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Elon Study Abroad

Christine Meyer

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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.


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Commonalities in Responses

Commonalities in Responses

This illustrates the most commonly used words in the following blog posts.


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Journaling on the Job… Claire Smith

“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.”

-Claire Smith
Australia fall 2012


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Claire Smith

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.05.23 PMI 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.

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This is the building I worked in in Sydney. It was right down the street from the Sydney Opera House.

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.


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Journaling on the Job… Caroline Anderson

“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.”
-Caroline Anderson
London fall 2013


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WHY Intern Abroad?

WHY Intern Abroad?

Only some of the reasons to intern abroad.


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Caroline Anderson

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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.

 


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Nicole West

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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.


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Student Reviews- Interning in Australia

Check out this video to hear other from students who have interned in Australia!


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Journaling on the Job… Claire Smith

“I began to identify with my coworkers as a free spirited traveler. I expressed impression management at first when I agreed with their ideas and ways of life because I wanted to fit in. But after a while I started to convince myself I was one of them. I became a more casual, free-spirited traveler.”

-Claire Smith
Australia fall 2012


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