London Internship Program 2016

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Putting the Best Foot Forward

Big Ben“You never have a second chance to make a first impression,” my dad told me last week as I was packing for our trip to London, “so make sure it’s a good one.” He was encouraging me to make sure I got off to a strong start at my internship, and unbeknownst to us I would have that chance on our
first day of London Week. Last Monday morning (June 6), our W&L group made its first company visit of the trip to The Channel Syndicate, the company I am interning with this summer which is a specialty insurance group that operates in the Lloyd’s of London market. There on our first visit, I got to meet my new teammates and bosses, while asking questions and learning about working in Political and Credit Risks insurance, and was left with the first impression that I am really going to like my internship. Our group spent the rest of the week getting a first impression of jobs with all different types of companies, ranging from the corporate suits of investment banking to the magical candy and nap-pod filled land of Facebook. One of my goals coming into the London trip was to get a better sense of where I want to work after college, and following this week I think I am starting to narrow in on that. We also got a unique first impression of the London weather this week: warm and sunny, as opposed to the traditional rainy and dreary. Every person we spoke to assured us that the good times would not last, and that the weather would soon enough turn British again. Likewise, other first impressions can be fleeting; it is important to not use them to make definitive judgments. In a week full of first impressions, it will be the work and play from here on out that will leave us with the lasting impression of our London experience

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.

The Wonders of Public Transportation

As strange as this may sound, my first impression of any city always comes from my experiences on its public transportation system. Though this is my first time in London, the amazing infrastructure of public transportation makes me feel like I have returned home. In London, the Underground, the trains in and out of the country and the double decker buses provide much of the independence, freedom and mobility that I missed. My favorite aspect of public transportation is that using it really helps you get to know the city and its landmarks. After all, there are only stops in places that are convenient for everyone.

However, public transportation isn’t just a way to get around – it is also one of the best places to get a glimpse into the local patterns and life of a Londoner. Daily patterns and people watching can tell you a lot about the local culture. For example, even though the Underground can get very busy, people always get on and off in an orderly fashion. The level of organization and neatness is reflected in the relatively clean streets (yet there are few trash cans). Something that I find unique is that there are always people outside the Tube stop handing out free newspapers or magazines such as Time Out.

Having read Watching the English before arriving, I often find myself trying to reconcile what was said in the book with what I see. I definitely agree that the English are more prone to reading a book or the newspaper on the Tube. However, it appears that they wish to avoid awkward eye contact and conversation with others as much as people using public transportation in any other country. It is quite fascinating how people across the world use phones and earphones to deter others from talking with them.

So far, it has been a busy, but exciting week in London and I’m excited to see what the next week brings!

The wonderful views you can enjoy as you walk from one bus stop to another.

First Impressions

First Impressions Aren’t Always the Right Impressions

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When Paige Harrison walked into the conference room at Pembroke, the first question she asked was how many of us are “C-School” majors. I’ve come to dread answering this question. It’s not that I’m not proud of, or enjoy being a Journalism major, but I find it awkward sitting there while all but two or three people out of the group of seventeen raise their hands. She then asked how well versed we were in finance and real estate terms. I was relieved when Dean Jensen spoke up for the timid bunch and told her all but one of us are juniors and studying a wide variety of subjects.

I automatically assumed Ms. Harrison was a C-School grad herself. To me, everything from her white tweed blazer and her sleek haircut screamed, “I’m a W&L Williams School Grad,” and those questions only bolstered my suspicions. But, I was wrong. Near the end of the session, Ms. Harrison told us she was actually an English Major at W&L. My ears perked up as I heard those words come from the mouth of the woman I was so sure I had figured out. She then went on to say she had only taken two Econ classes while she was an undergrad and admitted that she tried to avoid classes that could be somewhat practical for a job in the real world. I was shocked. Her next pieces of advice may be the best advice I’ll take away from the entire week. She said she regretted not taking any businesses classes and encouraged us to do so, even if we aren’t “C-School” majors. I’m glad my first impression of Ms. Harrison was wrong, and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to fit a couple businesses classes in my schedule over the next two years.

–Julia Gsell