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Posted September 25, 2015 by
Tags: Internship My Wheaton Global and Experiential Learning

Wheaton in Germany at Berlin City Mission

Over the summer I spent two months in Germany with Wheaton in Germany, an immersive history, culture, and language program. In late June we began the internship portion of the program, working at the Berlin City Mission, an evangelical organization with functions ranging from neighborhood childcare to a youth hostel. 

Along with several others, I worked at the refugee reception center, a temporary structure built to serve the overwhelming numbers of Syrian and Albanian refugees flooding into Berlin. The building housed around 500 people while helping them apply for asylum, learn German, and resettle in government housing. From the moment the refugees arrive--exhausted, tense, and with almost nothing but the clothes on their backs--they are welcomed and treated kindly and respectfully. I worked an evening shift in the kitchen, spending the rest of my days exploring the city’s museums and cafes.

As I became friends with the Syrian children and their families, I began to spend more of my free time at the center, playing soccer, giving the children much needed affection and attention, teaching basic German to the adults, and relaxing outside late into the evening as the family that “adopted” me discussed politics. One evening towards the end of my internship, I became part of the reception process first-hand.

It was already about 11 p.m., and I was sitting with my adopted Syrian family listening to them talk about Middle Eastern politics and cuddling with the children. Suddenly my friend Amr, an Egyptian Coptic Christian who works at the center, asked me to come with him. A new Syrian family had just arrived and they needed to apply for asylum at the nearby police station before they could stay at the reception center. Amr could speak with the family but he needed me to translate into German. I felt adrenaline rush through me as I realized that for the first time, something important depended on my familiarity with my second language. 

My heart went out to the family who had traveled for multiple days with their whole life contained in two bags. Their two young daughters were visibly exhausted, and although the parents were wonderfully patient, it was clear they were also fatigued. We took them to the police station and, working together, Amr and I filled out the necessary paperwork for them. Unfortunately, the family had to wait at the police station for five hours while the papers were processed. It was uncomfortable there, so we returned to the center to retrieve food and blankets for the family. It was a small gesture but their gratitude was evident, and I hope they felt a warmer welcome into their new country than the police station offered. I was joyful to be in the right place at the right time and grateful I worked at a center that allowed me such experiences.

Clementine Kane ’18 is a sophomore studying art history with a minor in German who participated in  . Photo Captions: Clementine and Tim Wruck ’17 working at a summer festival hosted by Berlin City Mission; two refugee children at Berlin City Mission; the refugee center at Berlin City Mission.