Negotiating International Internships Blog is excited to announce a new editor, Danae MacLeod. She has studied abroad for two consecutive Winter Terms and is the Public Relations and Marketing intern at the Elon Global Education Center. The images above show Danae during her time abroad in China and Turkey, respectively! Please join me in welcoming Danae to the blog!
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A map of the locations that Elon students have interned in London, UK!
Check out this video by Atlas Sliced, the Youtube travel show giving advice on how to work and live abroad. It features other students and professionals that have experience interning abroad!
The biggest challenge was probably making sure my internship counted towards the requirements I needed at Elon to complete my minor. I had to request work from my supervisor and to make sure it was in-line with current course requirements. Sometimes internships are more about tasks that supervisors need completed, which is fine; however, you have to make sure that your internship is beneficial to you as well and that you’re learning skills necessary to receive class credit as well as real-world experience when looking for jobs after you graduate. Don’t just think about your internship in terms of the next 6 months, think about how it could help you within the next year.
Also, it wasn’t hard to negotiate with my supervisor. We sat down at the start of the semester to outline goals and checked in periodically to make sure everyone was happy with the work completed. As long as you have an open dialog, it’s not really a negotiation, but rather a conversation.
The world of trade associations, worshipful companies, and doggets was a world completely unfamiliar to me. Yet, it was a world I found myself in when interning in London. In London, I was the public relations and marketing intern for an exclusive catering and event planning company called Inn or Out Events who recently partnered with Watermen’s Hall. Watermen’s Hall is a venue in the City of London that is also the home to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen. This new partnership, though complicated, helped me gain exciting work experiences where I had the opportunity to engage in British work cultures, customs, and practices.
The culture of Watermen’s Hall was masculine and traditional and most definitely influenced by the Hall’s history. Architect William Blackburn built Watermen’s Hall in 1780. It currently remains the only original Georgian-styled hall in the City of London. The Hall’s elegance is characterized by 18th century Georgian architecture, however, the Company of Watermen dates back much earlier. An Act of Parliament established the Company of Watermen in 1555 to regulate Watermen and wherrymen carrying passengers by boat under oars on the River Thames. Today, the Company of Watermen and Lightermen is a working guild and still actively involved on the River.
To put things in perspective, the Lightermen use the Hall for their own purposes, but the Hall can also be rented out for external events. It’s very confusing, and it took me a while to grasp how the hall functioned though once I got the hang of how things worked I was able to understand the company a bit more.
The office set up was also unique. As an American, I am used to large, expansive spaces where people can work with room to spare. In London, this was not the case. The entire office worked in the size of a room no bigger than the food area of Octagon in Moseley. What’s more is that the entire office also shared one desk the size of two Belk Library tables pushed together. It was pretty tiny but that’s what the Brits are used to and I knew I had to slip into the environment in order to gain a true British work experience.
At first, the cramped atmosphere got to me. Every movement, every stomach grumble, and every key typed could be heard. I felt mildly insecure and a little exposed to my coworkers. As I continued to work in the office though I figured no judgments were being passed at me and my confidence boosted.
It could be tricky for American students to know their place in an office set up that is so small. My advice is to lay low for a while until you understand the workplace culture and environment. Once you get a good grasp for how the workplace actually works, you will feel more comfortable and contribute more effectively.
This illustrates the most commonly used words in the following blog posts.
Check out this video to hear Elon student testimonials of interning and studying abroad!
“When I started my internship I was coming into a company where everyone had already known each other. It was a small office and everyone was very close nit. How was I, this stranger, supposed to create these friendships in the short time I was there? I was working for a hostel organization where everyone was very into travel. They were very worldly people who had all lived abroad and traveled the world. Now, I became more comfortable with them, and eventually became very good friends.”
Australia fall 2012
I was nervous to start my internship. I was starting a job at a foreign company all by myself. When I got there everyone was very close and I felt out of place. There was also a huge difference in American professionalism verses Australian professionalism. In my office everyone wore jeans and were good friends. I acted as an American: fast paced and hard working. I did not know how to mix professionalism with friendship. I had a lot of trouble breaking out of my comfort zone and getting to know my coworkers on a more personal level. Australians are more relaxed and want to sit down and have a conversation with you. I was so used to the fast paced life style of America that I did not fit in. The work place culture was so different it took a lot of adjusting for me.
I felt a sense of “loss and deprivation of friends, status, profession, and possessions”1. I was experiencing culture shock. The person I was at home was washed away and I had no choice but to start from scratch. I became more aware of my differences when I started getting called out for my “Americanism”. People wanted to have conversations about American gun laws and politics with me. People told me they think America is so dangerous that they would never want to travel there. Because I don’t know much about American politics it was difficult for me to engage in these conversations where I felt attacked. Australians would come up to me on the street and ask if I were American because of the boots I was wearing. I felt a master status of being American because I could not escape from the way I dressed, how I spoke, or where I was from. I started feeling rejected by the locals which influenced my looking-glass self. I thought they looked at me as a dumb, not-tendy, unfriendly American.
It was hard when I didn’t feel like I fit in because I am Australian. My dad was born and raised there. I was expecting to go back to Australia and find a piece of myself. I wanted to understand my dad’s culture and why he does some of the crazy things he does. But there I was an Australian citizen not fitting in with Australians. I had come in search of finding a piece of me that was missing, but instead I was being rejected by my own blood. I started wondering if I’m not truly American and I’m not Australian, who am I? I felt pressure from my family to love Australia. My dad especially wanted me to love it. I wanted to be able to do this for him, but I felt lost.
My culture shock started to ease when I started to become good friends with my coworkers. I got into a routine and became more casual at work. I started making friends and met one of my best friends abroad. I began traveling almost every weekend with friends.
“My study abroad experience was a great educational booster, not only in the sense of academics or traveling, but for the workplace, too. I have a six week long internship with an event planner and we travel throughout London for meetings and other events. I did a lot to boost up my resume. Having study abroad experience on a resume already separates most from the other applicants in the sea of job applications, but to work abroad as well is even better. It says that you have the skill set (emotional passport) to survive in another culture and that you have had worldly experiences that add to future employment opportunities.”
London fall 2013