Internship Semester at the Goethe-Institut Glasgow – Arts Management and Cultural Work (B. A.)
Rhona is studying Arts Management and Cultural Work (B. A.) at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. In the third year of her degree she spent one semester interning at the Goethe-Institut Glasgow. Here she reports on her internship in the winter semester 2022.
I very much wanted to take up the option of going abroad during my degree course. An important goal was to gain an understanding of cultural work in an international context and the significance of engaging a Scottish audience with German culture. As a semester abroad at another university was not an option for me due to the choice of partner universities, I decided to do an internship abroad instead.
The internship at the Goethe-Institut offered an opportunity to apply my existing skills and experience in practice as well as acquiring new, unfamiliar skills. It was important for me to work at a renowned and international organisation like the Goethe-Institut and to get to know its processes and structures. Intercultural and interdisciplinary work, gaining insight into the organisational work of larger projects and long-term programmes and using my two mother tongues in everyday work were important aspects for me. I was also interested in the way in which the Goethe-Institut's programme incorporates different cultural sectors.
I applied for the internship very early on, but did not hear back for a while. When I got in touch again, I immediately received an offer. There was no interview and I was sent a digital contract. Communication between signing the contract and starting the internship was sporadic, which was a little disconcerting at first. I wrote several times and one week before the start of the internship I received a guide which provided information about history and structure of the Goethe-Institut Glasgow, my tasks and introduced my future colleagues.
I did not have to apply for a visa as I have British citizenship. As I went to school in England, I speak English fluently and did not have to attend any language courses.
Initially I searched for a room using sites like Spare Room, Glasgow Gumtree, Easy Roommate, AirBnB, Glasgow's West End, several Facebook groups and through social media. I took advantage of the Goethe-Institut's offer to put up a notice on their notice board, which I wrote in both German and English. I also spoke to current Goethe-Institut interns to hear about their experience and if they had any pointers. Overall, I received very few responses.
In the end, I managed to find a flat through personal contacts. I lived in a two person flat share located in Woodlands, West End, just a ten-minute walk from the Goethe-Institut. The short commute was very convenient. I paid £460 per month rent (bills not included) for my room. Due to rising energy costs bills were quite high.
I was privileged to be financially supported by the Int'lFlex Scholarship for work placements abroad during the first four months of my placement. Since the cost of living was very high, this internship would not have been possible without this funding.
The Goethe-Institut Glasgow consists of a fairly small team with a flat hierarchy, so ways of working and interpersonal relationships were very open and personal. Working independently was both excepted and actively supported and I was encouraged to ask questions. I liaised with all departments and learned a lot from the work of others. I developed very productive and friendly relationships with my colleagues who had confidence in the quality of my work. I was allocated responsible tasks right from the start and soon felt well integrated into the team.
Both my colleagues in the cultural programme department (programme co-ordinators) had responsibility for different cultural sectors and worked part-time. This meant that the person responsible for a specific task and might occasionally not be available. I was therefore the only person working full-time and covering all cultural sectors, apart from the institute's director.
The tasks and responsibilities in the cultural programme department align well with the Arts Management and Cultural Work degree course. I was able to apply in practice what I had learned in the first two years of my course, e.g. theoretical and practical knowledge of PR, accounting, controlling, institutions, engaging audiences, and cultural management. The project work completed in the 2nd year in particular prepared me well for the challenges of teamwork, division of labour and project management. I expanded my knowledge of the working methods and processes used in an international organisation that focuses on language and culture, and of situations arising when communicating German culture abroad.
I was involved in organising a Scotland-wide Ukrainian film festival organised by the Scottish EUNIC Institutes, a panel discussion and a concert on the themes of postcolonialism, intersectionality and gender roles in the music industry that was the conclusion of an online artists residency, and an artist-led workshop series.
This internship offers insight into a wide range of cultural sectors and different projects of different sizes. However, what exactly you learn strongly depends on the quality and quantity of the programme. It is important to state your personal interests and expectations, otherwise you could easily be challenged too little or too much. By doing so, you can help determine the degree of responsibility you are comfortable with.
Everyday life and leisure
In my area there were many cafés, restaurants, pubs and charity shops (especially in Byres Road, Great Western Road). Payments were usually made by card. On average food was more expensive than in Germany. For walks I can recommend Kelvingrove Park and walking along the River Kelvin to the Botanic Gardens.
Most gyms are contract-free and can be paid monthly, frozen or cancelled. I paid £20/month for my membership at PureGym.
The University of Glasgow was around the corner from where I lived, so I could easily access a university Spanish class after work.
Conclusion and tips
I would recommend the Goethe-Institut Glasgow to students who are willing and keen to work in a large cultural institution, but do not yet want to commit to a specific field of work and/or cultural sector. You should have a particular interest in international and (inter-)cultural work. The internship position offers basic insight into working with diverse audiences of a cultural institution and into the different aspects of cultural management and public relations.
I would add that you should be very certain about the choice of the institute's host country, as a large part of the cultural programme relates to the culture and language of the host country. In that sense, it was advantageous that I was already familiar with the British context.
I am grateful for the insightful internship, my open-minded colleagues and the inspiring experience at the Goethe-Institut Glasgow in Scotland.