Lost to Found #3 - Interview with School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe’s Founder Rachel Uwa

Founded in 2014, the one of a kind School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe has become a hub for international makers at the intersection of art and technology. We spoke to Rachel Uwa about what brought her to Berlin fourteen years ago and how the school’s creation fits into her journey as an expat in Germany.

When did you come to Berlin and what brought you here initially?

I'm from the US and came to Berlin in 2004. At the time Bush was in office, and I basically hated him. Everyone said love it or leave it, so I thought “Okay, bye!”

Did you struggle with finding a network when you got to Berlin?

Honestly, I think everyone struggles with finding community in a new place. But there is much to be learned in that solitude. Inevitably, getting into relationships often helps fill the void. And in turn, breaking up can lead us back out into the world! Such is what happened to me, in a nutshell. People these days have it easier with platforms like Meetup.com and social media in general, which weren't back then quite what they are today. But just going out and finding like-minded communities of people with similar interests can be a life-saver!

When and how did the idea for the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe come about?

At some point after working too much and feeling like a zombie, I took some time off, bought an iPad, and then became super excited about touchscreen [technology] and learning to program!  I organized meetups, workshops, and even a couple of conferences,. I realized I'd rather be making things, so I took another break and attended some creative tech programs in NYC.

I knew I wanted to be involved in education in a more meaningful way. Starting my own creative tech school seemed like an obvious next step!

Has founding the school helped you to feel more rooted in Berlin? Do you feel that it has helped you to "find your people"?

In fact, most of my students come from other countries. So no, I feel that I found "my people" before starting it. Perhaps having done that actually made it easier to branch off and do my own thing. Support groups are so important! I think that the creative tech community is pretty small, not only in Berlin but around the world. Finding one’s own people is often about having a fewer closer friendships rather than a network of too many people.

Do you have any advice for new expats in Berlin in regards to reaching out and finding like-minded people to collaborate and socialize with?

Get some hobbies! Take some classes! There is more to Berlin than its nightlife!

Do you have any advice for other newcomers who are considering starting their own organizations?

Don't just create a thing, create something that is unique to you, that no one else could imitate because it reflects who you are and what you believe in. What have you got to lose? Do it!

For more information about the school’s upcoming programs and events, visit them at www.schoolofma.org.

The “Lost to Found” series showcases several amazing Berlin-based organizations run by expat women, with goals exactly like Cluster’s: bringing people together to learn and grow.

Check out the first interview of the series with Margherita from Women's Writing Lab Berlin and the second interview with Shannon Getty and Shari Mahrdt of Women’s Film Network Berlin.