London Internship Program 2016

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August 2016

Work to Rule, and Some Humor

My work experience this summer in the United Kingdom was a significantly different experience than I have had in my previous internships in the United States, but it was a useful step to help my professional development.  When I first started working, I could tell my office had a laid back and casual work environment, but I assumed this was due to the fact that my company was a non-for-profit and a small organization.  However, after learning more about the work rules in England and speaking with other members of our program, I realized that this is due to the English corporate culture.

One main difference I noticed while working in the United Kingdom was how the English want to avoid the stigma of being workaholics.  While working in the office, my coworkers often socialized with me; however, rather than speaking about work we often spoke about our personal lives and my experiences while in London.  Additionally, I noticed that most employees were lackadaisical about the time they arrived at work.  Once the employees arrived, they often spent the first thirty minutes of their day socializing, getting coffee or eating before starting up their work.  Lastly, I realized that my co-workers rarely worked overtime, hence while the people in my office were efficient and got their work done, they wanted to be seen as well rounded people who work to live, rather than live to work.

Another material difference in the English work environment was the prevalence of humor in the office.  My co-workers often used self-depreciating humor to joke about the ease of their tasks in a way that seemed to minimize their importance.  They would also make fun of themselves as a way to make the office atmosphere light-hearted and comfortable for others.  The office was always bustling with employees taking jabs at one another.  One prime instance of British humor materialized in an encounter with my boss the first day I was back in the office after the Brexit.  We were speaking about regional economic tendencies and before long the topic of Brexit came up.  Then without any hesitation, he quickly pivoted to the US political scene and mentioned that he would much rather be in the UK than to have Trump be his president.  The British are aware of world politics and often incorporate their knowledge of this in their humor and sarcasm.

The relaxed office culture and the ever prevalent sense of humor contributed to a memorable work experience.  The friendly office atmosphere made me feel at home from my first day, and the humor kept me entertained and on my toes throughout my internship.

London Experience Take-Aways

My seven weeks in London have been a fantastic experience, filled with many great memories.  Going into the program, I was excited to learn about a new culture and its political scene, get professional work experience abroad, and to travel Europe, but my weeks in Europe surpassed my expectations greatly.  When I first arrived at Bedford Place, I only knew a handful of the other W&L students on the trip and was in a major international city.  There was definitely a learning curve to get acclimated with my new environment, but the experience was priceless.  I got so much more out of my time abroad that I had ever anticipated.

One of the most exciting things about London was obviously the Brexit.  Our Contemporary British Politics Class gave us an understanding of what was occurring throughout the United Kingdom, but I learned so much additional information about the situation by speaking with my coworkers on their perspective of the current political landscape in the commonwealth.  I found the immediate economic effect of Brexit fascinating, and continued to see the implications of the UK leaving the EU as I traveled throughout Europe the rest of the summer.  Brexit has definitely encouraged me to become more involved in the global political scene, as I have realized how American politics are greatly impacted by other international political events.

Furthermore, my work experience with Business Launchpad was a fun contrast to my previous work experiences.  BLP’s nature was casual and decentralized, with an entrepreneurial spirit.  I had the opportunity to speak to employees in different business fields, such as accounting, consulting, fundraising, and marketing, as well as doing work with their finance manager.  I had great exposure to generic business principles, as well as specific accounting and finance topics that I will be using in my internship next summer.  Over my time at BLP, I saw my understanding of the company’s business model grow and this coincided with more complex project assignments.  I appreciated the great breadth of projects I got to work on, but I also enjoyed the friendly atmosphere that I encountered on a daily basis.  My coworkers were always interested in hearing about my experiences both inside and outside of the office.

Lastly, my time in Europe was filled with tons of travelling, meeting new people, and attending cultural events.  I think it’s safe to say there was never a dull moment for me while I was overseas.  I travelled to four countries and visited 6 major cities in these countries on free weekends during the program.  It was challenging to plan these trips, but I am so glad I got out to explore Europe.  We participated in a wide range of activities from local pub crawls in London, to a music festival, to the world famous tennis tournament Wimbledon.  I got to know the people on our program very well through these trips and it was a blast.  The field trips to cathedrals, museums, and parliament were also great chances to see the historic aspects of English culture.

In conclusion, my time in Europe far surpassed my expectations, as I learned about many other cultures and I had the time of my life.  Having spent my entire life in Maryland and Virginia, the opportunity to live in a different continent for an extended period of time was an eye-opening and refreshing experience.