Today marked my last day of my summer intern program. During the past 8 weeks that I’ve been in London I have learned more about the British culture than I imagined. For one, I learned more about its history and issues. One hot topic that’s been on debate right now is the Scottish independence. Also, I noticed a different atmosphere between London, Dublin, and Edinburgh. My friends and I planned a trip to Dublin, Ireland a couple weekends ago and it was nice. People say that Dublin is smaller than London, but it still felt big to me at least. The people in Dublin were very nice and helpful too! My friends and I were lost a couple of times but we would be offered help by Irish bystanders! I thought this was very different compared to London because in London when you’re trying to find a place or are lost (and you clearly look lost) no one will come to your aid. I understand why Londoners aren’t jumping at the opportunity to help lost tourists, but I thought it was a nice gesture in Dublin. While in Dublin we booked a tour to Galway and the ride was beautiful. I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones (GOT) and was sad that I didn’t get a chance to do a GOT tour in Ireland since it’s filmed there, but the scenic drive to Galway was the spitting image of GOT. The scenic drive was my favorite part of Ireland and I would love to just go on a scenic ride throughout Ireland. Last weekend, my friends and I decided to visit Edinburgh, Scotland. People say that Dublin is smaller than London and that Edinburgh is even smaller than Dublin, and those people were right. Edinburgh is a smaller city compared to London, but it was a very majestic city. Right when we got to Edinburgh we had an amazing view of the sun shining down on Edinburgh castle. At first, I didn’t realize that Hogwarts was inspired by Edinburgh castle until the next day when I saw the Edinburgh castle enveloped by fog. Even though Edinburgh is a much smaller city compared to London and Dublin, it felt as though Edinburgh had just as many (if not more) tourists than both those cities. I think maybe an important reason is because of the Scottish heritage that stems from Edinburgh and also the city itself is just so beautiful. Well, Ireland was beautiful too, but I personally think it was due to the scenic drive. I feel that Edinburgh has the things that I liked in London (architectural buildings and churches) and also in Ireland (the beauty of nature). If I lived in Scotland, Edinburgh would be the city I would live in; if I lived in England, London would be the city I would live in; if I lived in Ireland, I would live in a small town on the seaside. In each city, I felt a different atmosphere but I loved each place for their differences.
This past Thursday was my last day of my internship. I grew to love working at my internship because of the environment my co-workers provided for me. I didn’t have your traditional ‘co-workers’ because I only worked with the other volunteers a couple times, but I did work with my three supervisors every day. My supervisors felt more like my co-workers than my superiors because they did not hover over me with their authority where I would feel like an inferior; on the contrary they provided me an environment that was very welcoming and warm. I love my co-workers! They were very professional and a group of very nice people who are passionate about their job. During my time interning I noticed another difference between the British culture and the American culture. In the British system, if a woman were on maternity leave she had up to a whole year (and if she’s lucky it’s a year and a half!) off and she was guaranteed a position from her employers. This also is applied to the spouse too, so both parents can enjoy taking time off on maternity leave and raise their child. I found this to be amazing because compared to the U.S. system we get 6 weeks off and that is only for the mother, not including the spouse. Also, in the British system, during the first 3 months of her maternity leave she would be paid full time from her job and afterwards she would receive half pay for about 5 to 6 months. The British system sounds very great but there are cons to this too. The mother is guaranteed ‘a job’ which means it could be a better or worse position that she had before she left. But in the U.S. the employer guarantees the same job that the mother had before she left. There’s also the question of ‘if a British mother does take a whole year off on maternity leave then how is she able to support her family when she does not receive any sort of payment from her job after the 9 months of payments?’ There are some factors that we would have to look into because even though her spouse could support the family with their income the family now has an infant who feeds every 4 hours, gets a diaper changed at least 3 times a day, outgrows its clothes within 3 months, and keeps on growing and now you also have to support the mother who is on maternity leave who also needs food too and obviously the spouse needs food too. And remember, the spouse could also go on maternity leave for a whole year too. I found that the British system’s approach on maternity leave sounded ideal, but realistically it doesn’t seem like it could work perfectly.
From this summer intern, I have gained a new skill and also become more aware of cultural differences. During my internship I learned how to be creative and I improved my communication skill. Working with children can be a challenge because you have to learn how to keep their interest especially since their attention span is so short. I found that to be challenging when trying to teach them about the activity or the topic, but I found ways to keep them engaged in the activities. Also, I had to make some small scale projects such as certificates, make a database on all the elementary schools, and data input on transportation surveys. My communication skill was improved during my experience interning in London. Communication is important for all work relations and it was especially so during my intern this summer. I realized that communication is vital when working with children because you have to make sure that you’re using the correct vocabulary and if you use a new word you have to make sure you define it for them.
From my experience during my internship in London, I want to other students to know that studying abroad is a life changing experience. To study abroad you must be willing to accept the challenges that it comes with. Yes, there are going to be times where you are excited to be in a new place but there are also times where you are nervous to do new things, but remember that this is a once in a life time experience. You may have 8 weeks or 15 weeks to study abroad, but time flies quickly and it’ll seem like you just started. Take advantage of your time in the new place you’re at and fully indulge yourself into the culture. Be open to try new things but remember to also stay in your comfort zone. You don’t need to try all the new things, but you should make an effort to try new things. Learning how to make an effort will make your experience more fun. An example would be when I went to Ireland. I didn’t originally plan on going to Ireland but my friends wanted to so I decided I would try it too. When we were in Dublin we went to see the Guinness Factory and something funny yet dangerous happened. I did not have an interest to see the Guinness Factory, but it is a big part of the Irish culture thus I made my decision to go to the Guinness Factory. I’m glad I did go see the Guinness Factory because I saw the history of brewing beer and while we were there a fire started in one of their barley factories. Of course, we were safely evacuated out of the building and no one was injured, but now I will always remember my trip to the Guinness Factory. You never know what you’re going to get and you’ll always have a story, so enjoy what you can!