London Internship Program 2016

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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.

Work Hard, Play Hard versus Work Hard, Play Modestly

“Working hard or hardly working?” appears to summarize the British mentality towards work and play. During the internship class that was held on Tuesday, it was interesting to see the different ways in which the work-life balance varied across different classmate’s internships, and the varying influence each business’ practice of this principal had on its office environment. Several of my classmates explained their office culture promoted a work-life balance through a relaxed office environment. “Relaxed” in this context means a variety of aspects regarding the workplace, from a laid-back dress code to getting lunch or drinks with co-workers. On Tuesday, I explained my internship had more of an “American” workplace culture rather than a relaxed British one. However, after reading Kate Fox’s chapter on “Work Rules” I’m rethinking my previous argument that my workplace isn’t stereotypically British. Fox argued that although the British claim to “work hard, play hard” and have an ideal work-life balance, in practice the Brits have a “work hard, play moderately” policy. I came into my internship with the expectation that Brits had a relaxed culture in the office, and a “play hard” lifestyle after, that they filled themselves up with pints during their breaks and after they leave work. In some cases, maybe this pattern is true, however “work hard play moderately” is far more fitting in my office environment. At work, my co-workers are serious about getting their job done to the best of their ability. Working hard is especially important in a non-profit workplace where doing one’s job effectively has the potential to make a significant difference on the lives of others, and my colleague’s commitment to their jobs and the organization’s mission make it clear they are aware of this significance. However, there is a life balance, and a “moderate play” to the office culture as well. I’ve seen my office alter employee hours for religious holidays, one of my co-workers is an avid painter in her spare time, and my offer to check work emails and make a phone call during a travel weekend was thought of as “absurd.” Consequently, based on my office experiences and those of my classmates, I agree with aspects of Fox’s chapter that describe the British office environment being more relaxed than that of America. However, the extent to which her proposal that the British have a more relaxed work environment varies. Overall, I think there is a happy medium between “work hard play hard” and “work hard play moderately” that exists in the British workplace. It will be interesting to compare and contrast office environments in Britain with those in America as I hold consequent jobs at home.

British Humor, British Patriotism, and British Brexit

UnknownMyself and my classmates are fortunate to be in London during what should be a milestone in both British and European History: The British Brexit. Today I saw many British citizens out and about donning red and blue ribbons supporting the cause to either stay in the European Union or become an independent nation. Even in the wake of the death of Jo Cox for her views on the Brexit situation, many citizens appear to take the matter very seriously. The bottom floor of my internship’s office was designated as a voting area, and I saw enthusiastic voters donning their ribbon color of choice each time I walked in and out of my building. Strong opinions regarding Brexit led me to believe there must be a strong feeling of British national pride. Consequently, I was surprised to read some of the statistics in Kate Fox’s chapter covering British Humor in Watching the English. For example, at least two thirds of England’s population reported they were unaware of their national holiday, St. George’s Day, and only 22 percent stated they always felt proud to be British. These statistics were supported by observations I’ve picked up on the street, such as hearing citizens grumble over their “useless” healthcare system or “annoying” tax system. Because of this contrast, I wondered where these strong opinions on Brexit were coming from if British citizens were as unenthusiastic about their nationality as they appeared to be.

Some of the response to this question appeared to be obvious. After researching why some of the British wanted to leave the European Union, I found economic arguments that explained wanting to distance the British government from the euro and EU economic policies. These reasons made sense because they very little to do with national pride. However, the Vox article I used as reference ( listed threats to British sovereignty within the European Union as the top argument behind the argument to leave. This reason didn’t make sense to me; as did many of the other arguments that seemed to build on some sense of British pride. Fox’s chapter on humor in Watching the English explained some of this difference in opinion; that “Not being earnest,” a key element of British humor, encourages Brits to denounce patriotism even when they feel pride for their country. In fact, despite the primary statistics Fox gave that denounced British patriotism, she found 83 percent of the population she surveyed felt some sort of pride towards being a UK citizen. As a result, many of the Brexit “leaver’s” point of view made sense after reading Watching the English. It will be interesting to see what the final result of Brexit is tomorrow morning.


Image Source: via 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.