A map of the locations that Elon students have interned in London, UK!
“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
When I did not know what to do in certain situations, I, honestly, pretended like I knew what I was doing. My logic was, if I was confident what I was doing then that was better than looking like a fool who had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing. So by observing what others were doing around me in my internship with an event planner, I could make an educated guess on what I should probably be doing.
I had to sit in on several meeting for my boss, so I would take notes, but my boss would take her own notes and cross check with mine to see if she missed anything. One day, my boss called me and told me that I needed to go to a re-branding meeting for her because she was sick and there was no possible way for her to make it. The meeting was happening in 30 minutes and I was on the other side of town—and it was pouring rain, naturally. I sprinted my way through the tube to the cab where some co-workers were waiting on me to speed off to the meeting. We arrived at an office building and were all ushered into a conference room.
Me being the lowly intern, thought that I was going to be given a chair in the corner to take notes on my laptop. That was not the case. Since I was representing one of the brains of the company, I was to sit at a prominent spot at the table to share the thoughts and ideas of my boss. I was so nervous. I had never had a place at a conference table, nor been asked to join in on a conference! Afterward, it was a great and eye-opening experience that I am grateful to have had. It taught me a lot about the business my internship placement was in as well as what goes on in re-branding meetings.
While I was studying abroad in London I was given the opportunity to intern with the Legal Action Group. LAG was a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal access to justice for all members of society who are socially, economically or otherwise disadvantaged. It seeks to improve law and practice, the administration of justice, and legal services. The LAG group considers themselves a charity and because of that the structure and layout of the office wasn’t as luxurious as some offices can be. The office I went to everyday was located above an acting school and shared a floor with another organization. The office layout has an open floor plan – which is how a lot of offices in London are. This was very beneficial for how the office worked as a cohesive unit. The open floor plan allowed for easier communication which in turn made it easier to accomplish the daily tasks. LAG is a very small organization – so small that there was only one person in each department.
When in class one day my professor mentioned that the majority of London offices are set up with an open floor plan; because the dynamics of the typical office tend to be much different then what we typically have in the states. While there is a hierarchy within the office its mainly just titles, meaning that the boss is just as likely to bring you a cup of tea like an intern potentially would. There is a level of equality that an open floor plan allows for and offices in London really take advantage of that.
At LAG the environment was naturally quite. The employees came in to work, sat at their desks, and unless they needed something from a co-worker they put their heads down and worked. When I first envisioned an open floor plan office I imagined an office with a higher volume environment – I couldn’t wrap my head around conducting a business in a loud room. I was clearly wrong. The environment at LAG was a professional one. Others respected the noise level when their co-workers were on the phone, and even when there was no direct need to be quite the members of the office would talk quietly and only when necessary.
I don’t think the office was always split between two organizations however due to the non-profit status of LAG money is constantly an area of concern and inviting the second organization to share the space was one way to cut the cost of running LAG.
My biggest challenge was the work itself. I worked at Elfrida Rathborne and it was a very laid back work environment and I was getting things done fast and efficiently. I was working with college age kids that had mild to severe disabilities. I had never worked with students like that before and I was afraid that I would mess up. I was able to negotiate it by learning from my coworkers. I loved every minute of it.
There were moments I felt like an outsider. They would be talking about something that happened in England’s history or something that was very English and because I didn’t understand I could not join in. However it was a good time to learn about those things and to feel like an outsider. There are some people who spend their entire lives on the outside.
The English drink a lot of tea. I do not drink a lot of tea. However, if you don’t take a tea break it is the end of the world. So I drank a lot of tea. There were other strange customs, such as long tea breaks in the break room and casual talking while working on something. Everyone was excited to have me there.
I was very fortunate to bond over football while I was at my internship. The students really loved soccer ,or football as they call it, is a very good way for them to get their exercise. We bonded over our favorite teams and playing together after work. We also were able to bond over tea in the break room a lot too.
How did you form a relationship with co-workers? Over drinks after work? Over tea in the office? Not at all?
I am Victoria Webster and I studied abroad in London in the spring of 2013. I worked at YATI, young actors theatre of Islington, a theatre and talent agency for young actors. In theatre, you work non-stop to create art. I was fortunate that this internship fulfilled all of my hopes in relation to working abroad, as well as being fully concentrated on my major. I worked with an array of different characters, ranging from the theatre’s artistic director to 10 year old actors.
Therefore I had many different kinds of relationships. I had to be a relaxed co-worker, a dutiful assistant and friendly child ring-leader, depending on the day. I found myself bonding over meals, drinks post show and tea time breaks.
I found that one needs to be open at all times to new people, experiences and to never EVER judge another person in a new situation.
Studying abroad is a magical experience! I found that if you are open and proactive in learning about another’s life you will find events and ways to bond. This will form a deeper relationship in your abroad internship than you ever expected.
My biggest challenge with my abroad internship was that it had a really rough start. My placement was with a wonderful music charity and it was an incredible experience in the end. I am a Music Production and Recording Arts major so I knew this was not completely in my focus I was hoping for in an internship, I also had little experience in the industry so I was just looking for anything to get my hands on for any experience. When I went in for the interview, my boss had her own idea of what an American student would be like and really needed my to know specifically what I wanted to do with the company.
Although I had entered the interview with an open mind, knowing every detail about the company and was enthusiastic to join the team, I was told at the end of my interview that I “was not quite the right fit,” but they would give me a chance. This really put me in an uncomfortable position and tough spot because while everyone else had great interviews and just got to come into an office that really welcomed them, I felt like I was still earning my spot. Even though the internship process started out rough for me, it was an unbelievable experience and I did earn my spot at the internship. I ended the internship having earned the respect of my boss with a lot of hard work. I always showed up early, did more than was asked of me for tasks and finishing the tasks early. In return, my boss set up days for me to go and learn about the technical production for sound events in theatre, concerts and film.
Overall, my challenge was that I was coming into a situation not knowing exactly what I wanted to get out of it and my boss had her own idea of what an American intern would be like. I never really negotiated my problem, I just learned that I had quickly find out what it was I wanted to gain from the experience other than just the generalities of an internship experience as well as how to show my boss that I was ambitious and had initiative. At the end of my experience, my boss and co-workers found me to be helpful, and my boss told me that they would be more than happy to have me back working for them in the future. My biggest advice coming out of that is to give yourself very specific goals going into an internship and to never doubt yourself if the place you are working at has doubts in you. I think if I had let that interview get to me more I would have had a much harder time going in with a smile and overcoming the initial opinion they had of me.
What was the biggest challenge in your abroad internship? How did you negotiate it?
As an Editorial Intern at shots Magazine in London, I encountered a myriad of challenges. Shots Magazine is the world’s leading authority on creativity in advertising. They produce a magazine, website, and DVD. Their readership is extensive and subscriptions cost around 1,200 pounds per year.
I didn’t anticipate many communication problems because I figured that, as long as everyone spoke English, I’d be fine. However, I learned quickly that I would need to adjust to a new situation and a new audience. These adjustments included:
– Spelling: As I started to write copy for the magazine and the website, I noticed that the edits I was receiving had a lot to do with my way of spelling certain words. Luckily I had a great rapport with the editors and writers, we would joke about how Brits stick “u”s wherever they want and Americans “put ‘zed’s all over the place.” However, after making a style sheet for myself that had both the American and British spellings of words, my work improved immensely.
– Puns and phrases: When writing for the website, I learned that each small story had to have a funny or ideally punny headline. After I transitioned from news writing to puns, I learned quickly that the Brits don’t have the same funny phrases as Americans. I found myself explaining American jokes, promising that they were funny. This one we had to deal with on a case-by-case basis, which was fine because it was always fun to see the other writers look up American jokes and start laughing.
– Technology: Coming from Elon, a rather tech savvy institution, I was so surprised to find that the magazine was running on older versions of software. There wasn’t much attention to updated software even though they were running a highly sophisticated magazine. I had to adjust to their editions of Office and remember that I couldn’t send them .docx files.
– Accents: Part of my responsibility as the Editorial Intern was to transcribe interviews that editors conducted with directors, producers, and any other featured artists. Even though all the interviews were in English, it became difficult to transcribe the artists with accent. The magazine features advertising all over the world, so on any given day I would encounter an Italian, Spanish, and Scottish accent, all before lunch. To adjust to this, we decided that I would transcribe as much as I could and mark the times when I couldn’t figure out a word. Then the interviewer would go through and put in the missing words.
Working at shots was an invaluable experience and I think that every student should have an internship abroad before graduating. I learned so much and am still in contact with the writers at the magazine. Interning abroad is an amazing addition to your resume, especially if you come back with concrete evidence of your work. Overcoming the challenges of interning is one of the biggest learning opportunities of all.
“As the internship is drawing to a close, I am only just starting to realize my transformation into a global citizen. I find that I am developing hard and soft skill, such as writing and professional experiences. The other day my supervisor gave me the task of phoning theatres, because she said my phone skills have improved and they are very professional. It was great to hear this because it made me more aware of my changing cultural competence. I was able to pick up on some nuisances and values that have given me so many transferable skills. I think this internship has given me more self-confidence and helped me define my identity of a global citizen through my negotiation of differences.”
London spring 2013