London Internship Program 2016

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Work to Rule, and Some Humor

My work experience this summer in the United Kingdom was a significantly different experience than I have had in my previous internships in the United States, but it was a useful step to help my professional development.  When I first started working, I could tell my office had a laid back and casual work environment, but I assumed this was due to the fact that my company was a non-for-profit and a small organization.  However, after learning more about the work rules in England and speaking with other members of our program, I realized that this is due to the English corporate culture.

One main difference I noticed while working in the United Kingdom was how the English want to avoid the stigma of being workaholics.  While working in the office, my coworkers often socialized with me; however, rather than speaking about work we often spoke about our personal lives and my experiences while in London.  Additionally, I noticed that most employees were lackadaisical about the time they arrived at work.  Once the employees arrived, they often spent the first thirty minutes of their day socializing, getting coffee or eating before starting up their work.  Lastly, I realized that my co-workers rarely worked overtime, hence while the people in my office were efficient and got their work done, they wanted to be seen as well rounded people who work to live, rather than live to work.

Another material difference in the English work environment was the prevalence of humor in the office.  My co-workers often used self-depreciating humor to joke about the ease of their tasks in a way that seemed to minimize their importance.  They would also make fun of themselves as a way to make the office atmosphere light-hearted and comfortable for others.  The office was always bustling with employees taking jabs at one another.  One prime instance of British humor materialized in an encounter with my boss the first day I was back in the office after the Brexit.  We were speaking about regional economic tendencies and before long the topic of Brexit came up.  Then without any hesitation, he quickly pivoted to the US political scene and mentioned that he would much rather be in the UK than to have Trump be his president.  The British are aware of world politics and often incorporate their knowledge of this in their humor and sarcasm.

The relaxed office culture and the ever prevalent sense of humor contributed to a memorable work experience.  The friendly office atmosphere made me feel at home from my first day, and the humor kept me entertained and on my toes throughout my internship.



London Experience Take-Aways

My seven weeks in London have been a fantastic experience, filled with many great memories.  Going into the program, I was excited to learn about a new culture and its political scene, get professional work experience abroad, and to travel Europe, but my weeks in Europe surpassed my expectations greatly.  When I first arrived at Bedford Place, I only knew a handful of the other W&L students on the trip and was in a major international city.  There was definitely a learning curve to get acclimated with my new environment, but the experience was priceless.  I got so much more out of my time abroad that I had ever anticipated.

One of the most exciting things about London was obviously the Brexit.  Our Contemporary British Politics Class gave us an understanding of what was occurring throughout the United Kingdom, but I learned so much additional information about the situation by speaking with my coworkers on their perspective of the current political landscape in the commonwealth.  I found the immediate economic effect of Brexit fascinating, and continued to see the implications of the UK leaving the EU as I traveled throughout Europe the rest of the summer.  Brexit has definitely encouraged me to become more involved in the global political scene, as I have realized how American politics are greatly impacted by other international political events.

Furthermore, my work experience with Business Launchpad was a fun contrast to my previous work experiences.  BLP’s nature was casual and decentralized, with an entrepreneurial spirit.  I had the opportunity to speak to employees in different business fields, such as accounting, consulting, fundraising, and marketing, as well as doing work with their finance manager.  I had great exposure to generic business principles, as well as specific accounting and finance topics that I will be using in my internship next summer.  Over my time at BLP, I saw my understanding of the company’s business model grow and this coincided with more complex project assignments.  I appreciated the great breadth of projects I got to work on, but I also enjoyed the friendly atmosphere that I encountered on a daily basis.  My coworkers were always interested in hearing about my experiences both inside and outside of the office.

Lastly, my time in Europe was filled with tons of travelling, meeting new people, and attending cultural events.  I think it’s safe to say there was never a dull moment for me while I was overseas.  I travelled to four countries and visited 6 major cities in these countries on free weekends during the program.  It was challenging to plan these trips, but I am so glad I got out to explore Europe.  We participated in a wide range of activities from local pub crawls in London, to a music festival, to the world famous tennis tournament Wimbledon.  I got to know the people on our program very well through these trips and it was a blast.  The field trips to cathedrals, museums, and parliament were also great chances to see the historic aspects of English culture.

In conclusion, my time in Europe far surpassed my expectations, as I learned about many other cultures and I had the time of my life.  Having spent my entire life in Maryland and Virginia, the opportunity to live in a different continent for an extended period of time was an eye-opening and refreshing experience.

 



Pub Talk

As we all know, W&L has a speaking tradition that encourages people to greet and acknowledge other students on campus throughout the day.  Hence, when I first arrived in London, I found the lack of social interaction between people on the streets to be a bit odd.  People on the London streets often avoid eye contact and interaction with strangers, as this is the cultural norm.  Privacy is deemed very important in English society, leading people to be quiet and reserved in public places.  However, pubs in England are one place where this social etiquette does not hold, and the sociability rule deems it acceptable for people to talk to strangers.  The pub scene in London is a mixing pot of all ages, personalities, and perspectives, in which people meet with friends and strangers in order to socialize over libations.  Once inside a pub, it is clear that there is a distinct social dynamic that has its own micro-culture.  People tend to surround themselves with people of similar demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds, but there is much more integration than one would see on the streets.  The division of the pub into ‘public’ and ‘private’ zones is very apparent.  The rule of thumb for pubs is that social interaction with strangers is common at the bar counter, as this is a public area that indicates a willingness to engage in conversation.  People sitting close by the bar or at open tables are open to speak about topics relevant to English culture with strangers, where people sitting at tables on the outskirts of the room want to be left alone.

I have spoken to a variety of people at pubs, and conversations are often sporadic and somewhat random.  The free-association principle applies to pub talk, as staying on a particular topic for a few minutes indicates excessive seriousness, which goes against the sarcastic and light-hearted manner of British interactions.  My conversations often start with football discussions, and quickly bounce around other prominent topics in English culture such as Brexit, the economy, the weather, and places to eat.  In conclusion, sociability is acceptable and encouraged in pubs due to the amicable atmosphere that arises from drinking with people that have a shared culture.



Work Week 1

I was able to experience a great breath of activities and fields in my first week of my internship.  I spoke with all members in my office about their particular tasks at Business Launchpad, which comprised of accounting, administration, business counselling, finance, fundraising, marketing, design, and internal development.  I spent my first day of my internship meeting the different people in the office.  BLP is a small organization with an entrepreneurial spirit, hence it has a horizontal hierarchy that encourages all people in the office to work together regardless of their actual position.  This leads to a hands on team environment that provides holistic solutions to tasks.  Because of BLP’s nature, I have opportunities with a large variety of the aforementioned fields.  On Wednesday, I got my first group of tasks, which was concerned with looking at marketing and social media.  I analyzed BLP’s current social media sites and websites in order to find ways to increase their brand awareness within their target audience, young entrepreneurs ages 16-30.  I had a meeting with their website designer and we spoke about the organization, color scheme, information, and pictures already on the website, and how they can be arranged to create interactive site for young people looking at the site for the first time.  After that meeting, I moved on to creating a marketing program that we will launch on social media.  The goal of this program is to expand the reach of Business Launchpad.  We are initially trying to hit the local area around Tooting hard, then expand out from there.  We are working to find a brand ambassador that we can partner with to enforce BLP’s persona as innovative and young.  I am also working on ways to increase the personal interaction between BLP’s employees and young students in school, with the hope of creating a pipeline so the business flow will stay strong and consistent.  This week I have done lots of critical thinking that is fun and challenging, and I am very happy to be working with such a diverse group of individuals.



First Impression: City Culture

The first week in the U.K. has been a great cultural learning experience.  Having lived and worked in Washington D.C. metro area over the past three summers, I was constantly comparing and contrasting things about D.C. and London.  With London being a major city and economic power, I assumed there would be busy streets and a tense atmosphere during the work days.  However, after spending a few days exploring the city and visiting various business entities, I have seen a different side of the city that was surprising.  D.C. is always hectic and the culture of the area is that people are always rushing to get to their next place.  On the contrary, London was very easy to walk around during the day, as the streets were uncongested.  Also, people walking or biking on the way to and from work seemed to be enjoying the nice weather and their journey, rather than being solely focused on merely arriving at work.  The street atmosphere in London seems to be more easy going than other major U.S. cities I have visited.

Additionally, in the major American cities, it is common practice for people to leave their office and go straight home after work, but in London it is popular practice for people to go by a pub after work to grab a few drinks and socialize with friends in the city.  The London pubs are a communal area for people to bond, whether it be by watching football matches, playing games, or discussing their daily activities.  This sociable aspect of London’s pubs helps people to stay connected with their community throughout various stages of life.  The social aspect of the pubs creates a casual and relaxed atmosphere on the streets that I have not experienced in the U.S. during the work week.  Hence, I am looking forward to more city travelling over the coming weeks and experiencing more aspects of the British Culture in person.
Leadenhall Market




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