London Internship Program 2016

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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.


House Talk and Rules Broken

While reading what has to be my favorite chapter of Watching the English so far—“Home Rules,” I realized a few more of the Brits’ unspoken social codes I’ve violated while being here. I thought back to our dinner at Sara’s house at the end of our first week and grimaced as I read each word about “House-talk rules.” In America, especially in the South, while at a dinner party or other gathering, it’s customary to compliment your host or hostess on his home. In England, however, this is not the case. The English find it horribly impolite to be too precise when complimenting someone on his possessions or home. Instead, Brits prefer to stick to broader terms like “lovely,” or “quite nice,” when they wish to compliment each other and their things. While I can’t remember if I used something along the lines of the southern parting phrase, “thank you for having us; you have a beautiful home,” I do know I committed the even larger faux pas of enquiring about a specific possession.

Professor Oliver mentioned to a couple of us that Sara’s father was an art collector. She had a wonderful collection of art in her sitting room, and we were told that one of her pieces was a 14th century Italian oil painting. Eager to learn more, Hayley and I told Sara later on in the evening that we loved art and art history. Sara commented on her father and pointed out which one it was, but didn’t tell us anything about the painting! A bit disappointed, we left not understanding why she didn’t go into any detail on the piece. But now, we finally know why our conversation ended so quickly.

American Disorder and “Pub-Talk”

During our second week here in London, we all decided to go to a pub together after our first class visit to City Hall. We remembered a spot Dean Jensen pointed out to us during London week next to Borough Market and headed that way. While reading “Pub-Talk” in Watching the English, I didn’t get more than a few pages in when I remembered this time and realized some of the many unspoken social codes we’d violated. Almost all 17 of us walked into the pub and immediately started looking for a table big enough to fit the group. After drawing the attention of the few people and staff in the quiet pub, we finally found a table in the back corner and sat down—mistake number one. As we quickly realized, a waiter or waitress does not come to the table and serve you at an English pub. I think we may have all been aware of this rule, but our customer-service American subconscious took over in our excitement to start experiencing “pub-culture.” Mistake number two—if we really wanted the full experience, we shouldn’t have sat down at this table in the corner, far away from the bar. Sitting at and standing near tables by the bar is where the friendly “pub-talk” occurs. Here, conversations with strangers are customary—unlike most other places in England, where striking up a conversation with a stranger is wildly uncommon. This crowded area around the bar is one of the few places in English society where disorder is accepted, and is actually organized to some degree. Although there isn’t a physical one of the English beloved queues, bar tenders and visitors understand an unspoken order in which everyone should be served. When the 17, or so, of us approached the bar, things didn’t feel quite so orderly. For Americans, it seems getting a drink at the bar is much more hectic. This chapter helped me understand the “orderly nature of English disorder,” and our ignorance of it. Our time at the pub shows just how disorderly American disorder can be.

An Unconventional First Day

I expected to have a pretty normal first day. I got up early and gave myself plenty of time to navigate my 25-minute commute, just in case I messed up a long the way. I thoroughly studied Google maps both the night before, that morning, and took screen shots to reference during the trip. I made it through my four tube stops and line transfer without any problems. But when I walked out of Old Street station and started to get pelted with rain, things started to go south. Too busy fumbling for my umbrella and rain jacket to refer to my screenshots, I walked straight ahead out of the station. I wasn’t sure I was going in the right direction, but I told myself I’d check once I was under some kind of cover. I couldn’t find any street signs anywhere and walked about three blocks before I turned around, thinking I was going the wrong way. Begrudgingly, I went into my settings and flicked on my data roaming. I needed Google Maps to hold my hand on my walk to the first day of work.
I finally got to the office with a few minutes to spare. One of the Co-CEO’s of my company, Catch21, greeted me at the reception and brought me downstairs to an empty conference room. After about thirty minutes of introduction and explaining a little more about what I would be doing, Henry told me he’d see me tomorrow at 10 a.m. That’s it? I thought. Only thirty minutes for the first day? It wasn’t the conventional 9-5 work day I expected, but it only made me more excited for Wednesday.

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