Serene in Berlin

Serene Tseng studied abroad in Germany, capitalizing on a spontaneous internship opportunity offered by a tourism magazine.  Read about her exciting experience working for Where Berlin in her own words below.

“I’ve wanted to write for a magazine ever since I was in eighth grade. It started out as just

an idea that formed absentmindedly while I was browsing the wall of magazines at Borders. In

12th grade, I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and felt immensely inspired to work for a

magazine, intending to bring true information to the readership, just as the journalist in the series

does. With this seed planted in my head, I came to Berlin in late August and started thinking

about what I wanted to gain from studying abroad.

Berlin can be overwhelming at first, so I was unsure about what type of internship I could

find. All I knew was that I wanted the subject matter to be relevant to my academic interests,

them being German, linguistics, and history. As luck would have it, Jaimey, the regional EAP

director, sent out an email looking for an intern for the tourism magazine called Where Berlin,

and I immediately sent him a copy of my resume. After a few days, the editor, Solveig, contacted

me to fill out an intern test, something completely foreign to me. The proofreading was easy, but

the writing part I felt a little unsure about. Luckily, there was nothing to worry about, as I was

then invited to get a feel of how the publication works. After the tour around the office-

warehouse hybrid, Solveig asked me if this was something I could see myself doing. Would it

have been appropriate to shout, “YES!!” right then and there? In the end, I settled for a more

subdued, “Of course!”, and the training started the week after.

Predictably, I started out small with 100-word writing assignments, but as I began to

crank them out with relative ease, Solveig would give me more assignments to challenge myself.

As such, I took on the challenge of finding and personally interviewing an artist who I felt

embodied Berlin especially well. Although the magazine is entirely worked on and printed in

English, email correspondence is done almost exclusively in German, so I emailed Berlin-based

instrumentalist and composer Oskar Schuster and made the interview request. It was nerve-

wracking at first, as I wasn’t the most confident in my German, but it turned out to be a personal

accomplishment when the communication went smoothly and the issue containing the interview

was finally published in March. As an unexpected bonus, after overcoming this challenge, my

German language skills were trusted enough for the sales department to ask me to do translations

for ads, thereby furthering my confidence.

Interning at Where Berlin has also presented the opportunity to become familiarized with

the monthly creation process of each issue, from the initial brainstorming stage, which usually

involves me sharing what I did over the weekend; to the researching and writing stage; to the

first, second, and third rounds of corrections; to the final book proofing. Deadlines approach, and

the written work gets placed into the actual layout of the magazine to be printed. The routine is

the same every month, and it can get tedious after a while. Luckily, Solveig thought it was

appropriate to introduce me to Adobe InDesign, as, according to her, having the knowledge to

make proofreading corrections directly on the layout is essential in working in the editorial field.

Incidentally, the pedagogical and ongoing hands-on training I am able to attain working as an

intern at Where Berlin has been endlessly beneficial.

Most of the time, we don’t have the time to attend press events for the exhibitions we

write about, but on one rainy Friday morning in December, I did attend one out of Solveig’s

encouragement. It was for the opening of a new exhibit consisting of artwork by female artists at

the gallery known as “me Collectors Room.” The experience is one that I’ll never forget. I felt

important, as if both the gallery and the magazine depended on me. On the one hand, the art

gallery needed me to understand the message of the exhibition and the works presented in order to

impart an accurate message in the publication. As for the magazine, they depended on me

because I was to write an opening article for that month. I realized from the responsibility that

rested on my shoulders that what I’m doing affects many more people than just those

immediately involved, that my actions have the potential to reach beyond the readers who pick

up the magazine in their hotel lobby.

I consider this internship opportunity my first step into the real world, outside of the

safety bubble university provides. This is me answering Solveig’s first question with that extra-

loud affirmative, “YES!! I can see myself doing this!” Writing for a magazine, reaching and

potentially affecting the lives of the readers, even if it’s just a unique sightseeing

recommendation, has essentially made this internship experience a validating dream come true.”

The website of the magazine publisher, where issues can also be found:

http://www.dinamix.de/where-berlin/