Before traveling to Berlin, I knew only what I learned about in school. When I was younger, I never thought I would spend a summer here, fall in love with it, and plan to move back one day. The history is everywhere you look, the heartache is obvious, but out of the rubble and division, a progressive, conscious, and weird society emerged. The restriction of the 20th century is now juxtaposed by the slew of free spirits that inhabit this place today. There is a niche for everyone. Creatives, and tech workers alike have found a reason to call Berlin their home. I can count on three hands the people I spoke to who came to Berlin with the intention of staying for a month, and all of the sudden five years passed. Berlin is a magnetic city of reinvention.
The opportunity to work in my field of choice during my time here provided me with unmatched experience. I got to see what it was like behind the veil of a start-up. I was given autonomy to work toward measurable goals, and now more than ever I feel prepared to begin my career. My internship supervisors did a wonderful job encouraging me, mapping out deliverables, assessing my goals and intentions and helping me meet them. I was able to make real changes to a product that has over 10,000 monthly active users. I got to head research and speak directly to the users of the platform. I learned how to refine my questioning, and think differently about design. I got to participate directly with leadership, present my work, and see exactly how an efficient and effective organization operates.
On the plane here I was a sobbing mess. I was so horrified. I had never left home by myself, especially not to live across the world, in a place I had never been, with people I had never met. Diving headfirst into a new city, a new field, a new community, and a new culture, really tested my ability to adapt. I learned that I am as resilient as Berlin. That everyone is resilient. Letting go and accepting the outcome of the unknown is one of the best ways to reveal this to yourself. Thank you Berlin for shaping me into a new version of myself. Thank you CIEE for matching me with the right internship, and providing me with a platform to explore, not just Berlin, but myself as well.
About the author: Makena Brown is a student at Belmont University studying UX and UI. She did her internship with a Berlin-based startup called Bilateral Stimulation, which is working on a tool for virtual EMDR therapy sessions.