Interning Abroad

During my semester in Freiburg, I have the chance to do an internship. The IES staff helped me to write up a German resume and send it to local businesses and organizations that fit my interests. I’m not being paid, because I’m getting credit instead. However, with my student visa, I’m also allowed to work for a wage here, so I could also get a second job at any local business (Disclaimer: student visas work differently from country to country. In many cases, you cannot work while on a student visa). I know some students who wait tables at local restaurants, for example. Other IES students are interning at a local school (education major), an economics company (economics major), and a community farm (environmental studies major). For one hour each week, every student doing an internship meets together for a class at IES, during which we talk about our experiences at our internships, learn about the German workplace, and will eventually write a reflection paper about our internship.

I’ll admit, it sounds more impressive than it really is — because of the language issues, it’s actually rather limited what I can do. Some students from IES were raised speaking German at home by German parents, so they’re completely fluent, and they have more “professional” internships. Mine is more like being a regular volunteer, but that’s fine by me — it’s still a great way to practice German, meet people, and get involved in the local community.

My internship is with a woman’s shelter called “FreiRaum”, which means “freedom”. This shelter is a ministry of the Lutheran organization Diakonie. Right now I’m going once per week from 8:30am to noon, because I have classes every other day. At the end of July, however, IES courses end, and I’ll have another month with no class. At this point, I’ll start going to “work” 3-4 days during the week, and have free time to enjoy the German summer otherwise.

At FreiRaum, women can come and do laundry, shower, receive a meal, get public transportation passes, and collect mail. We also do arts and crafts, and just hang out with the ladies. The week before Easter we made painted Easter eggs, which I had never done before. We used thumb tacks to poke a hole in the top and bottom of the raw eggs, then put our mouths over one end and blew the insides into a bowl. Once we’d emptied a whole carton of eggs, I scrambled the insides and we served them. Once our Easter eggs were decorated and the paint was dry, they were hung all over the main room, off of plants and on the walls.

Click on the thumbnails below to see the full sized photos!

The center is only open from 9am to noon, so we serve a German breakfast. This means bread, cheese, salami, raw bacon, jam, honey, Nutella, butter, coffee, and tea. One of my duties is preparing the food and making sure it stays stocked throughout the morning.

Every morning, I and another intern walk down to the grocery store to buy supplies. We buy huge quantities of groceries to last the shelter for the week, then prepare some to be served when the women arrive. We also need to sort the mail that’s arrived for the women. Every letter needs to be recorded and safely filed for the recipient to come pick up, and then they have to sign that they got it. It’s a fairly serious business, but that makes sense given how important and private mail can be.

I also spend a lot of time talking with the other employees and the women who come to the center. I’ve gotten to know several of the “regulars” who are there when I am, and they’re all very friendly. These are the kinds of women who most people, including myself, usually ignore when they’re begging on the streets or riding on public transportation with all of their belongings and bedding, but at this internship I sit side-by-side at the same table as equals.


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