteer staple-remover, and that is a welcome change from the DC intern-environment that I've grown accustomed to.
On another note, the international aspect of this organization is also quite fascinating to me- I've had conference calls with my previous bosses from the United States, and we are now collaborating on an international project. Getting things done with different time zones and across different languages is definitely more difficult than I imagined. But, when everything works out it becomes all the more satisfying to know that your voice and hard work is spanning across continents.

I am now even more excited to see what the second half of this experience will bring. I have a solid project lined up that will take up the majority of my time between now and the end of the year, but once that is done, I'm not sure what will be waiting for me. Hopefully, I continue to acquire responsibility and do work that I can be proud of. We'll see!

Until next time,


By sdemetry

Liebe GW Studenten,

I am happy to announce that life in the internship-realm has picked up considerably since my last blog post. No longer am I being put on hold- the intensive language class has come to an end, the weather is cooling down, school is starting up, and it is finally time to buckle down and do some real work.

About two weeks ago I was put on a regular schedule, working three days a week, at least 15 hours in the office as well as some additional tasks to take home.  The first few days were quite lax- coming in later in the afternoon, having a meeting with my supervisor to discuss exactly what I should be preparing to do for my first project, and heading home to do a bit of online research. However, once there was nothing left to discuss, I hit the ground running.

My first responsibility was to create a public funding strategy for a conservation project involving reform of Southeast Asia's timber industry.  It was a seriously daunting task. As a Criminal Justice and German double major, I have never taken a finance or marketing class, never been very interested in business, and definitely never created anything mildly similar to a public funding strategy. The phrase was completely foreign to me, dictating that there would be a lot of hours spent on Google before anything concrete came into being.

With a deeply concerted effort, I pulled it off in the two days I was given. I was quite nervous to present it, but my efforts did not go unnoticed. I could sigh in relief when they thanked me whole-heartedly and said that my strategy would be exceedingly helpful throughout the next couple of weeks. Afterwards, they asked if I could divide the tasks up into equal parts for the team. I was shocked and confused- It's hard for me to believe that an intern's work could be used in such a legitimate way- after my DC internship experiences, I was expecting to be assigned fluff tasks - I figured that nothing I did would be taken seriously. To be asked to divide up the tasks of a project that I had created and assign jobs to the existing work-team was both a huge compliment and a totally unexpected occurrence.

Now that I've finished the public funding strategy, I'll be moving on to another project. Though I'm not sure exactly what it will be, I'm excited to find out. I love the increased responsibility that I've been given at TNC Europe. In comparison to other internships that I've had back home, it's a refreshing and welcome change. I'm not getting coffees, ripping out staples, shredding paper, or scanning copious amounts of documents onto a PC circa 1995. I feel like a part of a team, and it's only my second week. What I'm doing actually does matter, and it's making a huge difference in the amount of motivation I have to go to work and try my absolute hardest with each new task.

On another note, I love Berlin, and it's now really starting feel like home. I've explored every quadrant of the city, partaken in a few tourist-necessities and successfully given directions to tourists. It's been a successful fall, and I am excited to get into the winter semester and really kick off the year.With classes just starting, my internship picking up speed, and the weather turning from a crisp Indian summer into a decidedly chilly late Autumn, I'm ready to bunker down and chug away at whatever the University and TNC can throw at me.

That's all I've got for now.

Until next time,


By sdemetry

Hello again!

As Facebook constantly reminds me, GW classes are now in session. The complaints and praises of new professors, a tough workload to come, and the waning excitement of a new year have finally set in, and social media is quick to remind me of it. In contrast, however, things have gotten off to a pretty slow start for me in Berlin. The past three weeks have been full of exploration, language acquisition, and an orientation course for four hours each day. It still hasn't set in that I will be here for an entire year, but I am already so happy that I made that decision. With courses starting in October and ending in December, the semester-long program is really quite short once the initial culture-shock wears off.

Berlin has been awesome. I have discovered new cultural things, already walked and biked more than I do in a full semester at GW, and really started to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I'm starting to feel like it's not such a foreign place- making the transition from tourist to student is one that I am very excited to be through with.

Although I could spend this entire post telling you how much I love Berlin, the purpose of this blog is more to share my experiences with the internship that I will be partaking in. Unfortunately, that hasn't started yet. I visited the office to get myself acquainted with the "Chef" (boss), and other than that, nothing has come into fruition. We decided it would be best for me to start work after my intensive-orientation course has come to an end and I am beginning to speak German more naturally and easily. So now, we wait!

My first day is prospectively October 14th. Initially, I was a bit disappointed by the month-long delay, but being here for the full year means that my internship will last longer than a semester regardless of whether I start today or in October.

At our meeting, nothing concrete was discussed. I was told that I would work on two main research projects and accompany the team to various events, sometimes helping out with event-planning as well. They are not used to having an intern in the office, so I will be blazing a new path for future interns. I find that both exciting and intimidating- I'm not sure what to expect, but I don't think that they are either.

Obviously, I can't yet say if my research with the Nature Conservancy will make a true difference. As of now, I haven't made any contributions to the team. However, they seem to be putting a lot of responsibility in my hands, and if I'm given the opportunity to customize the research, I will certainly run with it.

I am anticipating a few difficulties concerning the language barrier, but I am not going to let them get in the way of my research. We decided that it would be best to speak solely in German, however when a complicated task comes up, anything out of the ordinary will be specified in English as well. Other than that, I'm expecting it to be a great experience. The office is very small and intimate, and the staff was quite excited to see a fresh face.

I am sorry that there's not yet more to say about my internship experience. But, maybe this is important to see as well. When you try to get an internship abroad, you have to account for all of this orientation, and possibly being too busy to start as soon as you'd like to. It's an unfortunate reality, but once it all comes together, I'm expecting some great things.

Next time, I will surely have a lot to say. For now, I have only these few opinions and speculations to share. As before, please contact me if you have any questions... I would love to spend hours talking about every facet of Berlin- not just my imminent research.

Until next time,