Intern's Diary #8: Aren't We All Interns?

Text and pictures by Nathan M.

Last Friday, I was at the Pop-Up Gallery in Schöneberg - the week's theme was "American artists" and my roommate was showing some of the photographs she had been working on for the past few months. I wanted to support my friends - and I heard there was going to be all-you-can-drink prosecco for five euros - so I hopped on the U1 and dragged myself to Nollendorfplatz.

It's weird being surrounded by predominantly Americans. Since arriving here, I've been dividing my time with some friends from my University in Seattle (about 50/50 Germans and American), my two flatmates (exactly 50/50 Scottish and American), and what seems to be the entire Croatian population of Berlin (thanks Adela). Naturally, a strange, comforting-but-uncomfortable familiarity crept through the gallery as I realized, "Wait… I understand what everyone is saying."

Whereas with everyone else I've met here, I knew where these people were from! Imagine that! I've been to Saratoga! My brother lives in L.A.! They weren't from places I'd never heard of, like "Zagreb" or "Athens" (for the record: I know where both of those are) - they were from my home state, my home country!

The United States is considered a Melting Pot, where the immigrants from far the reaches of the East and West come together to create "Thai-French fusion cuisine". Unlike Berlin, though, when people come, they stay until they are the landed gentry of their small towns, get legacy advantages at university admissions, and have reputations that span the generations (for example, my soccer coach came from a long-line of dental surgeons).

Berlin is more of an in-between: people arrive as suddenly as they vanish, as if this city is one giant WG. My dad keeps calling my move to Germany "my trip", and tells me that I should mail him my mobil's SIM card soon if I don't plan to come home in the next month. Do I plan to go "home" in the next month? Does anyone plan to go "home" next month? Or are we all "home"?

As a city, Berlin seems like one long art opening, since everyone is there for a reason. You have the artist, flown in from Krakow or Perugia, and who will only stay for a week or two; you have the drunk and culturally ignorant tourists who read online that this is where "all the hipsters are going"; you have the lost wanderers who saw a warm plate of food and decided they would linger; you have the recent university graduate looking for a job (Me).

Berlin is also like an internship: you wonder a lot whether you're in the wrong place; you often are confused who is in charge; being late is still (mostly) not ok. Which brings me to my final question: what are we if not all interns?

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