As a collegiate wrestler, I never really saw the chance to study abroad as a reality – wrestling spans both the fall and winter terms, meaning leaving campus for an extended period of time isn’t an option. This past December, however, a friend of mine mentioned the London Internship Program in passing. I had never been to a foreign country without my family, let alone lived abroad for 2 months to work and study. I decided to look into the program, applied, was accepted, and rolled with it. Looking back, I am so grateful I came across this opportunity. These past 7 weeks in London have granted me one of the most interesting, eye-opening, and fun experiences of my life thus far. I have learned not only about foreign social and work culture, but I’ve also gained insight into myself – my goals for the future, my independence and self-reliance, and my appreciation of all that the world has to offer to explore.
It’s tough for me to pinpoint particular highlights of this trip, as every week brought something new and exciting. However, there are a few key aspects of the program that I believe helped shape the entire 7 weeks as a whole. The first is career week. Coming into this program, I didn’t really have a clear sense of direction for what type of career I wanted to pursue after graduating from W&L. Sure, I had an idea of what field I might want to go into (I was thinking about investment real estate), but I had never seen what a job in the financial sector actually looks like in real life. After our visits to prominent financial companies like Pembroke, BofA Merill Lynch, and Blackstone, I was able to see what people working in the financial field do on a day-to-day basis. From there, I was able to get a clearer sense of what type of job I want to pursue as I take on interviews on campus this fall. Though I knew that many W&L students interested in banking start as financial analysts, I now know this position is also a great place to start for anybody interested in working in finance. I don’t necessarily want to work for an I-bank for my entire life, but I definitely want to start at one. This trip definitely helped me determine this.
The second key aspect was the weekend trips. To be honest, had these excursions not been pre-booked into our schedules, I don’t think many of would have chosen to use our free time to visit Edinburgh, Bath, or Oxford. However, I am happy that I got the chance to experience these places. The amount of history steeped in each of these cities was fascinating, and much of what we learned tied in well with the Contemporary British Politics class.
The third key aspect of the program was the internship. Though this one is obvious, its worth mentioning. Being immersed in a foreign work environment allowed me to learn more about British culture than any other component of this trip. There was definitely a learning curve involved in picking up on British work rules, humor norms, and social etiquette, all of which have helped me grow as a person. I’m thankful for the time I spent working at Britannia Student Services, and I sincerely believe that the fact that we’ve all worked in a foreign country will give us a bit of an edge over our peers back in the States when applying for more serious internships this coming academic year.
All in all, these past 7 weeks have been nothing short of phenomenal. I’ve made new friends from W&L that I likely wouldn’t have become close to otherwise, I’ve made friends in my British co-workers, I’ve learned about cultural differences, and I’ve learned about myself. If given the chance, I’d do it all over again.