London Internship Program 2016

This content shows Simple View


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.


Rules of the Road

TaxiReading Fox’s chapter on “Rules of the Road,” I noticed some big differences between English and American culture, especially with regard to to the part of the States where I’m from. Fox observes that interaction between English commuters on the train or Underground is almost nonexistent, with a few interesting exceptions. While I haven’t spent much time on public transportation (there’re no underground lines in Kennett, Missouri or Memphis, Tennessee or Lexington), I feel that I talk to people when I am taking a shuttle, bus, or train. I’ll usually try to find common ground by inspecting them. For example, when I see someone in an Ole Miss shirt, I’ll drop a subtle “Hotty Toddy” and ask them what they think about the Rebels’ chances next season. If they are reading a book I’ve read, I’ll ask them what they think about a particular chapter or section. I find that the ride is much easier and less awkward when you recognize each other’s presence and acquaint yourselves.

Fox mentions that English people commonly open up to one another and ignore the “denial rule” when they can moan and complain together. This was one thing I do think is common in the US. When I’ve been at an airport gate and the flight is delayed, everyone will say “Delta does it again” or “this happens every time when I connect through Atlanta” (people complain about the Atlanta airport a lot). While this is a great icebreaker, I don’t find that Americans then follow the complaint with a strong fear of continued conversation. If anything, it’s an easy way to get to know someone.

“Oh, do you fly through here often?”

“The same thing happened to me just last week when I was headed to…..”

I also found the car rules to be different. For me, this difference applies more to small town America than bigger cities in the US. Growing up, I always found it common to wave and nod from the car to people passing through town. I would even honk when passing a friend or pull up next to someone to wave hello if I recognized their vehicle. This is a change from the “invisibility” of the car “castle” that Fox discusses.

I think I prefer our way of interacting when traveling. It’s a small world, and you never know when you’ll run into a friend of a friend or someone with an interesting story to tell.

Car wave

Linguistic Class Codes

While it may not be my favorite chapter, I thought that the Fox’s chapter on linguistic class codes was quite interesting. She notes that “one cannot talk at all without immediately revealing one’s own social class.” This is probably true in many parts of the world, but it seems like the English care about said social class much more than we do. Not only do the English socially rank those they’re talking to, they’re “class-obsessed.” I was surprised by this phenomenon. Maybe we subconsciously do this in the United States, but I’ve never really thought about it before. In England, it’s a different story. Fox mentions a “scandal” in which Kate Middleton’s mother used the words “toilet” and “pardon” in front of the Queen. The English people couldn’t believe she’d do such a thing, and the story made headlines. It wasn’t like the news broke in a tabloid either; the BBC reported on the “allegations” against Kate’s mother. This struck me as absolutely goofy. What does it matter if someone uses the word toilet. “Pardon” even seems polite in my mind (ridiculous, I know).


After reading this chapter, I started thinking about how I’ve probably (not unreasonably) used every tabooed word in the book since we’ve been in London. Maybe I’ll think twice about my choice of words going forward. However, I see this status-driven cultural trend as a mark against the English. Now that I know the speaking do’s and don’ts, I’m interested to stop and listen to the way people talk around London.

One Down, Five to Go

Simbiotik LogoA couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Kelly, my contact at Simbiotik (the partnership marketing firm where I’m interning this summer). We were planning out scheduling for my internship among other things. At the end of her e-mail, she mentioned that the Simbiotik office summer party was coming up and that I’d need to let her know whether or not I’d like to attend. I quickly envisioned a calm, dry get-together with a lot of small talk; I told her I’d think about it. I thought to myself, “for all I know, I may not even like these people.”

Fast forward a couple of weeks (to this week), and I’m showing up for my first day at work. The Simbiotik office is much different than I’d expected. First, as many others in the blog have mentioned, the workplace environment is very casual. The firm has 12 employees (and now two interns). Dave Pickles, the CEO, sits at a regular desk just like everyone else, and everyone goes by their first name. 9 of the people in the office are under 30, and they all like to have a  good time. On lunch breaks this week, we went to a local pub to play darts or to the Mexican restaurant for tacos and drinks. Yesterday, we watched the England game on the office TV while we worked.

The crew may be very casual, but they’re also very productive, working for clients such as Hasbro, Peroni, and PepsiCo in the past. They bounce ideas off one another all day in order to put forth their best work to the client, and once anyone is put to a task, they complete it well. I spent the first couple of days sifting through old client documents. At first, I thought this was just busy work, but the old files were intriguing. It was interesting to see how the firm handled each different set of partnerships. I look forward to working on current projects with the team over the next few weeks.

Anyway, I think it’s safe to say I’m going to the summer party (which I’m told starts at 9am). It’s going to be a fun five weeks.

London: The Standalone City

IMG_3872After spending just under a week in London, I’ve realized that it’s got anything and everything a person may need. Yesterday, in our meeting with Kirk at Blackstone, he mentioned that London and New York were both “standalone cities.” I’ve never spent much time in New York, but after a week in London I understand what he’s saying. Having grown up in a town of 10,000 people, with the closest city (Memphis) one hundred miles away, London is quite impressive. The city has everything. While I think New York is still the financial capital of the world, we’ve visited two large financial districts in London. London also has the biggest global insurance market at Lloyd’s. However, at the same time, the city is full of beautiful parks where Londoners can get away from the “city” environment.  The city also has older, low-rise architecture. In New York, you just see high rise after high rise. The wealth of big parks and the beautiful, low-rise architecture here reminds me of Copenhagen, Denmark. However, while Copenhagen has the parks and architecture, the business traffic isn’t even close to that of London. This further supports the idea that London has it all. In addition, during our company visits this week, we’ve come across three thriving food/shopping areas, and we’ve just scratched the surface. I think our bus tour with Ms. Campbell says it all. We drove around for a couple of hours, and I don’t think there was one block where she didn’t have something to say. London has such a rich history and thriving international culture, and I’m excited to see what the next few weeks have in store for us.