London Internship Program 2016

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gagnonj18

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 Weather

When I saw Watching the English began with a chapter on talking about the weather, I was not enthused. From my perspective, talking about the weather seemed to be a universal small talking point – it certainly is in the United States. However, as I read further I see it is a much more nuanced topic of conversations.

When I think about our interactions with local tour guides and Sara, some mention of the weather almost always starts off their spiel. At work, a comment is made either to me or out loud on multiple occasions. Most strikingly, I had a ten minute walk to the tube station with a coworker and our conversation only covered the weather in London, the weather back home, the weather in Florida, and the weather in different countries in Europe he had been to.

I thought the weather as a member of the family was a particularly astute observation. The weather as a family rule speaks to the subtleties of English culture in contrast with the volume focus of American culture.

Fox is correct in saying English weather-speak is a form of code, used to overcome our natural reservations, but that does not explain why it is so prevalent here. I disagree with her dismissal of Jeremy Paxmann’s theory. He says that the English fixation with the weather is a product of the variation in weather. I think to a certain extent talking about the weather’s popularity is certainly related to the volatility. I can’t imagine the consistent sunshine of the beaches of Spain is a popular talking point. London is by no means a tropical paradise and the fluctuations must contribute to their propensity to bring up the weather.



Starting Work

After having worked six years in golf course outside operations, this is my first experience in a larger office environment. For that reason, it is hard for me to separate what differences are cultural and which are reflective of the vocational setting.

I am working for an NGO that, in its simplest form, tries to positively influence youths through sport. After a full week on the job, I am still trying to grasp the different mechanisms used to pursue their mission. I am going to be working under three different managers in a pseudo rotation. My favorite experience has been working for their marketing department. My first day I wrote an article for their website and I am more involved outside of the office.

Despite, the very friendly atmosphere, I am surprised with how much communication goes on the computer. I shared a desk with one of my managers and we would communicate almost exclusively through email – despite being 4 feet away. This Thursday we rented out a viewing area for the England Whales Euro cup match. I am really glad it came at the end of the week as it was a great social experience and I got two talk the two of the other interns – one Italian and one American. This casual workplace attitude may be unique to my organization, but judging from my classmate’s posts it seems they had similar experiences.

I was a little skeptical of my internship at first. Let Me Play, while delightful, didn’t seem to have the cachet of working in Parliament or Lloyds. However, in only a few days, I feel like an appreciated member of the workplace. This sentiment was best illustrated when the head director personally thanked me for helping out. I look forward to seeing my role expand even more in the coming weeks.

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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.

 

 

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