Traveling to London in Spring Break turned out to be an unforgettable excursion filled with rich and valuable experiences that had stretched my perspective. My initial interest in the Business London Trek was due in part because I had few experiences traveling outside of the U.S, and felt that it would be really beneficial to not only travel abroad, but to partake in a course that would help me leverage possibilities to intern or work abroad in the future. I saw the Trek as my window of opportunity to take advantage of the resources available to me. I’m so glad that I decided to participate, as it has proven to be one of the most practical and enriching programs that I’ve taken at the University of Washington.
The Preparation for the Trip:
Throughout the Winter quarter, myself and a group of 20 students had attended a class once a week to prepare ourselves for the upcoming Trek. The class material was built around our upcoming Spring Break trip to London, where we would travel to employer sites to meet and interact with UW alumni. Throughout the quarter, we designed our professional profile on LinkedIn, curated Elevator Pitches, accessed an array of information through My World Abroad database, and even had an entire class devoted to hearing personal accounts from students and professionals who have previously interned or worked abroad. UW Career Coaches and our program leaders took us through the dependable strengths exercise, which had ultimately led us to understand where our unique excellence lies and how we could best illustrate that in our resumes. We received feedback and advise from our program leaders before our resumes were finalized to pass onto the employer sites we later visited.
The Trip – We Made It!
The trip was very unique in that it gave us the opportunity connect with UW alumni that work with substantial employers such as Alpha Sights, Amazon, Duff & Phelps, EY, Google, Urban Stay, and Wieden & Kennedy. The UW alumni really embraced and welcomed our class. It was interesting to see the contrast between work cultures in similar industries, such as EY and Duff & Phelps, two financial services companies with very distinctive personalities. It was also humbling, to say the least, to hear from James Swift, Co-Founder of Urban Stay. James gave us a vivid account of his journey to success, being sure to include challenges faced early on as he and business partner/wife, Jenny, built the company from the ground up. Many went out of their way to prepare presentations that detailed their career paths and provided a wealth of information and advice. As a marketing major, I appreciated hearing Rachel’s account of what it was like for her to start in a marketing and sales position and navigate her way through the Amazon corporation to the current role she now holds as Senior Product Manager. I was able to gain valuable insights into how I could improve my professional portfolio and better prepare myself to enter a competitive workforce. Although our class group consisted of students that were in a variety majors, we all were able to take away information that was pertinent to our success, whether it be at home in the U.S. or abroad in London or elsewhere. At the end of the week, our class and a variety of UW alumni from all over London had joined for a mixer where we gathered together to converse, socialize, and get answers to any lingering questions. From visiting Duff & Phelps in the Shard, to meeting the creatives behind Nike campaigns at Wieden & Kennedy, we were able to gain a more holistic view of opportunities available for our international careers and start to formulate our decisions for life after graduation.
The City of London:
During the trip we also had the opportunity to take in the city. One of the first things that I had noticed upon our arrival was the degree of diversity in the language, food, and people. There’s no wonder why London is pegged as the culture capital of the world. The food was “proper tasty”, but what is more – the people were helpful and kind. While we enjoyed our first meal upon our arrival to Paddington station, we were greeted by locals sitting at the table beside us. They chatted with us for a bit and recommended various sites and popular attractions that we later visited. They also gave us a brief lesson on the difference between dinner and supper, because unbeknownst to us, they serve as two separate meals!
Overall, the language barrier is minimal. There was a bit of slang that had gone over our head, but it was fairly simple to communicate in British English. Transportation is incredibly sophisticated in Europe, but in London specifically the underground train, known as the tube, can take you nearly anywhere within the city in a matter of minutes. We used this to our advantage and frequented beloved districts, always remembering to “mind the gap”.
From Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, Big Ben, and world renowned Galleries and Museums – our time was filled to the brim with cultural activities. As could be said about most of Europe, the amount of history found within what seemed like every neighboring street was truly mind-boggling to a native Seattleite. I cannot emphasize enough the beauty of the architecture in London. Buildings nearly a century old stood beside some of the world’s most modern designed skyscrapers.
I’m delighted to say that I got to experience several unique occurrences as I was exploring the inner city. On one of my first few nights stay in London, a few classmates and I were taking a shortcut back to our hotel after dinner and had a surprise run in with Tom Hiddleston (aka Loki, Asgardians favorite villain). When in London! Once more, later in the week when classmates and I were out grabbing a bite to eat, we just so happened to find ourselves parading towards parliament amidst one million Brexit protesters, whom demanded the ‘vote be put to the people’. As international students, most of us did not understand Brexit in great depth, however, the crowd was friendly and we didn’t mind spending our afternoon at an event likely to go down in London history.
In conclusion – I would highly recommend UW Study Abroad!
In essence, the experience was really refreshing and had solidified my desire to pursue a career abroad somewhere down the line. The Business London Trek had provided our class with all of the support, resources, and opportunities to experience and understand what it is like to live, intern, and work abroad. If you are looking for career and internship resources, or are interested in studying abroad, please visit the links listed below.
UW Career & Internship Center: https://careers.uw.edu
Foster Career Services: https://foster.uw.edu/careers/career-services/
Foster Study Abroad: https://foster.uw.edu/centers/gbc/undergraduate/study-abroad-options/