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Friedensburg Oberschule Internship
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Daniela Rojas Medina

Majors: International Politics and German
Minor: Global Security
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about this experience through the study abroad advisor in the German department. I talked to him about wanting to do an internship in Germany but that the only one Penn State offered was for Business and Engineering majors; he then gave me a list of study abroad companies that offer internship programs so I could begin my research. Eventually, I found this Berlin Summer internship program with IES. Being a non Penn State program, it was a bit difficult to get approval for it but the advisor was also my German professor and head of the department, so he helped me fill out my application documents and translate my resume into German.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience in Berlin has been absolutely incredible and one of much learning and realizations. I interned at a billingual German- Spanish high school and was involved in different tasks, including lecturing, translations of different documents from German and Spanish to English, event organizing and general administrative work. Although my internship was not necessarily what I expected or all that relevant to my primary major, I was still able to learn a great deal, develop different skills and immerse myself in German culture. Berlin is a great city for young professionals and young people in general, there are many opportunities here and it is truly an international city so even if you do not speak German you can still find your way. It does not take long to adjust and feel at home in Berlin, I already felt like a local by the second week. It was challenging at first to adjust to speaking German in a professional setting and having to be so indepenedent at my placement but I was able to learn and adjust quickly.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience helped me develop and improve different skills. My German skills have certainly improved, particularly my speaking as I am able to practice when I am at work. I gained so much knowledge about German culture and way of life, and was able to experience first hand all the topics we discuss in my German courses at Penn State, as well as apply the skills I learned in class. It is difficult to pratice or use anything I learn in my courses outside of class, so it was refreshing to go to German class, learn vocabulary or sentence structure and then apply it at work the next day. Moreover, I improved my public speaking skills as I had to give 50 minute political science lectures followed by Q&A to various 11th and 12th grade classes. This is something I had never done before and I was absolutely dreading since the longest presentation I have done at university is 20 minutes. I realized I can talk endlessly about the things that I am passionate about and it made me more open to the idea of becoming a professor later on in my career, an option I had not even considered before.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

After I graduate I hope to pursue a career in international relations and politics working for various organizations such as the UN and other NGOs that have an emphasis on economic development, security, and human rights. This internship mainly helped me gain professional experience in Europe and more specifically, a German speaking country. I found the German work life balance and office environment to be very different to the U.S. and much more about independent work and initiative. I realized during this internship that I can see myself living and working in Berlin long term and pursuing a career in international affairs here, as there are many opportunities I can take advantage of and I am very interested in E.U. politics. It was important for me to get this experience in Europe and also improve my German speaking skills so that I may be better prepared in the future in the event that I do choose to come work here post graduation.

This internship mainly helped me gain professional experience in Europe and more specifically, a German speaking country.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend interning and working abroad because it allows you to learn a lot very quickly. International experience not only looks good on a resume but it is also sought after by employers back home. I am not sure I would recommend the exact program I did with IES however, because they match students with employers and give students their placements according to career interests and what the employers are looking for. We did not get to choose where we were placed or where we wanted to apply to from the beginning. I found that for some people they made good matches and placed them at internships that were very relevant to their majors but some were not at all. Even though I was able to make the most out of my placement and managed to find a way to make it relevant, I would have preferred working at a placement more closely related to my field of study.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

Paterno Fellows has allowed me to push my boundaries and challenge myself, be independent, proactive and have initiative. These are exactly the skills that became so useful in my internship because my boss was not telling me what to do everyday or checking in on me, holding my hand throughout my internship. It was up to me to find people to speak to for different tasks, create my schedule and space out my work throughout the week to make sure I got everything done on time. The program I find prepares you for the real world because it pushes students to do their best and if they want something to go and get it. It is in part was has led me to working in Berin; I had to jump through hoops to get here but it was what I wanted so I made it happen. The College of the Liberal Arts and its various departments also supported me not only financially but with career and academic advising along the way.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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