Q&A with Carl and Collin Burnett, ’19, about their internship in Germany

Q&A with Carl and Collin Burnett, ’19, about their internship in Germany

Carl and Collin Burnett are senior history majors at Presbyterian College and were able to have the internship experience of a lifetime this past summer at the Teutonic Order Museum in Southern Germany. Carl was able to have an internship at a place which was a central part of his Senior Capstone Research in History. Teutonic Order Museum holds salience for Collin as well. The subject of Collin’s Senior Capstone in history was the Nazi indoctrination of youth during WWII. Collin was particularly impressed by one exhibit addressing the Teutonic Order’s role during this period and how the Nazis attempted to manipulate this group’s past to promote their own agenda.

Carl Burnett ’19

Why did you choose to major in History at PC? 

Carl: I knew that I wanted to become a history major since I graduated high school.  I have always had a fascination with history and this interest only grew when I took history courses from various professors in the PC History Department.  I am really grateful for how their passion and enthusiasm for teaching history has helped further develop my passion for history.

Collin: History is in my DNA. It has fascinated me ever since I can remember, so becoming a history major at PC was a no-brainer.  I transferred from another college so that I could experience PC’s exceptional history faculty members that my older brother kept telling me about. This was without question one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

Briefly explain what your internship entailed and where it was?

Our internship took place in the Teutonic Order Museum in Bad Mergentheim which is located in southern Germany. The museum was located in a castle, and it receives quite a few visitors, not all of which are native German speakers. During our internship, we helped translate exhibition descriptions from German to English since this had apparently been a major complaint among non-German speaking tourists over the years. Other duties included cataloging and organizing books in the museum’s library, as well as assisting in the preparation of numerous events, such as weddings and concerts that took place in the castle throughout the summer.

How did you find out about this internship?

We learned about this internship through friends and relatives in Germany. We were going to be in Germany during our 2018 Maymester with the PC History Department, and we wanted to use our time abroad to further our interests in history and learn more about other cultures. We are dual-citizens of Germany and the US, and we thought this would be a great chance for us to improve our German and learn what it is like to live in another country for an extended period of time. Plus, Carl had recently completed his history capstone project on the Teutonic Order and its involvement in the Northern Crusades, so we could not resist asking the museum’s director whether it would be possible to do an internship for the summer with them. This came as a bit of a shock to the director, who could not imagine that two young Americans would wish to spend their summer in a dusty German castle.

Did you learn or experience anything new, interesting, and/ or exciting during your internship?

Carl: I was excited to work at this museum because it was the center of my capstone research and I was overwhelmed at the opportunity to work at a place that was so in-tune with what I spent a whole semester studying. As an intern, I was given a unique view of how a museum functions and operates, from both the management perspective and the staff perspective. We sat in on monthly meetings which discussed various aspects of museum life. It was interesting seeing how a museum of this size operated and what a diverse set of jobs was required to keep a museum going.

Collin Burnett ’19

Collin: I learned a great deal through my internship. For one thing, it was fascinating to live and work in another country rather than merely pass through as a tourist. During this time, I learned how complicated translation work can be; mastering the nuances of a certain phrase or expression in another language can be perplexing at best, tedious at worst. I discovered how much preparation and planning goes into organizing an exhibit or event. I was also surprised to discover that working at a museum has less to do with history than I expected. Besides being a sanctuary of history, a museum is a business that requires financial support and a building that requires upkeep and maintenance.

What do you think are the applications of this internship in your life, both personal and professional? What are the skills which you gained?

Carl: On a professional level, this internship has given me a greater appreciation for museum workers and what a diverse range of jobs and skills are required in a museum. I have seen how research contributes to the ongoing story of history and how history is remembered. On a personal level, this internship has strengthened my passion for history and has given me skills that I can use in a career in history, such as stronger translation skills and an expanded vocabulary in German. In addition to language skills, I also learned how to work together with people from many different backgrounds and with different skills. I was immersed in German culture for three months, which was a new experience for me, and I believe this has given me a greater appreciation for traveling and for learning how to live in a country that is different from my own.

Collin: I had an incredible experience this summer and I am thankful for this internship, but perhaps one of the most valuable things that I learned through this experience is that museum-work is probably not a field of work that I will pursue in the future. Regardless of which direction I decide to take, however, this experience will have helped prepare me in valuable ways. This summer in Germany has enhanced my ability to connect with other people over history, specifically individuals from different countries and cultures that I would not normally have had the opportunity to encounter.

How did your experience as a history major at PC prepare you for this experience? 

Carl: Being a history major at PC has taught me to pursue excellence in all that I do and to see each experience as an opportunity to grow and to learn more about the world we live in. The PC History Department has helped me become open to new ideas and new situations that help challenge, strengthen, and broaden my mind. Like our school motto, this internship has allowed me to serve and contribute a small part to a greater plan and the PC History Department, and PC as a whole has helped cultivate this passion for service. This internship reminds me that we are part of a larger community and that the PC motto dum vivimus servimus extends beyond the walls of this college but is intended for the entire world!

Collin: Majoring in history at PC prepared me in many ways for this experience. Besides cultivating my deep-seated passion for history, the History Department at PC has helped me to develop my critical thinking, research, and effective communication skills. Carl and I would not have considered asking the Teutonic Order about an internship had our studies at PC not sparked our interest and allowed us to study this subject. My professors and their passion and understanding of the past have encouraged me both to pursue the field of history and to strive for excellence wherever life may lead me, an invaluable gift for which I am grateful.