London Internship Program 2016

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July 2016

What A Time To Be Alive

This summer was an incredibly formative experience for me. I took a look at the application I did for the program over winter break to get a sense of my goals and expectations for the trip. I gathered a few main goals from that application: get fully immersed in a foreign culture, step outside of what has been my comfort zone, contribute to my course of study and provide a contrast to the American-centered politics courses I have taken at W&L, gain first hand work experience contributing in a small and intimate workplace, and explore Europe and places I otherwise would not see.

Despite the shared language, England had a decisively different culture than I had become accustomed to in the States. Every day brought a new experience and the phrase ”cheers” will follow me back to Lexington. I had given little thought to studying abroad before the trip and now completely understand why everyone I talk to is so keen on it.

On the same note, and as our stories and “learning curve” demonstrate, there is something to be said for being almost purely independent in a foreign country (especially one as expensive as the U.K.). Many mistakes were made but I learned an awful lot from navigating the big city with my friends.

The contemporary British politics class with Dr. Blick certainly exceeded my expectations. I have a much more aware and informed sense of global politics and was struck by how different our systems of governing are. The timing could not be better with the Brexit and the issues that caused domestically and abroad.

Work-wise, I am glad I was not a soccer coach as I feared. I really did gain some invaluable work experience that I hope to translate to an internship next summer and I enjoyed my time at Let Me Play.

Lastly, the opportunity to visit Scotland twice and Budapest especially, were eye-opening experiences. While it is possible I return to these places in my adult life, it may not be in the cards and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do so this summer.

All in all I could not be happier with the summer I had. It is amazing how fast it all flew by. I did not include this in my goals, but the fellowship I have gained with new friends and old will stay with me for a lifetime.

Cheers,
Jack

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The Learning Curve: Summer 2016 in London

After a couple of days back home on stable, secure American soil and a couple of nights of sleep in my clean, air-conditioned home, I have had time to reflect on my London Internship Program experience. And I can honestly say that I got as much out of my time in London as possible.

I came into this summer with the tangible goals of narrowing my career interests and earning credit towards my Global Politics major; in hindsight those goals were very generic, and while I achieved them, I did not expect the extent to which I would surpass them.

From the standpoint of getting credit for our British politics class, Dr. Blick was fantastic and we learned a lot about a variety of British political topics — from devolution, to decolonization and war, to religion. But I thought the most enriching education in British politics I received was outside of the classroom, by living through the unusual amount of seismic political events that occurred in the seven weeks we were in London. The Brexit referendum is the one that will be remembered for years to come. It will be a cool to recall to peers or job interviewers that I witnessed the Brexit and its aftermath firsthand, in which we saw David Cameron’s resignation as Prime Minister, upheaval of international markets and leadership in Parliament, and the eventual election of Conservative Theresa May as new Prime Minister. Day to day, there were always big events occurring, and through class I was able to understand in context of British government and society what was going on. I will always remember how shocked Londoners (the same people that told us all during the first week there was no way the UK would actually leave the EU) were those first few days after the Leave vote. It will be fascinating to see how the negotiation of the Brexit will unfold in the months and years to come.

Internship and career wise, I feel blessed to say I had an excellent experience where I received some more clarity about what I want to do in the future. When I blindly applied to Channel in the winter, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I sure am glad I took the time to do so. IMG_6593Because of this summer, I have discovered a very interesting sector of work that isn’t very well-known in the U.S. — speciality insurance. I particularly found the global nature of political and credit risk insurance very appealing given my academic interests, and because of my work experience this summer, I will look into pursuing this field further. I was very fortunate to be able to experience working in a world-renowned place like Lloyd’s of London, and I think my internship was a great example of the wonderful opportunities students get through attending Washington and Lee. Conversations with my boss, who is a W&L alum, were also very beneficial to me. As a person who has experienced the same career questions as myself going through our school, he had great career recommendations and insights as to how to navigate the upcoming interviews process. Moreover, I now have a great W&L and London contact in the insurance business. Our first London Week also gave me a look at a wide range of jobs, and I was able to compare and contrasts these with my personal interests. Overall, the London Internship Program was a great way for me to get my foot in the door, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do so.

Outside of the classroom and workplace, I also thought going abroad for such a prolonged period of time was a valuable exercise in independent living. Being far from home at school and having gone to summer camp for many years, homesickness and independent living are not struggles of mine. But living in London and traveling across Europe this summer taught me how to travel on my own, adapt to international cultures, and take care of myself and others. As one of my classmate’s blog eloquently said, it is either sink or swim when you are abroad — you must adapt. My friends and I joked throughout the trip about a “learning curve” to this experience; and living and working in a foreign country (in my first corporate environment, mind you) certainly revealed that. Planning meals, work commutes via public transportation, or weekend trips required us to rely solely on ourselves, and thus coming back to America I feel more mature and independent than ever. We certainly experienced our fair share of bumps along the way, but the most valuable learning is gained through personal experience. Even though London is certainly a powerful and civilized city, I still feel that I stepped outside of my comfort zone to have a summer experience unique of my peers back home in the States

While I will not miss the most expensive city in the world vacuuming my bank account daily, or our hot, messy apartment (thanks Acorn), I will always look back fondly on my 2016 summer spent in London with the confidence that I made the most of my experience. For all the pounds we spend (or gained) on the trip, we had tenfold the laughs; we will go back to W&L in the fall with so many great memories and inside jokes. I had a great internship, and I got to live in the United Kingdom during the most politically tumultuous time since World War II. I got to read the news from the anchors’ desk at CNBC; I got to watch the last 20 groups play the 18th hole on Saturday at The Open from the first row; I got to eat dinner 45 stories above the London night skyline; I got to hike Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, and walk along the Danube River in Budapest. And now, finally, I get to catch up on sleep. Lord knows I haven’t gotten any over the last seven weeks. But how else would you rather spend your summer?

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The Perfect Jump

I never really thought I would study abroad. I mean, I always liked the notion of it. My parents always promoted studying abroad, as did W&L. But for me personally, it always seemed more like a fantasy than a reality. Besides a spontaneous trip to the Caribbean last summer, I hadn’t left the country. Going abroad sounded like an incredible adventure, but maybe too big of a leap for me. Leaving home for college was a big deal. Leaving the state of North Carolina was an even bigger one. Leaving the nation seemed too much. However, after continual convincing from Julia and Witt throughout fall term, I decided it was worth it. How right they were.

These 7 weeks studying and working in London have far and beyond exceeded my highest expectations. The mixture of work, studies, and play wasn’t just good, it was perfect. At times, it was almost overwhelming.  I was worried about going too far outside my comfort zone by traveling to Europe and leaving the comfort of my local summer job. Then, I was worried that studying abroad in an English-speaking country like the UK was such a similar culture that I wasn’t challenging myself enough. As it turns out, London was the perfect leap for me.

My internship in Parliament was fascinating. But interning in Parliament during the political fiasco of this summer, that was nothing short of incredible. I learned more than I thought possible, about both politics and the work world. Our class in Contemporary British Politics opened our eyes to a side of London and the UK that would have been hard to find elsewhere. Professor Blick was wonderful, and the afternoon trips were more than worthwhile. These parts of the program really were great, but it was the rest of the trip that was the most memorable.

In our time apart from work and class, that is where I learned the most. I learned about the city of London, and I learned what living in an urban area was like. I learned about culture, and not in a cliche way. I met white people, I met black people. I met Indians, Germans, Scots, Italians, Somalians, and many many more. I tried cuisine that I didn’t before know existed. Thanks to my time in London, I can now order a beer in 3 different languages, and say thank you in 4. There is so much more to see beyond our lives in America. Now, I think I truly understand that. I had close friends on the trip before leaving Lexington. With them, I became much more close. Even better, there were people on the trip that I wasn’t close with, or didn’t know at all. We’ve all made close and long-lasting relationships through this special time we’ve shared together, with memories I hope to never forget. I’ve learned a lot about others, and maybe most surprising, I learned a lot about myself. My biggest takeaway from this trip: I’ve become comfortable with the uncomfortable. This trip was the perfect jump away from the life I’ve always known. I’m beyond thankful for everybody that put their time into making this program exist. I’m grateful that Julia and Witt peer pressured me into giving this program a chance. And now, I’m looking forward more than ever to what is going to be my next jump.



Looking Back

This morning, I’ve been sitting at home in Houston, Tx at my kitchen table trying to think of what I should put in this last blog post. We did so many things, and there’s so much to say. But, I can think one word that sums up my feelings and experiences over the last seven weeks–grateful.

Zac said it first and best at our final dinner with Prof. Oliver at the Rugby Tavern. After we all talked–and a lot of us complained–about our internships, he reminded us that even though we may have been doing meaningless tasks at our jobs and could think of a lot of revisions we could make to the schedule, this had been an incredible summer. Sure, Bobby may not have thought his internship was helpful for anything he wanted to do in the future, Janie and I may have hated working from home, and Witt may have had a few ideas about how to change the Bath/Oxford weekend trips. But, we’ve all learned and done so much, and we have so many people and experiences to be grateful for.

First, during London Week we got to visit W&L alumni at firms across the city. We go to an amazing school with incredible alumni who wouldn’t think twice about taking an hour or so out of their day and welcoming 17 undergraduate students into their corporate offices. From Facebook to Hearst to Pembroke and EY, our alumni network is greater than most schools can shake a stick at. Second, We all owe a lot to our supervisors and co-workers for employing us and teaching us things about British culture we couldn’t pick up on just from reading Kate Fox’s “Watching the English.” Beyond them, there’s one British person we’re all most grateful for–Sara. She’s the perfect example of a proper British person, and a “mum” we all wish we could take back home to the States. Finally, we have our amazing Professors who had a wild idea years ago to create a pretty much perfect summer abroad experience that combined work, study, and fellowship into a seven week program.

So here’s to Prof. Oliver, Dean Jensen, Ms. Wager, and everyone else who helped make this summer one of–if not the best–summer of our lives. Cheers.

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Reflection on the Seven Weeks

I feel like I arrived on the steps of 16 Bedford Place just a few days ago, but in just seven weeks I went from knowing nothing about the city to feeling like I lived there. My first day in London I was jet lagged, alone and unsure of what to do until 2 o’clock when I could move into the flat. I wandered around the area and found cool pubs, a craft beer place and lots of good shopping. Julia and I hopped on a bus to try an ice cream place that first night as a way to explore the city. It is funny looking back on that first day and realizing I didn’t know I had walked into covent garden, gone to my favorite pub, ordered a coffee at the place I would go before work every day and gone to the ice cream place would become my favorite and the last place Julia and I would go before heading back to the States.
After living in London for seven weeks I felt like it had become my second home, almost like how I call W&L home sometimes in Atlanta, which my mom hates. It took time to get accustomed to British humor, the different work environment and definitely the exchange rate, but I think overall we all grew very comfortable in the city. I am going to miss work and my coworkers. We had become close, which shows the difference between the British and American work environments. I also will miss the ability to walk or tube everywhere. I easily walked eight to ten miles a day whereas at home I drive everywhere. By the end of the trip, I felt like I could get anywhere I needed to without using google maps (which in my opinion is a good measurement of how well I know a city). Even though I could find my way around there was still always something knew to find and explore.
I definitely did not want to leave at the end of the trip, although I did miss air conditioning, cheap food and my puppy. I think what I will miss the most was living with everyone and how it forced us all to become so close. Although I am sure we will all stay friends, it is hard knowing that we will never all be living and doing everything together again.



Reflection on Seven Weeks

IMG_4115It seems like just yesterday we were all moving into our apartments at Bedford Place. Having been in Europe for six weeks already when we moved in, another seven seemed like it may last a lifetime. I was wrong. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Our time in London brought us many experiences and opportunities. First, during London Week, we visited a handful of engaging and helpful alumni doing everything from investment real estate to political risk insurance underwriting. Next, we got the chance to learn about the UK from an exceptional professor, Dr. Blick. In addition, we all worked an internship where we learned to deal with coworkers, bosses, and busy work. We learned about pub culture and English idiosyncrasies as well. We traveled to Bath, Oxford, and Edinburgh with Sara. We tasted this food and that food in Borough Market. We even walked through the House of Lords. When I look back, we did a lot, and I think we did a great job of making the most of our time in London.

One part of our experience I’ll never forget was the Brexit. In 30 years, I bet we look back and tell people “I was there for that.” The vote will have numerous consequences, some good, some bad. It will be interesting to see the impact of the vote over the next few months, especially after we’ve learned so much about the issues with Dr. Blick.

Even after a busy seven weeks (a “lifetime”), I feel like we just scratched the surface of the city of London. I’ve never spent a long amount of time in a place with so much going on. If anything, I
think this sentiment makes for a good excuse to visit again sometime in the future. I look forward to that occasion.

 



Final Reflections on the Study Abroad Sink or Swim

It feels like I got off my plane in Luton and arrived at Acorn for our first day of orientation just yesterday, let alone landing in Copenhagen three months ago. My first blog post on the similarities between London and the States also feels like it was written just a day ago. After a few learning curves in Copenhagen during spring term, I thought life in London was going to be a breeze. However, I quickly learned no experience abroad comes without its set of challenges. During our first internship class, one of my classmate’s made a joke about something being “sink or swim,” and I think this idea describes studying abroad perfectly. If done right, like in this program, spending time outside America presents, new experiences, challenges, and opportunities for us to push outside our comfort zones. I think I gained a lot out of my “sink or swim” moments this summer, and I’m glad I had them.

I think this trip did a great job highlighting the common links and differences between the United States and United Kingdom. With the common language and big-city culture, I found it easy in the beginning to call London “New York without the high rises.” However, the combination of the Contemporary Britain Class, weekend trips, and internships highlighted the attributes that make London and the United Kingdom unique. The weekend trips, especially, presented opportunities to visit cities I wouldn’t have otherwise. Bath especially was such a cool city, and somewhere I would have gone on my own accord. Being in the United Kingdom during Brexit made all of these experiences even more meaningful by linking what we were learning about the British economy and political system to a landmark news event.

London week was an important component of this program as well. Being in a variety of business environments before beginning the application process next fall gave me a better idea of what areas of the business realm I want to focus my attention on. Visiting firms in London rather than the states made the the process more interesting by showing the globalized nature of the modern-day work environment.

Finally, one of my favorite aspects of this program was the people I met and the friends I made. This summer was full of incredible experiences, and I wish I could re-wind to June and do it all again.



Leaving London

As I sit alone in the apartment that once housed nine more members of my class, I’m thinking about all of the adventures that happened over the past seven weeks. It seems like time flew by so fast. During the first week, we visited so many different firms across the city. We’ve learned so much about British politics and culture it now seems weird that we’ve never paid as much attention to our own. I wonder if when we return, we will make all sorts of social and anthropological observations about America now that we have studied a society in-depth.

While working at the TaxPayers’ Alliance I was treated to firsthand experiences with British politics as the firm is an influential lobby group. My experience there has helped me to better understand how people in politics gather and present information to back up their positions and legislative initiatives. It was truly a treat to be here in London working for a lobby group at this uncertain time in Britain’s politics. I have benefited so much from being here through the Brexit referendum and the selection of a new Prime Minister. I’ve learned so much about the British parliamentary system which presents a stark contrast to our rigid constitutionalism in the United States.

While I certainly loved working at my internship, it’s perhaps my weekends that I will remember most distinctly. I have such a vivid memory of barely arriving to our first contemporary Britain class on a Monday morning. I came into London on a train from Derby at 8:00 am. I had sneaked off there on Sunday in order to attend a music festival which featured Iron Maiden as the headline act. That was just one of the opportunities we had in this country. We spend a full weekend in Edinburgh and managed to visit several Scottish regions while there. We spent a weekend in Bath and Welles. I even was able to go horseback riding in Windsor Park last weekend while only making reservations a few days in advance. London, one of the largest cities in Europe, offers so much that we have yet to discover.

I don’t doubt that many of us will return to England as soon as we can. I do think however, that I will attempt to spend more time in the countryside while “on holiday” as they say here. While London may be great, I know there is more still to England to Great Britain as a whole.



Summing Up: 7 Weeks Gone Too Fast

As a collegiate wrestler, I never really saw the chance to study abroad as a reality – wrestling spans both the fall and winter terms, meaning leaving campus for an extended period of time isn’t an option. This past December, however, a friend of mine mentioned the London Internship Program in passing. I had never been to a foreign country without my family, let alone lived abroad for 2 months to work and study. I decided to look into the program, applied, was accepted, and rolled with it. Looking back, I am so grateful I came across this opportunity. These past 7 weeks in London have granted me one of the most interesting, eye-opening, and fun experiences of my life thus far. I have learned not only about foreign social and work culture, but I’ve also gained insight into myself – my goals for the future, my independence and self-reliance, and my appreciation of all that the world has to offer to explore.

It’s tough for me to pinpoint particular highlights of this trip, as every week brought something new and exciting. However, there are a few key aspects of the program that I believe helped shape the entire 7 weeks as a whole. The first is career week. Coming into this program, I didn’t really have a clear sense of direction for what type of career I wanted to pursue after graduating from W&L. Sure, I had an idea of what field I might want to go into (I was thinking about investment real estate), but I had never seen what a job in the financial sector actually looks like in real life. After our visits to prominent financial companies like Pembroke, BofA Merill Lynch, and Blackstone, I was able to see what people working in the financial field do on a day-to-day basis. From there, I was able to get a clearer sense of what type of job I want to pursue as I take on interviews on campus this fall. Though I knew that many W&L students interested in banking start as financial analysts, I now know this position is also a great place to start for anybody interested in working in finance. I don’t necessarily want to work for an I-bank for my entire life, but I definitely want to start at one. This trip definitely helped me determine this.

The second key aspect was the weekend trips. To be honest, had these excursions not been pre-booked into our schedules, I don’t think many of would have chosen to use our free time to visit Edinburgh, Bath, or Oxford. However, I am happy that I got the chance to experience these places. The amount of history steeped in each of these cities was fascinating, and much of what we learned tied in well with the Contemporary British Politics class.

The third key aspect of the program was the internship. Though this one is obvious, its worth mentioning. Being immersed in a foreign work environment allowed me to learn more about British culture than any other component of this trip. There was definitely a learning curve involved in picking up on British work rules, humor norms, and social etiquette, all of which have helped me grow as a person. I’m thankful for the time I spent working at Britannia Student Services, and I sincerely believe that the fact that we’ve all worked in a foreign country will give us a bit of an edge over our peers back in the States when applying for more serious internships this coming academic year.

All in all, these past 7 weeks have been nothing short of phenomenal. I’ve made new friends from W&L that I likely wouldn’t have become close to otherwise, I’ve made friends in my British co-workers, I’ve learned about cultural differences, and I’ve learned about myself. If given the chance, I’d do it all over again.

 

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Dress Codes

Our first week here, a group of about eight of us went and sat in a circle right in Russell Square park. A friend from W & L was on her way, but did not know the area and was worried about finding her way and picking us out in the park. She spotted us from the street before the entrance to the park and took a panorama picture. It showed from left to right people in all dark colors, kind of blending in before a sudden shock of color hits the screen. There was no need to worry about finding us. Yes, W & L is as a whole very preppy, but in London it is laughable how much our group stands out. It did not take long for us to realize that we stood out as Americans before we even said “Hello”.

As a whole, Americans generally wear colors British people wouldn’t. Different brands are popular, which is obvious but worth mentioning. We wear shorts, they really don’t. Haircuts are wildly different. As Fox pointed out, summer fashion here is less important, because summer isn’t really as much of a thing. One thing I have noticed about European fashion in general, however, that I find amusing, is the fixation on the U.S. People in London who have a hippie-type, trendy-look wear clothes that have American cities written on them, most often New York. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone, clearly not from the U.S. wearing either an American sports jersey or again, a shirt that simply reads “Los Angeles”. My personal favorite was a guy wearing a tank top that said in giant letters, “New Jersey”. That was it. Nothing else. Just New Jersey. I would have taken a picture but I think the guy could have eaten me. While wearing clothes that reference America are cool, being American is not. Talk about disappointing.

I found it interesting that the British are not supposed to take dressing seriously. In America, it is taken very seriously. It is an interesting cultural difference that only begins to make sense after gaining more experience here. I have found that the more time I have spent in London, the easier it has been to understand why certain things like this are.

 

 

 




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