London Internship Program 2016

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September 2016

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.

Looking back on my Experiences (this post didn’t post back in July)

Looking back on the past seven weeks I feel like I’ve experienced an immense number of new things. Starting off with the tours of W&L alumni’s work I got to get an inside look into a variety of careers that I previously hadn’t looked at which peaked my interest. The two most appealing fields to me were the industries of investment real estate at Blackstone and specialist insurance/ reinsurance at the Channel Syndicate. Both required in-depth study and understanding of a market before making decisions and that really interested me. After the first week, I started working at my internship at a property management company which taught me a variety of things. First and foremost I was able to experience the British work culture which is almost entirely different to the United States in the idea that being a workaholic is frowned upon and that there always seems to be a light amount of humor in the office. This lighthearted attitude in the work environment leads to people really becoming friends with their coworkers and often going out on the weekends or after work to grab a pint or just blow off steam. It was a nice change of pace from the business culture that I had experienced back in the U.S. I also received an inside perspective into the property management/ student accommodation industry in London thanks to my job. This insight really highlighted a variety of qualities that made sites more desirable than others. Since it was a real estate driven industry location was key but my job also taught me how much customer service matters in that industry, how many menial tasks are needed to keep a building up and running, and that if anything can go wrong chances are it will when it comes to college students .Other than work I got to experience life in England and I noticed that the English people love to use sarcasm or talk about the weather. They also passionately care about their privacy and enjoy pronouncing words in ways that don’t correspond to how they are spelled (Leicester being the most baffling for me). The brits tended to keep to themselves but were almost always a fun bunch to interact with especially at the pubs after a few pints or when they asked me questions about America. During my time I also got to experience life in London which taught me how to use public transportation like a champ, how to both save and spend pounds at an alarming rate, that markets tend to have the best food for the cheapest price, and how to function in a large city without getting hit by a bus. The program also gave me some awesome opportunities to explore Europe through both the program itself as well as the free weekends that we had to ourselves. During my time I was able to visit the French Riviera, Budapest, Edinburgh, Oxford, Bath, and Wells which all gave me a variety of wonderful experiences in a number of different cultures. All in all the last seven weeks of my summer were fantastic and were a great opportunity to experience things that I might not have experienced without the program.