London Internship Program 2016

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June 2016

All the Small Things

The Brits are bit of an odd bunch. Walking around London you’ll see the queen’s people saying biscuits to talk about cookies, putting on a pair of trousers instead of pants, and the phrase “grabbing a fag” has entirely different connotations here than it does across the pond.  But despite using a variety of terms that sound like they’re straight out of a Dr. Suess book and they’re unrivaled love for their royal family, queuing, and discussing the weather the Brits might seem very similar to Americans.  But from what I’ve seen this first week and based off my first impressions of British society it’s the small things that really separate them from us.

When coming over from the states I assumed everything would be pretty uniform with life in the states due to our joint history with Britain and the bond of a common language, minus a few cultural differences. After struggling to understand the cockney accent of my cab driver from the airport I realized that I was in for a bit of a shock. Was he really speaking the same English as me? Life in its general sense is the same. People work nine-to-fives, there are fast food restaurants and coffee shops on most every corner, and people love watching sports and television programs. But over here the work days seem a little softer around the edges with an added sense of humor while keeping the professionalism. The fast food restaurants may bear the same name or style but many lack the heavily processed cheap food that we Americans love and instead focus on fresh and local at an increased cost. The testosterone fueled high action sports of America are replaced with what I would consider to be highfalutin copies. Baseball becomes cricket, football becomes rugby, and basketball becomes football(Soccer). Oddly enough low brow television programs were one of the few constants that I noticed. In this case the only difference between “My Big Redneck Wedding” and England’s “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” was the English version being centered around England’s gypsy population.  They even have their own version of cops, although in my opinion it was not nearly as interesting (not enough police brutality)

Individually these small differences might not seem like much but in my mind they quickly add up to create two societies who seem very similar but after close inspection are actually very alien to one another.

First Impressions

I believe first impressions cary more weight than one would think before giving it further consideration. Be it a first impression of a person, a place, or a thing, it is a memory that you associate with said person, place, or thing forever–good or bad. Now I’m not saying that impressions can not be changed, as they often are, but it your first impression is an instinctual opinion made before growing comfortable with something. I think that in itself carries a lot of weight as I am one who often trusts my instincts. As far as this summer, there are a lot of firsts to experience here in London. First time on the tube, first time getting lost, first time meeting new people who talk funny. It is through these firsts experiences and their lasting impressions that you learn and grow. It is always nice to stick to what you’re already comfortable with, but stepping out and experiencing new ‘firsts’ can be as exciting as it can be terrifying. This being said, I think it is important for us to experience as much as we can while were here, for better or for worse, because I know that at least personally I will not have another opportunity such as this one for a long time. Tonight, I am excited to have a first impression of watching European football game and seeing the fans. While we have our own popular sports in the United States, I am interested to see how the English culture treats this sport and what it means to them.


First Impressions

The only American city that can compare to London in terms of size and population is New York- but that might be the only similarity. London has a completely different feel from any major U.S. city. In only a weeks time, I can discern that London lacks the hustle and bustle of a New York, Chicago or even my own local metropolis Washington D.C. When Gray, Witt, and I explored the area around Buckingham Palace, it was eerily quiet. Of course there are busy areas and times, but by and large the city is much more quiet than originally expected.

Similarly, the city is exceptionally clean. Despite what I consider a shortage of trashcans, I’ve seen very little trash – especially in the tube. The public transportation system is much broader, more efficient and accessible than in the States. Perhaps this feeds into the relative quietness of the city. It has made getting around very easy. I am also impressed by the sheer age of everything. An “old” building in the States might be a hundred years old. But on the other side of the pond “old” is a thousand. Almost every building we have seen is aesthetically pleasing. The grassy parks bear a stark contrast to the concrete jungles in the States. Professionally, workplace culture is entirely different. It seems people buy into the pub culture and casual daytime drinking and as Mr. Adamson said, emphasize relationships more than “sharp elbows” of U.S. firms. The City has been very welcoming to us, albeit at a tremendous financial cost (see Gray’s post), and I look forward to exploring more in the coming weeks.




Mahiki Mondays

Uncharted waters. It’s the phrase my dad has been using to describe my summer internship in London. And he’s exactly right. This summer I’m sailing through uncharted waters, passing “first’s” left and right It’s my first time travelling to Europe. I’ve never lived in a town bigger than 8,000 people, let alone a city the size of London. This is my first summer not working at the local surf shop at home. I’ve eaten my first meat pie, curry, and paid to used the restroom for the first time ever. I’m learning to keep an eye out for pick-pocket thieves, starting to get used to cars driving on the left side of the road, and am proud to have finally downloaded Uber for the first time. It’s a summer of first’s, with a new first impression at every turn.

If our first week has been any kind of standard to measure on, this is going to be the most incredible 7 weeks I’ve ever experienced. I came into college undecided, but on a pre-med route. By the end of sophomore year, I had stayed undecided, but now on a politics route. And in the past 5 days, I’ve switched between wanting to be an insurance underwriter, an accountant, news anchor, and any job that can get me in the door at Facebook. I’ve transitioned from the basement party culture of W&L to this pub and club scene that the UK is so proud of. I’ve learned the hard way that Jager bombs in the most expensive city in the free world is going to hurt my wallet far more than my pride. Cooking spaghetti is a whole lot easier if you remember to put water in the pot, and apparently cricket actually is a sport that people watch. Everything about this summer in London has been a first impression, and I’ve learned they go a lot smoother if you come into it with an open mind.

Looks like dad was right about these first impressions; they’re uncharted water. There’s a learning curve with every foreign experience. Now, it’s up to us to try and learn a little more with each new first. We’ve got 6 more weeks to figure it out, and I can’t wait.

First Impressions

After spending four and a half weeks in Copenhagen and two weeks traveling around Europe, I got to London more than ready to settle in one location and unpack my suitcase for more than just a few days at a time. In the two weeks prior to arriving in London, I visited Copenhagen, Denmark; Bergen, Norway; Prague, Czech Republic; Milan, Italy; Paris, France; Barcelona, Spain; and Vienna, Austria. Out of these eight cities (in eight different countries), London reminds me the most of being back in the United States. Aside from the lack of a language barrier (I definitely missed having English menus and street signs during the month and a half I spent in a variety of non-English speaking countries), London possesses many other qualities similar to U.S. metropolitan centers. The city reminds me much of New York City. Both densely population financial centers are global centers of business and culture. While the tube system resembles many other metro systems across Europe and the United States, only in New York have I ever seen a metro train as packed as some of the tube cars on which we traveled in the past few days. London also houses a greater number of American food chains than I noticed in other European cities- I saw a Chipotle for the first time in almost two months a few days ago.

In my first few days in London, I also noticed many qualities that make the city unique from urban centers in the United States. Like other European cities I visited in the past few weeks, London possesses a much more relaxed culture than major American cities. London has much more green space than NYC, fostering a more relaxed environment. After leaving Lloyd’s, I also noticed the majority of businessmen at lunch were casually drinking and socializing- a midday scene much different from that of the hectic and stressed lives of New York City businessmen. London’s relaxed and social pub culture reiterates this difference from the intense business culture of America, specifically New York. Perhaps Americans can take a lesson from Europeans- business life can still be conducted without so much hustle and bustle and stress.

Summer weather June 27th. People enjoy the hot weather as they relax by the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, London, as today was set to become the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures almost matching those in the Caribbean. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2011. Central and north London and the Home Counties were expected to bask in the highest temperatures in Britain, which are forecast to be only 1C (2F) less than the 32C (90F) forecast for the Jamaican capital of Kingston. See PA story WEATHER Heatwave. Photo credit should read: Clive Gee/PA Wire URN:11063603
 Photo courtesy of Google Images

First Impressions: The Tube

Image-1.pngArriving in London marked my seventh week abroad. During my month and a half in Europe I have had several experiences that forced me out of my comfort zone, many of which involved transportation. Needless to say, I was concerned about getting around London. The customs worker stamping my Visa warned me that I “looked like someone who was going to get lost,” which did not help with my lack of confidence in my ability to navigate the city. This fear is why the bulk of my first impressions of London revolve around the tube.

My first time riding the tube was Monday morning, and I walked into the Holbrook tube station on Monday feeling nervous. Weird gusts of wind hit me as I walked through the tunnels towards the train platform, and when the subway came it flew into the station at a terrifyingly fast speed. As I got on the tube and sped off towards our next station, I was still dubious. The car was crowded and reeked of unpleasant smells. However, after I got to my stop and swiped out of the tube, I realized how relatively painless the whole process was. The tube had an easy to read map, and there were a variety of apps instructing which lines to take to get to each destination. I didn’t need to walk far to get to a tube stop, with several located walking distance from my apartment. Payment wasn’t an issue either with a prepaid oyster card. The stations were crowded and the cars smelled bad, but getting from point A to point B was as simple as looking at a map on a phone screen or reading a tube map.

This ease of transportation is not something I was perceiving to take for granted. During my spring term class in Copenhagen, I got lost more times than I could count trying to navigate the city’s streets by bicycle. During the two weeks I traveled in between, navigating rail lines and pass prices in different languages, as well as ensuring I had enough cash to pay for transit made getting around different cities hectic. In some ways, the convenience of the tube serves as a metaphor for the ease of London itself. Despite the posh accents of the city’s inhabitants, driving on the opposite side of the road, ample green spaces, and frequent discussion of the weather (as discussed in Watching the English) London bears a resemblance to New York with it’s underground rail system and primary language being English. I’m excited about the tube and everything else London seems to have to offer, and I can’t wait to call it my home for the next six weeks.

Putting the Best Foot Forward

Big Ben“You never have a second chance to make a first impression,” my dad told me last week as I was packing for our trip to London, “so make sure it’s a good one.” He was encouraging me to make sure I got off to a strong start at my internship, and unbeknownst to us I would have that chance on our
first day of London Week. Last Monday morning (June 6), our W&L group made its first company visit of the trip to The Channel Syndicate, the company I am interning with this summer which is a specialty insurance group that operates in the Lloyd’s of London market. There on our first visit, I got to meet my new teammates and bosses, while asking questions and learning about working in Political and Credit Risks insurance, and was left with the first impression that I am really going to like my internship. Our group spent the rest of the week getting a first impression of jobs with all different types of companies, ranging from the corporate suits of investment banking to the magical candy and nap-pod filled land of Facebook. One of my goals coming into the London trip was to get a better sense of where I want to work after college, and following this week I think I am starting to narrow in on that. We also got a unique first impression of the London weather this week: warm and sunny, as opposed to the traditional rainy and dreary. Every person we spoke to assured us that the good times would not last, and that the weather would soon enough turn British again. Likewise, other first impressions can be fleeting; it is important to not use them to make definitive judgments. In a week full of first impressions, it will be the work and play from here on out that will leave us with the lasting impression of our London experience

First Impressions

London Sun

Talk to anyone in London and the conversation will start with a comment on the weather. At first I ignored this unwritten rule of British conversation and just assumed the city loved to complain about their rain, but last Friday I realized the entire city’s mood completely revolves around the weather.

IMG_0525 (1)On a sunny Friday afternoon, Julia and I jogged around the neighborhood to explore the area. Running to the park in t-shirts and tennis shoes, we stuck out in the crowded streets full of stylish Brits leisurely hanging out in pubs and enjoying the beginning of their weekend. The rare sunshine appeared to pull all of London out of their offices and homes to relax, drink and enjoy the Friday afternoon with their city. As we turned the corner, someone shouted “head to the pub! You will have more fun there!” Unlike New York or Atlanta where people get off work and meet up with the same people at the same places, London has a much more welcoming social scene with people wanting to meet new faces.

This unique social culture cannot be found in cities in the States, and I realized the difference was the weather. Not only do they all have something to say about the weather, each knows the right response will relate the forecast to the quintessential London rain. This talk of weather is one of the common threads that all Brits can agree on and therefore it pulls them together and reinforces this unique social culture that I have not seen anywhere else.

The Wonders of Public Transportation

As strange as this may sound, my first impression of any city always comes from my experiences on its public transportation system. Though this is my first time in London, the amazing infrastructure of public transportation makes me feel like I have returned home. In London, the Underground, the trains in and out of the country and the double decker buses provide much of the independence, freedom and mobility that I missed. My favorite aspect of public transportation is that using it really helps you get to know the city and its landmarks. After all, there are only stops in places that are convenient for everyone.

However, public transportation isn’t just a way to get around – it is also one of the best places to get a glimpse into the local patterns and life of a Londoner. Daily patterns and people watching can tell you a lot about the local culture. For example, even though the Underground can get very busy, people always get on and off in an orderly fashion. The level of organization and neatness is reflected in the relatively clean streets (yet there are few trash cans). Something that I find unique is that there are always people outside the Tube stop handing out free newspapers or magazines such as Time Out.

Having read Watching the English before arriving, I often find myself trying to reconcile what was said in the book with what I see. I definitely agree that the English are more prone to reading a book or the newspaper on the Tube. However, it appears that they wish to avoid awkward eye contact and conversation with others as much as people using public transportation in any other country. It is quite fascinating how people across the world use phones and earphones to deter others from talking with them.

So far, it has been a busy, but exciting week in London and I’m excited to see what the next week brings!

The wonderful views you can enjoy as you walk from one bus stop to another.

First Impressions

First Impressions Aren’t Always the Right Impressions

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When Paige Harrison walked into the conference room at Pembroke, the first question she asked was how many of us are “C-School” majors. I’ve come to dread answering this question. It’s not that I’m not proud of, or enjoy being a Journalism major, but I find it awkward sitting there while all but two or three people out of the group of seventeen raise their hands. She then asked how well versed we were in finance and real estate terms. I was relieved when Dean Jensen spoke up for the timid bunch and told her all but one of us are juniors and studying a wide variety of subjects.

I automatically assumed Ms. Harrison was a C-School grad herself. To me, everything from her white tweed blazer and her sleek haircut screamed, “I’m a W&L Williams School Grad,” and those questions only bolstered my suspicions. But, I was wrong. Near the end of the session, Ms. Harrison told us she was actually an English Major at W&L. My ears perked up as I heard those words come from the mouth of the woman I was so sure I had figured out. She then went on to say she had only taken two Econ classes while she was an undergrad and admitted that she tried to avoid classes that could be somewhat practical for a job in the real world. I was shocked. Her next pieces of advice may be the best advice I’ll take away from the entire week. She said she regretted not taking any businesses classes and encouraged us to do so, even if we aren’t “C-School” majors. I’m glad my first impression of Ms. Harrison was wrong, and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to fit a couple businesses classes in my schedule over the next two years.

–Julia Gsell