CAROLINE HARIRI ’17
Last spring, I had an unceasing urge to go to London. I can’t quite recall when my obsession started, but as more and more reminders of the city popped up in my day-to-day life, I knew I couldn’t ignore my desire anymore. It seemed like the United Kingdom was constantly being brought up in my classes, England was always in the news at the time, and when I put my iPod on shuffle, all British bands kept coming up. I knew I had to act on these signs.
My goal became clear – I would search for a summer job opportunity in London. I would live a real British life, and experience the city as a Londoner. The only hard part was actually finding a reason to live in London, doing it alone, and doing it on a college budget.
I searched every job and internship outlet I could possibly find, and tried to make myself as adaptable to any opportunity by branching out my interests. To my disappointment, most jobs were not looking to hire for a short period of time, and most internships were only available for college graduates. I contacted everyone I knew who had the slightest relationship to Europe, and asked if they knew of anything. However, it was useless – I found nothing.
After infinite emails and LinkedIn job applications, I finally heard from a company that was interested in hiring me as an intern. I was elated. Months of frustration were finally put to relief as we began to discuss logistics; It sounded like a dream job. I was almost ready to book my flight when I realized I had yet to figure out my housing situation. After the stressful internship hunt, I was terrified to start an entirely new research-intensive process to find housing. The fact that London has one of the most expensive housing markets in the world only added to my worries.
I was right to be terrified of the search for housing. With few apartments available for rent, next to none were in my price range. I’m not sure whose price range these homes were in, but I can assure you it was not that of an unpaid college intern! My dreams were being crushed by the second. I began to completely give up on my London fantasy until I stumbled across an internship program that combined both London internships with educational classes. The program is offered by the Foundation for International Education (FIE) and provides students with both an internship, and housing, not to mention complete support through the Visa application. I applied to the program and within weeks I was given notice of my acceptance and a guarantee that I would have an internship in the field of my choice upon arrival in London.
The day of my departure, June 18th, finally arrived, and I landed early in the morning at Heathrow Airport with three giant suitcases that would have to suffice for my unknown internship. The program began with an orientation week where six other interns and I trained for our internship prep. FIE warned us that we would all have very different hours, would be in different locations, and would have completely different experiences. Once we found out what internships we were assigned, I was excited but also nervous to be on a different schedule from the rest of the program. Fortunately, the seven of us all lived on the same floor and became very close.
I had a day to prepare for an informational interview at Thomond, the PR firm located in Parson’s Green. I was extremely nervous, as this was the most formal internship process I’d ever undergone. I was shaking the entire Tube-ride there, feeling confined and strained in a blazer and loafers. However, as I stepped into the quaint, snug office of Thomond, I was pleasantly surprised.
I was welcomed into a small sitting area, with comfortable plush couches laden with pillows. There were hundreds of magazines lying around the shelves and coffee tables, in no particular order, scribbled on and covered with post-its. To my left was a cozy kitchen, giving off the scent of freshly baked muffins. To my right were two rows of long tables around which fifteen young adults were typing or talking on the phone, all cheery and bright, wearing very casual attire. I was immediately welcomed in, and had a lovely conversation, definitely not an interview, with the founder of the company. He told me what to expect in the coming months and how excited they were to have me.
By the second week, I felt like I’d been working for Thomond for my entire life. At such a small firm with a small staff, my work as an intern was essential. I had dozens of ongoing projects that I learned to manage on my own. Until Thomond, I had never held a position that allowed me to work on the frontline and make visible changes to the company. My experience in London was among the best experiences I’ve had in my entire life. I created irreplaceable memories, learned unteachable lessons, made extraordinary friendships, and got to call London my home.