Internship Experience and Advice 2015-2016

Debora Guanella
Edited by Ann Keefer

Galicia Jewish Museum
September, 2015-January, 2016 Kraków

Since the very beginning of my MA Euroculture experience, I have made very clear my intention of pursuing the Professional Track to address the lack of study-related working experience in my CV. Within the wide range of topics covered during the first and the second semester, I was particularly interested in questions of cultural memory and heritage, their preservation and their role in building national / group identities. These were the two main reasons that led me to move to Kraków during the third semester to work as full-time intern at the Galicia Jewish Museum.

The Galicia Jewish Museum is an innovative cultural institution opened in April 2004 in Kazimierz, the Jewish district of Kraków, Poland. It is a registered charitable foundation in Poland (Fundacja Galicia Jewish Heritage Institute) and it was founded by the British photojournalist Chris Schwarz in collaboration with  Anthropology Professor Jonathan Webber. The Museum’s mission is not exclusively to commemorate the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but also to present and to celebrate the Jewish contribution to the history and culture of Polish Galicia with its two permanent photographic exhibitions Traces of Memory and An Unfinished Memory. One of the Museum’s main goals is to challenge the widespread misconceptions regarding the Jewish presence in Poland and to promote the contact  between Jewish and Polish cultures. In order to achieve its aims the Museum also hosts conferences, panel discussions and workshops on Jewish history, Jewish culture, antisemitism, Holocaust studies and intercultural dialog.

My work at the museum primarily consisted of giving tours of the permanent exhibition Traces of Memory and welcoming visitors at the reception desk. The role of the guide is not only to tell the story behind some selected photographs or to suggest possible interpretations, but also and especially, to explain to the visitor how to read the exhibition’s sections in combination with one another. Further tasks may vary depending on the interns’ individual skills and on what is going on currently  at the Museum. The other tasks I carried out for the Education Department included preparing reports of feedback surveys, translating texts from English into German, organising ice-breaker and entertainment activities for visiting groups, leading workshops and training new interns.

Overall, working at the Galicia Jewish Museum has been a very positive experience. The atmosphere was relaxed and stimulating, the museum’s staff helpful and, most important, the interns’ work was valued and trusted by everyone.

Based on my personal experience as a third semester Euroculture intern, here are some suggestions I would like to share with those MA Euroculture fellow-students wishing to follow a placement at the Galicia Jewish Museum or at a similar institution:

  • Less is more! – Smaller institutions such as the Galicia Jewish Museum (which currently employs around 20 full- and part-time staff members) usually give more responsibilities to their interns and tend to value and trust their work more.
  • Be curious and show initiative! – If possible, do not just limit yourself to carrying out the tasks you are assigned. Try instead to ask questions and get to know more about the institutions you are working for and the activities they organise. This will surely make your internship a more complete and fulfilling experience on many different levels.
  • Enjoy yourself and get involved! – While living in Kraków I shared a flat with three other lovely Euroculture girls who were doing the Research Track at the Jagiellonian University. Besides making my stay in Poland one of the best semesters I had, this also gave me the chance to get involved in some very interesting activities organised by the Euroculture Kraków staff.

Ylva Nelle
Edited by Caroline Froelich

September – December 2015, Washington DC, USA

You want to spend a semester in Washington, DC? Congrats, you have chosen wisely! This might become the most amazing semester of your Euroculture experience.

However, getting there is quite a hustle. For me, the greatest challenge was to find an internship provider who would employ me for four months. Apparently, to give a greater number of willing students the chance to experience the U.S., most internships are restricted to three months. Nevertheless, as the semester came closer (and I became more desperate) I still applied and was lucky to convince the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (KAS) to accept me for that time. Next, getting a visa and work-permit for the U.S. requires some stamina. It took me six weeks of full-time filling out forms and nearly 2000€ to get the required J1. Which probably was good because it gave me an idea of what this semester would be: expensive.

Looking for a place in DC can be quite challenging, in particular, if you are still in Europe. What I can recommend is to use the 30 day grace period before your internship starts, to travel around the States, arrive in DC early and then look for a place. Facebook is your friend and most internship providers can recommend families who have rented out their attic in the past. Otherwise craigslist has a lot to offer, but you will definitely want to check those rooms out in person. Living in the centre (I would suggest to look somewhere between Georgetown, Adams Morgan and Tenleytown) easily costs $1000/month, but then again, you can go anywhere by bike, which will save you a ton of money and will show you beautiful and bike-friendly DC. Getting a key for the bike-share system Capital Bikeshare definitely was one of my best decisions, and it kept me in shape: Being used to the Netherlands, I found DC quite mountainous.

Luckily, you don’t need to be Christian democrat to work for the KAS, which is affiliated with the Christian Democratic Union party in Germany. However, you will have to be fluent in German and experience with academic writing (in German!) will be an asset. I had to learn the hard way that having German as your mother tongue doesn’t make you fluent in “academic” German. Learning how to write on an academic level in German was another challenge for me. Apart from the language barrier, I loved the work, which for me was the perfect combination of research and organisational tasks. The team, consisting of Germans and Americans alike, was also great, but chances are, that you will not be working for the KAS in DC. Thus, here a more general recommendation to learn about any kind of conferences, discussions, and lectures you might want to attend: Linktank. DC has so much to offer and you will want to stuff your spare time with as many events as you can.

Which leads me to all that DC has to offer: You should definitely try get into the White House (a bit tricky) and the Pentagon, and the view from the Washington Monument is lovely. After work drinks and men in suits are quite a thing in DC, but the town is also great in mini-breweries. Obviously, it also has hundreds of tourist attractions: the Mall, the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, Arlington National Cemetery and the occasional sight of Obama’s helicopters…

Lastly, travelling in and around DC is also an option. Day-trips to the national parks in Virginia and Maryland, and to Baltimore and Philly [1]are among the classics. New York, Chicago, Boston, and Toronto are also comparably close. Or you rent a car with three friends and drive down to NOLA[2] (my favourite). Or you visit the fellow Euroculturers in Indy[3]. If you are still not tired of travelling, skip Iceland on your way home and book a stopover on the Azores. And most importantly: don’t forget to try all the local foods on the way. Delicious!

Mari Yoshida
Edited by Catlin Seibel-Kamél

Spanda foundation and the European Centre for Minority Issues

I had internship at the Spanda foundation and the European Centre for Minority Issues. Here is my advice:

  • If you find that you’re not growing at your internship placement, don’t hesitate to find a better one! The Euroculture office is there to help you.
  • Try to have a wide range of interests! A position might seem a bit far from what you have been dealing with so far, but it is definitely a great chance to explore a new dimension of your interest.
  • Seek help in any case of doubt! Ask Alumni, go to the career office, and talk to supervisors and fellow students, etc.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of The Euroculturer.

[1] Philadelphia

[2] New Orleans

[3] Indianapolis

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