The expectations that I had before I went abroad were both similar and different to what I actually experienced. Regarding my academic expectations, I had the impression that my urban studies class would just be a fun and laid back class that was a way to fill a general education requirement. However, while I did find the class enjoyable, it was very challenging to analyze what the different areas and cultural tendencies of London mean to the country’s global identity. Also, I was given the opportunity to experience areas of London that I wouldn’t have traveled to otherwise. For example, our class had the chance to visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and see the stadiums and parks where the 2012 Olympic games were held. Another fun and “off the beaten path” place we visited was Shoreditch, where we learned about gentrification and took a tour of graffiti art in the East End.
Professionally, the expectations that I set for this trip were pretty high. I really wanted to learn about UK banking and how Brexit has affected the market. I can absolutely say that my expectations were met! The team at Scottish Pacific, a working capital solutions firm, taught me a lot about invoice and trade line finance while explaining their viewpoints on banking and the market. We also had a great time bonding outside of in the office, due to regular lunch trips.
My internship was great because I had an instant connection with the people working in the office because they were very funny and interested in how I liked London. They spent a good amount of time compiling lists of restaurants and places I had to visit, and where I shouldn’t go. The one challenge I had while adjusting to my internship abroad was trying to put effort into it and not spread myself too thin with everything else I had going on. There were definitely days when 4pm hit and I was almost asleep at my desk, and this was hard for me because I like to be engaged and alert at work. I ended up overcoming this eventually by trying to do some of my work during lunch breaks so I didn’t have to stay up as late the night before. The advice that I would give to people transitioning into an international internship is to try to get to know your coworkers. The times I had the most fun were when we were all debating about the World Cup games, comparing UK and USA politics and eating lunch at Pret a Manger. They even took me to a nearby traditional Persian restaurant where I tried dough, a Persian yogurt drink with mint.
My personal expectations for my London study abroad before I departed also set the bar very high. I think that overall, they were met but definitely changed over the course of the trip. For instance, I thought that I would be traveling to a new place every day and doing something exciting every night. While I saw a lot of London in my six weeks and tried a lot of new things, some of the best nights were after long work days when my roommates and I stayed home and made pasta. Also, I thought that I would be relaxed and in “vacation mode”. This was 100% not true–studying abroad is amazing, but it is also a lot of work and preparation, especially with an internship and a class.
Reflecting on my trip, I think that my three biggest takeaways were that 1) London is the multicultural center of the world, 2) you never get tired of London, even when home is a 1 hour tube ride away on a hot day and 3) studying abroad takes work. London is extremely diverse, with all different races, ethnicities, religions etc represented clearly in society. In my office of 10 people at Scottish Pacific, I worked with people from Australia, Ireland, Iran, India, China and Scotland. The diversity is also represented in other ways, such as the food and fashion, which I had a fun time experiencing. As I mentioned in my last post, if you are tired of London you are tired of life. Even in my lowest moments, which included getting stuck in a closing tube door, I never blamed London. And, as I mentioned above, studying abroad is not an experience that should be taken lightly- it takes a lot on your part to make the trip amazing. Like most things, you get out what you put in!
I can’t wait to go back!