London Internship Program 2016

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randolphr18

Working across the pond

I went into work my first day at Works4U with an open mind and a positive attitude (mainly because I did not get lost on my way to work). I did not think my experiences would be different from my summer jobs in America. Boy, was I wrong. I was immediately surprised with the relaxed and easygoing attitude that my co-workers had towards their work. Instead of being shoved assignments as soon as I walked in the door, my supervisor made sure I was comfortable with everything by giving me small tasks that allowed me to grow acquainted with the work I would be doing. My supervisor’s approachable attitude made it easy for me to ask questions about my work. I would sometimes feel nervous or embarrassed to ask questions at my American jobs, but I never felt that way at Works4U.

It was interesting to compare my workplace with what I read in Kate Fox’s Watching the English.  The “muddle rules” and “importance of not being earnest” were prevalent in my workplace. If I ever wanted to stay late to finish an assignment, my supervisor would say I was working too hard and that it would be there when I returned. I also was allowed to work from home a few times, which I have never done before. It was great I was entrusted to do this, but I found it was a lot easier to focus in an office environment then from my apartment.  A lot of my co-workers would ask if everything was okay if I ever looked too serious. At first it was a bit annoying I was just trying to concentrate, but it was nice that they wanted me to have fun while I worked. My supervisor would often jokingly complain about her work, but I always knew that she cared about it and that she took pride in what she accomplished. Although it took me a few weeks to understand the Brits’ approach to their work, once I did I appreciated it. I wish more American workplaces would have a more relaxed attitude towards their work as it did make my experiences at Works4U enjoyable and stress-free.



The English Home, DIY, and Uber Drivers

Honestly, do-it-yourself decorations and home improvements are things I have never had the patience or artistic prowess to create. I tried to make a ribbon wall for my Polaroid pictures in high school, but I kinda gave up a tenth around my room, so it just ended up making my room look very awkward. I quickly learned how much the English were into DIY projects when I was researching how-to-do lists for gardening/decorating/fixing the Heron Way allotment. I researched how to make squash arches from PVC pipes, chicken runs, pallet furniture, and creative ways to reuse old tools. I could not help wondering if it would be cheaper and easier just to buy a tool holder instead of using a pallet to make one.  I guess for Americans like myself, this is the simple (and lazy) approach. But for the English, buying everything would take out the excitement and connection with the task. As noted in Fox’s book, DIY tasks give their home a sense of identity versus buying it off of Amazon, like I do every week. I guess to the English I am “basic.”

 

The English also like to keep the location of their home rather secretive, which Jack and I learned the hard way. The Saturday of the Wireless Music festival I left my keys and Gray’s keys in the backseat of an Uber (not my brightest moment). After calling the Uber driver several times, I finally was able to get an address of his “workplace” where I could go and pick up the keys. Jack accompanied me to pick them up on Monday. We had an Uber drop us off right outside of his workplace, but we found out once the Uber drove away that the side of the road we were on only was even numbered buildings. In order to get to the odd numbered buildings, we had to walk all the way across Finsbury Park. Thirty minutes later, we were outside the rather sketchy “workplace.”  The moral of this long-winded story is that it is easier said than done to find the English’s addresses. Real talk, though thanks Shahu for not using our keys to rob us. You’re the real MVP.

The help request I sent via Uber
The help request I sent via Uber


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I have always assumed that talking about the weather was a fairly universal matter and everywhere the weather can be rather unpredictable. In Florida, we deal with hurricanes, tornados, and flooding, but I learned in the weather chapter of Kate Fox’s Watching the English that the English do not want to hear about how everything is bigger in the States. This was helpful knowledge for me to have because I could easily see an English person making a comment about how much it was raining and I would respond about how this was nothing compared to Hurricane Frances and Jean in ‘04.

So, what I have gleaned based on the book and my interactions with the Brits is that they are probably the most non-straightforward people I have ever met and the weather is an excuse to talk to other people that they want to talk to. My first day of work, I experienced just this. Every person I met at the office made a comment about the weather and how I would always need an umbrella, sunglasses, and gloves in my purse to deal with the unpredictability of England’s weather. To them, talking about the weather is something to talk about with the American girl that “doesn’t really have an accent.” The CEO of the company even made a comment to me about how this must be nothing compared to the hurricanes in Florida, but I was prepared and brushed it off like hurricanes were not that big of a deal (a slight lie).

 

 



The First Week 😅

Commuting. A word people have always used in passing, but I never understood the pure horror of until Tuesday morning when I woke up at 8:15 for my 45-minute commute to work. It would probably be a lot more miserable if I didn’t like work, but luckily I do so I’ll call the commute bearable instead of pure claustrophobic horror. I think I would probably feel better about it, but on Tuesday I thought it would be a good idea to walk up the 175 step spiral staircase in Russell Square and I was very close to having a heart attack. Okay I’m being dramatic I’m sorry. I am from a relatively small city where everyone drives, so I am not quite used to public transportation. Today was not so bad because I stood by some small British schoolchildren on the way home and heard them talk about soccer. They think Italy and Belgium are a joke when they play together and both of them never have a chance of holding the Euro cup. But they said France has a pretty good shot, though.

A school in Chiswick 

Anyways, even though I am researching a lot of things about gardening/painting/building, I am really enjoying my job! On July 5th, Works4U is facilitating a “challenge” on Heron’s Way for 90 Disney employees. This is pretty exciting because Disney is probably the most recognizable thing about Florida besides the relative insanity of the people in my state (follow https://twitter.com/_FloridaMan for more info). I have a lot of work leading up to the challenge such as making how to do lists for gardening/painting/building places in the facility. I also have to use these lists to compile a supply list and then order the items I need online. Everything I have to do would probably be easier if I have ever gardened, painted, or built things in my life, but I have not. Well, my internship will certainly be a learning experience to say the least. I hope the Disney folks appreciate my American spelling on all the how to do lists I made for them (just kidding but it is not okay they spell tire as tyre).

 



First Impressions

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Regent Park

After getting over the initial 48 hours in which I slept a  grand total of four hours, I was actually able to fully  comprehend what I was seeing and get a sense of what  living in London would be like. I visited London in high  school, but the teacher that went with us was from  London, so we either were with him or went to places he  recommended. Obviously, living and working on my own  in London will be a completely different experience than  being on a high school trip. The first thing I realized will  take time to get the hang of is the Tube. I have only really  used public transportation when I lived in New York City  one summer. My goal is to stop having to use my phone every time I try to get from point A to point B. Another thing that quickly became apparent is how much more parks and overall greenness there is in London than many cities in the U.S. I spent Thursday afternoon running/walking in Regent Park, and it is probably the prettiest public park I have ever seen.

Although London is definitely one of my favorite cities, there are a few things that are inconveniences one would never have in the U.S. For instance, I went to buy Advil from Tesco and not only was there an extremely limited amount of over-the-counter meds, but they also ID’d me for my Advil. Additionally, you have to pay 50 pence for public restrooms which is a bit frustrating. The exchange rate will also be something to get used to (as well as wiping out my checking account), but once I paid $40 for a case of Gatorade in the Bahamas so I guess it could be worse. But I know once we’re here for a couple of weeks, I’ll get used to everything that is now new to me. London is a truly amazing city and I am lucky that I have the opportunity to live here for almost two months.




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