London Internship Program 2016

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The Perfect Jump

I never really thought I would study abroad. I mean, I always liked the notion of it. My parents always promoted studying abroad, as did W&L. But for me personally, it always seemed more like a fantasy than a reality. Besides a spontaneous trip to the Caribbean last summer, I hadn’t left the country. Going abroad sounded like an incredible adventure, but maybe too big of a leap for me. Leaving home for college was a big deal. Leaving the state of North Carolina was an even bigger one. Leaving the nation seemed too much. However, after continual convincing from Julia and Witt throughout fall term, I decided it was worth it. How right they were.

These 7 weeks studying and working in London have far and beyond exceeded my highest expectations. The mixture of work, studies, and play wasn’t just good, it was perfect. At times, it was almost overwhelming.  I was worried about going too far outside my comfort zone by traveling to Europe and leaving the comfort of my local summer job. Then, I was worried that studying abroad in an English-speaking country like the UK was such a similar culture that I wasn’t challenging myself enough. As it turns out, London was the perfect leap for me.

My internship in Parliament was fascinating. But interning in Parliament during the political fiasco of this summer, that was nothing short of incredible. I learned more than I thought possible, about both politics and the work world. Our class in Contemporary British Politics opened our eyes to a side of London and the UK that would have been hard to find elsewhere. Professor Blick was wonderful, and the afternoon trips were more than worthwhile. These parts of the program really were great, but it was the rest of the trip that was the most memorable.

In our time apart from work and class, that is where I learned the most. I learned about the city of London, and I learned what living in an urban area was like. I learned about culture, and not in a cliche way. I met white people, I met black people. I met Indians, Germans, Scots, Italians, Somalians, and many many more. I tried cuisine that I didn’t before know existed. Thanks to my time in London, I can now order a beer in 3 different languages, and say thank you in 4. There is so much more to see beyond our lives in America. Now, I think I truly understand that. I had close friends on the trip before leaving Lexington. With them, I became much more close. Even better, there were people on the trip that I wasn’t close with, or didn’t know at all. We’ve all made close and long-lasting relationships through this special time we’ve shared together, with memories I hope to never forget. I’ve learned a lot about others, and maybe most surprising, I learned a lot about myself. My biggest takeaway from this trip: I’ve become comfortable with the uncomfortable. This trip was the perfect jump away from the life I’ve always known. I’m beyond thankful for everybody that put their time into making this program exist. I’m grateful that Julia and Witt peer pressured me into giving this program a chance. And now, I’m looking forward more than ever to what is going to be my next jump.

Drinks after Work ft. Toby Keith

Two years in to my college run at W&L, and there is one thing I know all generals have learned. Our school has mastered the work hard, play hard mentality. Washington and Lee is full of incredibly intelligent students and professors, but they are all more than just book-smart. We are a social lot that, when our work is finished, love to have a good time. This culture we all live at school does a great job of preparing us for the adult world, where both brains and social skills are vital for success. What I didn’t think we would find in London, however, is a culture that embraces drinking even more than Lexington.

Here, drinking is not a means for an end. It’s a social norm. Even more, it’s not strictly an evening and night activity. Beers after work is not only common; it’s a staple event in the work environment. One of the biggest culture shocks I have enjoyed learning is the merging of drinking and work. After a long day of work (or even a short one), the entire staff moves on from the office towards the corner pub for a pint or two before heading home. Relationships with your coworkers don’t end at the office door. The culture here is so much more relaxed. Even in stressful workplaces like the Parliament, the work day is rarely finished without a trip to the pub to blow off some steam with a round of beer.

During futbol season, all bets are off. When England is playing a 2 o’clock game, the streets of London will suddenly go mysteriously quiet around quarter ‘til, and the pubs will be at capacity. My internship in the House of Commons was no exception. At kickoff, it seemed like the entire Parliamentary Estate was slammed into the local pub and drinking like the weekend had started. And when the final whistle blew, everybody finished their drinks and headed back in to finish the work day. It is an exciting mix of work and play, and unlike anything I anticipated. I still proudly claim W&L as the epitome of the work hard, play hard mentality, but as we’re all coming to learn, the Brits enjoy a drink after work just as much as us Gennies.

Black Pudding is Not Good

You may not believe this, but wearing a suit doesn’t come naturally to me. When I decided to come on this internship trip, I realized I was going to have to seriously increase the breadth of my wardrobe. I’ve had plenty of jobs before, but none of them had a dress code that included anything more serious than flip-flops. Washing boats, teaching surf lessons, and coaching soccer didn’t exactly prepare me with the proper skill set for a “real world job.” But here we are, and I’m having a blast.

Working at the Parliament was almost too surreal for me to believe. I’m in the opportunity of a lifetime and I love every second of it. Going to work in the morning, I walk out of the subway and am looking straight at a colossal Big Ben. Then, I walk straight through the front door. After a very touchy security screening, I head up to my Member of Parliament’s office. It took my boss all of 30 minutes to catch on to my lack of office experience, but the learning curve isn’t too painful.

I’m attaining a brand new skill set. I’m successfully proficient on the laminating machine, the letter opener is a breeze, and I think I have finally figured out Excel. I’m definitely filling the role of intern, but this job is so much cooler than just that. I’ve got a security pass that gets me into any room in the entire Parliament, and I can bring friends in too. I’ve had breakfast on the Parliamentary terrace and watched MPs conduct business over a cup of tea. If you happened to be watching the evening news in southern India, you would have seen me in an awards ceremony streamed from the House of Commons. I’ve visited the Prime Minister’s office and watched the England futbol game in the Social Room of the Parliament with a load of drunken Parliamentarians. I love my job, the people are incredible, and by the end of the trip I hope I’ll finally get used to wearing this monkey suit.

Mahiki Mondays

Uncharted waters. It’s the phrase my dad has been using to describe my summer internship in London. And he’s exactly right. This summer I’m sailing through uncharted waters, passing “first’s” left and right It’s my first time travelling to Europe. I’ve never lived in a town bigger than 8,000 people, let alone a city the size of London. This is my first summer not working at the local surf shop at home. I’ve eaten my first meat pie, curry, and paid to used the restroom for the first time ever. I’m learning to keep an eye out for pick-pocket thieves, starting to get used to cars driving on the left side of the road, and am proud to have finally downloaded Uber for the first time. It’s a summer of first’s, with a new first impression at every turn.

If our first week has been any kind of standard to measure on, this is going to be the most incredible 7 weeks I’ve ever experienced. I came into college undecided, but on a pre-med route. By the end of sophomore year, I had stayed undecided, but now on a politics route. And in the past 5 days, I’ve switched between wanting to be an insurance underwriter, an accountant, news anchor, and any job that can get me in the door at Facebook. I’ve transitioned from the basement party culture of W&L to this pub and club scene that the UK is so proud of. I’ve learned the hard way that Jager bombs in the most expensive city in the free world is going to hurt my wallet far more than my pride. Cooking spaghetti is a whole lot easier if you remember to put water in the pot, and apparently cricket actually is a sport that people watch. Everything about this summer in London has been a first impression, and I’ve learned they go a lot smoother if you come into it with an open mind.

Looks like dad was right about these first impressions; they’re uncharted water. There’s a learning curve with every foreign experience. Now, it’s up to us to try and learn a little more with each new first. We’ve got 6 more weeks to figure it out, and I can’t wait.