Our author Franziska spent three weeks as intern in the Bundestag. In her letter from Berlin she talks about her experiences so far.
It’s Saturday and I’m reflecting on the past five days: Last weekend I arrived in Berlin with a three week practical in the Bundestag ahead of me. I am studying neither politics nor law, so I wasn’t prepared at all for what was coming and I have to admit I was a bit scared. I would work in the office of the Member of the Bundestag Waldemar Westermayer, he is on two comittees, the commitee for alimentation and agriculture and the commitee for economic cooperation with Latin America.
On my first day, I was very close to freaking out. I had a lot of silly concerns like: Were my clothes alright? Would my political knowledge be adequate enough to get along in there? Would they mind if I spoke dialect? So I arrived at the Paul-Loebe-Haus, which is the building on the left side of the Reichstag, and at the entrance I was checked by an airport-like security control. Then a really friendly secretary came to pick me up, and I took my first ride on a glass elevator. They are great! Really fast and well cleaned, and from in there you have a great view of the building’s seven floors. Funnily enough nobody else seems to share my enthusiasm, so if there’s stuff to get from an other floor, they let me get it. 😉
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. So I got a warm welcome and an introduction to the building (I’m still getting lost though). After a few phonecalls they even found me another trainee so I would have someone to have lunch with. All this effort that was put into making me feel comfortable blew away my concerns and I became more confident. The office I work in consists of Waldemar Westermayer and his three assistants. Westermayer himself wasn’t in Berlin for the whole week, but that gave me a chance to get used to everything.
I got to do and see a lot of things. Besides the usual office work like organising or copying papers or getting the mail and answering the phone I get to answer letters and e-mails, which means I have to read up on all the political topics that are talked about. This is really interesting as I have access to all of the protocols of the conferences and to other internal information. I also get to go to conferences, where I have to minute what is being said and decided. Moreover, there’s a special programme for trainees that allows us to visit different museums and take part in discussions with well known politicians like Wolfgang Schäuble or Volker Kauder. That’s for now, and I’m really excited about what is yet to come during the next two weeks.
Now a few things about everyday life in the Bundestag. As soon as you get your house ID you can go anywhere you like. I haven’t met even one unfriendly person, quite the opposite, the cantine staff seems to smile 24 hours a day and it’s actually kind of creepy how accurately they arrange the food on your plate. I’ve already told you about the elevators, and there’s really nice and comfy seating-arrangements all over the building. And you can actually wear casual clothes, but not many people do, so I’d feel kind of weird walking around wearing a hoodie, jeans and sneakers.
The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that politics isn’t as untransparent as I had thought, and politicians are humans like everyone else. If there’s anything you don’t understand, you just have to ask, and there’s so many possibilities of informing yourself, I think most people just can’t be bothered to do so. I have to admit I wasn’t really into politics before, but as soon as I got an idea of how it works I actually enjoyed it!
I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks, maybe I really get to have a chat with our chancellor, but if I don’t, never mind, there are so many other things to do and see!
Text & Pictures: Franziska Leichte