London Internship Program 2016

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Reflection on the Seven Weeks

I feel like I arrived on the steps of 16 Bedford Place just a few days ago, but in just seven weeks I went from knowing nothing about the city to feeling like I lived there. My first day in London I was jet lagged, alone and unsure of what to do until 2 o’clock when I could move into the flat. I wandered around the area and found cool pubs, a craft beer place and lots of good shopping. Julia and I hopped on a bus to try an ice cream place that first night as a way to explore the city. It is funny looking back on that first day and realizing I didn’t know I had walked into covent garden, gone to my favorite pub, ordered a coffee at the place I would go before work every day and gone to the ice cream place would become my favorite and the last place Julia and I would go before heading back to the States.
After living in London for seven weeks I felt like it had become my second home, almost like how I call W&L home sometimes in Atlanta, which my mom hates. It took time to get accustomed to British humor, the different work environment and definitely the exchange rate, but I think overall we all grew very comfortable in the city. I am going to miss work and my coworkers. We had become close, which shows the difference between the British and American work environments. I also will miss the ability to walk or tube everywhere. I easily walked eight to ten miles a day whereas at home I drive everywhere. By the end of the trip, I felt like I could get anywhere I needed to without using google maps (which in my opinion is a good measurement of how well I know a city). Even though I could find my way around there was still always something knew to find and explore.
I definitely did not want to leave at the end of the trip, although I did miss air conditioning, cheap food and my puppy. I think what I will miss the most was living with everyone and how it forced us all to become so close. Although I am sure we will all stay friends, it is hard knowing that we will never all be living and doing everything together again.



Home Rules: Acorn Does Not

First arriving at 16 Bedford Place, I was greeted with a smile and a clean flat with two kitchens located in the heart of central London. The shower may have been a little small, but that was easily overlooked because of the great location, appliances and room sizes. It only took a week to see that this was merely a façade hiding the dysfunctional business located at 19 Bedford Place.

We first faced the problem of the bathroom light going out about 2 minutes into my shower. Luckily, Acorn quickly changed the light and the problem was forgotten. Next, our washers and dryers made our clothes smell worse than before we put them in, a problem Acorn still refuses to recognize. From there an avalanche of issues arose and Acorn has not shown the slightest indication of fixing any of them. We faced broken lights, broken washers and dryers, lopsided beds, a sporadic alarm, mice and an incompetent security guard. Some say it is a bonding experience, I see their point, but I don’t know how I feel about bonding with mice…

Kate Fox’s chapter Home Rules describes the English obsession with “home improvements and DIY.” Maybe she is right, but I have yet to meet anyone at Acorn who seems too keen on the idea. Fox talks about a survey of males and females involved in DIY and apparently only 2% of English males and 12% of females don’t ever do any DIY. If this is true, we need to find these people ASAP. We could use their skills to improving our flat because our current rodent tenants definitely aren’t doing their share of the work (despite what you would expect after watching any Disney princess movie).

 



Pub-Talk

After a few weeks in London and a Scotland pub-crawl it’s safe to say our group has frequented a few pubs. When I began reading Kate Fox’s chapter on pub-talk I assumed the chapter covered a pretty self-explanatory topic. (Plus hands-on experience probably taught us more about the subject anyway, right?) She opens the chapter discussing the sociability aspect of the pub, which seemed like a pretty obvious statement. Most places that draw large crowds and have alcohol as a central theme tend to promote sociability. After I read more, I realized the uniqueness of the British pub from say an American bar is not the atmosphere but the nature of the people who frequent them.

The notion that British citizens are more closed off is somewhat of a stereotype, but holds true in a lot of cases, after all almost all their conversations open with a comment on the weather and don’t get much more personal. Unlike many Americans, especially Southerners,  who strike up a conversation about just about anything, people here tend to mind their own business and don’t see the need to make small-talk with complete strangers. All this changes the minute they enter the pub.

Waiting for a bartender to notice you with the lack of a queue, a person on your left may ask you about your opinion on Brexit and another on your right may comment on the football game. The common courtesy of addressing the weather immediately disappears once inside the pub. I first saw an example of this in Scotland. Making my way through the crowded room, I tripped and knocked my drink into a large man sitting on a barstool. Expecting a rude look or comment I quickly apologized. Instead of a negative reaction, the man shouts “You are American! Where are you from?” Within five minutes I learned that he studied in Atlanta, we shared a favorite restaurant and he moved back to Scotland a few years ago. This interaction shows the reason the Brits pride themselves on their beloved pubs. They are the only place that forces them to let their walls down and meet strangers of all ages and backgrounds.

 



First Week at Work

Monday afternoon I received an email from my boss with a list three addresses and corresponding times to arrive at each.  Without any other information about what to expect I prepared to spend most of the day behind a desk like my previous internship experience. After a 30 minute commute to the first address I found myself in a small café looking for a woman named Rosie who apparently would lead me around the rest of the day. I saw business men headed to work, women with their children eating pastries and a few people sipping coffee and reading. I ordered a cup of coffee and waited for Rosie (Keep in mind I did not know what she looked like, I did not have her number and I did not even know her last name).

Overhearing the table behind me, I discovered the café’s basement held various children’s events. Making my way down a back stairwell I walked into a room filled with small children and a woman in a T-shirt and jeans who I assumed was Rosie. I awkwardly introduced myself and she invited me to sit and join in the first “workshop.” We led children in songs, read to them, painted and essentially babysat them. Rosie took me to two more similar workshops that day and by the end I found my “business casual” outfit splattered in rainbow paint and children’s fingerprints.

As the week went on I assisted the programs which helped children with learning disabilities improve self confidence and speech abilities. I helped fill out files to help Artburst receive more funding and I spoke with Amy, the creator of Artburst, about the challenges in creating the business. As the only intern I am able to work in all areas of the company and see how the business runs. Despite loving the chance to work with children all day, I am excited to see the business as a whole and carry the knowledge back to the States where I am currently working on starting a non-profit with a similar focus at W&L.



First Impressions

London Sun

Talk to anyone in London and the conversation will start with a comment on the weather. At first I ignored this unwritten rule of British conversation and just assumed the city loved to complain about their rain, but last Friday I realized the entire city’s mood completely revolves around the weather.

IMG_0525 (1)On a sunny Friday afternoon, Julia and I jogged around the neighborhood to explore the area. Running to the park in t-shirts and tennis shoes, we stuck out in the crowded streets full of stylish Brits leisurely hanging out in pubs and enjoying the beginning of their weekend. The rare sunshine appeared to pull all of London out of their offices and homes to relax, drink and enjoy the Friday afternoon with their city. As we turned the corner, someone shouted “head to the pub! You will have more fun there!” Unlike New York or Atlanta where people get off work and meet up with the same people at the same places, London has a much more welcoming social scene with people wanting to meet new faces.

This unique social culture cannot be found in cities in the States, and I realized the difference was the weather. Not only do they all have something to say about the weather, each knows the right response will relate the forecast to the quintessential London rain. This talk of weather is one of the common threads that all Brits can agree on and therefore it pulls them together and reinforces this unique social culture that I have not seen anywhere else.




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