In April 2014 nobody wanted to take a completely wet hitch-hiker with a 1000-Dollar smile on her face in their car.
I had just had an offer for an internship in my favourite city for the next four months in a company, that has a name and reputation and that is gonna blow my CV later on. In 2014 it was still legal to pay 400€ like a minijob for an intern even if they have finished their studies. Nowadays that wouldn’t go anymore, for 40 hours a week the companies have to pay the minimum salary, but for that time I had nothing better in the future, no better plan, no better idea. And I wouldn’t listen to anyone who said I should consider if it really pays off in the future.
I couldn’t catch a ride so I walked to the closest train station an took a train to Stockholm. After the long trip in cars and busses I have deserved a train ride, although it was way out of my budget. On the ferry to Finland I sang karaoke with strangers and quickly I arrived to Turku or Helsinki -I really don’t remember anymore.
In a week I packed my bag again, this time with the fancier clothes and better shoes, booked a flight to Hamburg and found a flat to stay for the first month. And so I had my first day of internship in a bigger company.
I try to keep my story about the 4-month 400€ internship as short as possible, because there is really nobody else to blame than myself. Within those four months I learned the hardest way what it means, that in Scandinavia we have this “low hierarchy” at work place and what does it mean to run out of money.
As an intern I got to see and experience a lot about interior architecture, project management, German working culture and competition. One moment that has been following me all these years is a conversation with another intern. While sitting in the car bringing office trash to the recycling centre I ask the other girl, if there is something in the German system for interns that I don’t know. Like a common support or a scholarship-program, something that every kid who does not have rich parents know. I just simply couldn’t understand -and still cannot- how it is financially possible for young adults to finish their studies and do a half a year internship that is nearly not paid at all. When you work 40 hours a week you have no time to take an extra job aside and I found it nearly impossible to find a part-time job that is willing to pay me salary when I already “earn” 400€ a month. The other intern takes a deep breath and her voice gets a little bit nasty when she says it “maybe this is a thing you should have thought through before you left Finland”. The rest of the ride we don’t talk.
The last month of the internship I’ve learned that I want to find a job in an international company. I have to get paid for what I do and I wouldn’t start another internship, the entire Europe is still covering from the financial crisis and the economy starts to get a little bit better, but finding a job in Hamburg seems impossible. I apply to several positions, make phone calls, send cover letters, and all I get are offers for further internships. “In our company we have a policy, that we hire only people who have done a half-a-year internship in our company” is the most common answer I get. I paid 220€ rent for a 12m² room in a shared flat and phone bill was around 20€/month. Ticket for the public transport was nearly 40€. So with 120€ a month -daily budget of 4€ in the end of August I was done with adding water in the shampoo bottle. I found an ad online for a position that sound like a dream, but it is in Berlin. I apply, and all I get in return is “this position has already been filled”.
In September I return to Finland -with no money, no job, no idea about the future- to celebrate friend’s wedding. Sitting there with all the happiness and love and smiling faces I decide I’d return to Hamburg for one extra month to give it a try. If I don’t try, I will never reach anything.
I fly back to Germany over Berlin. Berlin is a city I know a lot about but all in all it is a complete mystery. On the airport I check out the common job ads while waiting for the bus, and there it is again, the same position in this cool, young, international start-up. I call the company right ahead to ask if the position is still open or open again. They call me in for an interview for very same afternoon. A week later I get a reply, that I can start in October.