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GermanyinUSA is the home of the monthly newsletter “Germany for Americans”, produced by the German Embassy in Washington, DC. For the embassy’s official website, visit Germany.info.

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Intern Q&A: Maria

Name: Maria

Where you’re from: I´m currently studying in Leipzig

Where and what you’re studying: Law

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

I was responsible for replying to all electronic and written inquiries from American citizens. It was great to read how many people from all over the US are curious about Germany and interested in learning German! I had fun answering questions I sometimes never even thought of myself, like “What is the most famous dog breed in Germany?” or “What is the most widespread insect in German forests?”

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

I’m a big fan of the European Union and I believe in the values and goals the EU stands for. But I understand that some countries and people in the EU don’t feel that way – one current example for this is the Brexit. The rise of right-wing parties all over Europe (Germany is not an exception), the lack of mutual support during the refugee crisis as well as continuous criticism of European frameworks has to be a wake-up call for national and European politicians. We have to start asking ourselves difficult questions and be prepared to hear new answers. The EU has to be a living organism whose working processes are adapting to the needs of its members. I know, this sounds utopic. But just because you already have a system it doesn´t mean you shouldn´t look for ways to improve it. The European Union is designed to be a platform of communication and peace on the European continent. These goals are worth the effort.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States?

The United States is too big and too diverse to talk about general cultural impressions. But in Washington I gained the impression that culture is everywhere. I spent most of my spare time at the free museums, at the National Mall or at concerts in the Kennedy Center. And if I got tired of all the “institutionalized” culture, I just kept walking around the city. Every part of Washington is unique and worth exploring. Sometimes I couldn’t believe that I’m still in the same city.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

I was really surprised about how easy it is to find your way around town. As street names are either successive letters or numbers, I never felt lost. You cannot compare that with Germany, where every single street has a name – and where I’m constantly lost.

What do you miss about Germany?

A fast and efficient public transportation system. In Germany I’m used to just taking a bus or a subway to any place around town. Here I couldn’t really rely on that as much. I got the impression that there was not as much attention paid to enable people without car to move around the city.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

I have lived in the United States before, so the culture shock was kept in bounds. One completely unserious “challenge” I found myself confronted with on a regular basis was the size of dimes and nickels. Why is a nickel bigger that a dime although it has less value? This led to some embarrassing moments at cash registers. Thankfully everybody was really patient with me and ensured me that this is a problem foreigners are frequently struggling with.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

I’m going back to Leipzig to continue my preparation for the bar exam in August.

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