This is just a quick final pre-departure blog post before I attempt to go to sleep for the night. In 24 hours from this moment, I will have just arrived in London. I am, of course, extremely excited, but most of all I am nervous. Or, more accurately, I am scared to death. Of everything.

I’m scared of flying on my own. I’m scared of living on my own with strangers. I’m scared of sharing a bathroom with four other girls, and a bedroom with two. I’m scared of feeling alone, despite being so surrounded by people. I’m scared of living in a city – a completely foreign city, at that. I’m scared of being pick-pocketed. I’m scared of what my internship may be. I’m scared of adjusting, and of culture shock. I’m scared of being away from all that I know. I’m scared of being away from Scott, of not being able to talk to him on a daily basis, and of what may happen to our relationship after a full semester apart. I’m scared of returning home after nearly four months abroad, because god knows life will not wait for me while I am gone. I am scared of this entire experience, full of more change than I will ever have experienced at once in my life.

I know that I will soon adjust to this new life, and before I realize it my time in London will be over and I’ll be wishing I had more. But for now, I am feeling quite overwhelmed. I realize this all will pass soon so, despite my many fears, I am remaining quite optimistic.

Overall, I know that these fears are mostly irrational. When I really think about it, I have little reason to be scared at all. I know that I will benefit immensely from participating in this study abroad program and I will grow as a person through this experience.

For now, I’m going to attempt to get some sleep since I know I won’t be getting any on my red-eye flight (unfortunately I also fully expect these jitters to keep me very awake tonight). The next time I blog, it will be from London. ‘Til then!

Oy. My internship is almost completely up in the air now. I went from beginning to warm up to the idea to being more sure than ever that I did not want to work there. Here’s what happened…

I was e-mailing a woman from the organization to arrange a phone conversation to discuss my internship role. She gave me the URL of their website so I could look over their current projects to be more familiar with their organization. I must have originally been given the wrong URL from CAPA because the woman I spoke to was from an entirely different organization: The Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Essentially, this company lobbies UK and European governments on behalf of the alcohol industry. I was immediately uneasy about this – I would rather not work for an organization that aims to put the profits of alcohol corporations above the public interest. One of the major goals of this company is to relax governmental regulations and taxes on alcohol. For example, their most recent accomplishment was to change allergen labeling regulations in order to save wine producers money.

I’m sure this company isn’t all bad: they do seem do be socially responsible and they note an interest in promoting sustainability (though they have only noted an interest in this because of growing consumer demand). Still, I simply don’t feel right about working for a company that puts alcohol retailers and producers over consumers. To be clear, I don’t have any problem with alcohol or lobbying for that matter, but I would be much more inclined to support lobbying on behalf of the public interest instead.

Despite my new concerns, I still ended up speaking with the Executive Director of WSTA yesterday afternoon. He was quite friendly, asking about my family and my personal interests, and he was also very up front about the intentions of the company – he made sure that I did not have any moral opposition to alcohol use. He briefly outlined some projects I’d work on that involved marketing, which did seem quite interesting, but still didn’t make me any more in favor of working there. We basically left the conversation at that I’d begin working there in a few weeks. I wasn’t sure what to tell him, so I didn’t offer up any indication that I didn’t really want to work there.

After the phone call, and after I had thought a bit more about it, I e-mailed Reema at CAPA and explained to her that I wasn’t really comfortable working there and was hoping to explore other options. She replied this morning and said that she would pursue other opportunities for me. I feel a bit guilty and almost ungrateful about rejecting the placement that she had chosen for me and I am worried that I might be inconveniencing her, but the truth is I am essentially paying for her to work for me – I have paid upwards of $13,000 to participate in this program and I feel I should expect to be able to have the best experience possible.

For all I know, WSTA could be not nearly as bad as I’ve convinced myself, but there’s really no way to know until I start working there. Besides, I know there are plenty of other internship opportunities out there that I would be much more happy doing, so I would much rather explore those options rather than settle for a place that I’m not sure I’ll enjoy. Thankfully Reema is in the process of looking for a new placement, which I will hopefully enjoy more. I would ideally like to know before I leave this coming Tuesday, but I’m sure it will not be possible for her to find me a new internship before then. I hope I won’t have to wait too long after I arrive in London.

Today I started to pack. Well, not so much pack as… organize. First, I started with clothing: I separated my clothes into No, Yes, and Maybe piles. My No pile was huge, as expected, since I don’t even wear three quarters of my wardrobe. The Yes pile seemed to be an appropriate size, and I hope that I can transfer a few of my Maybes over, but I won’t be able to tell until I actually start packing. As for shoes, I can’t bear to say “no” to any of my four pairs of cute flats. I hope I can squeeze those in somewhere.

After I did this, I began the daunting task of going through all of my other things – makeup, jewelery, toiletries, etc – and determining whether I wanted them with my on my carry-on or if they could go in my checked luggage. This proved a lot more difficult than I thought. I already knew that, if you want to bring liquids in your carry-on bag, the bottles must be no bigger than 3 ounces, and they all must fit into a single one quart ziplock bag. I figured this wouldn’t be too bad, since all I had was a small bottle of contact solution and deodorant. However, it turns out that they classify a lot more things as liquids than I originally expected: apparently, “liquids” includes toothpaste, perfume, lip gloss, and even mascara! Hopefully I’ll be able to fit everything in that single bag.

I plan on bringing one piece of checked luggage and one carry-on, plus my laptop bag/purse. Since my checked luggage is huge, I’m confident that I’ll be able to fit everything I need (and probably some stuff that I don’t really need) in this space. What I am concerned about, though, is the 51 pound weight limit. That’s something I’ll have to keep an eye on.

Earlier today I received an e-mail from Reema, the Assistant Director at CAPA, to tell me that a woman from The International Wine and Spirits Centre (my internship placement) wanted to schedule a “phone chat” with me. I took the opportunity to tell her that I was unsure of how well the placement was suited to my interests. This is what she said in response:

The project that they spoke to me about would require you to work within online media, specifically on the work they do related to blogging and political movements online. It did sound quite interesting and I thought of your application when I went to meet them. I think it might be worth speaking to them about it.

Her response was rather reassuring. While this is certainly not the industry that I’m interested in, it seems that it might be the sort of marketing that I’m interested in. I do feel slightly better about the internship now, but I am still pretty skeptical. I am looking forward to speaking with the woman from IWSC (though quite a bit nervous, of course) because it will give me a good idea of what they expect me to do for them.

I e-mailed the woman earlier today with the free times in my schedule, so I expect to speak with her at some point on either Thursday or Friday. It’s exciting – as more of these developments occur, I realize I am getting closer and closer to arriving in London. As I write this, in seven days from now I will have just arrived at Heathrow!

It recently occurred to me that my expectations have been a bit too high in terms of what my budget will allow me to do in Europe. I’ve had fantastical ideas of traveling to as many places as possible, including Paris, Amsterdam, Spain, Italy, Germany, and elsewhere. The reality is, though, that I will be very lucky if I can afford to go to even half of these places. Once I put together my savings, Christmas gifts and loan money, I will have about $3,500 to spend during my three and a half months in London. To me, this is a huge sum of money to have, but it is actually very little when considering all that I hope to do while I am there.

First and foremost I have to finance my living in London. My flat and tube pass have been prepaid with the program fee, so luckily I don’t have to worry about that, and I receive a weekly £40 meal stipend (which, let’s be honest, won’t be enough). I plan to experience all that London has to offer, including museums, tourist attractions, shopping, nightlife, etc. These expenses will quickly add up.

I’ve been told that it’s quite cheap to travel within Europe, through discount airlines and youth hostels. However, I will, of course, want to fully experience and explore the cities and purchase souvenirs, which will undoubtedly get very expensive. I’ve been doing the math and I’m really not sure how many of these trips I can afford.

At the program orientation at my school a month ago, three students that previously participated in the program were there to answer our questions. They said that they had spent $5,500-6,500 during their time in London. They noted that they had done a lot of traveling throughout the UK and Europe as well, but it was no more than I hope to do. While they spent an incredible sum of money, I’m sure it was not at all difficult to do, and it was actually a pretty realistic amount considering all of the traveling they did. It makes me a little uneasy about my own budget, which seems uncomfortably small compared to theirs.

The reality is that I am a college student with a very limited budget, and I have to face the fact that I simply will not be able to do all that I would like to. I will be endlessly grateful for all that I do get to experience in Europe, but I will still be disappointed when I have to nix certain things from my itinerary. I will be on a budget there just as I am at home, but I am still determined to stretch my dollar as far as it will go and have the best experience possible with the funds that are available to me.

The details of my flat in London have been announced! I received the e-mail Monday afternoon, and for the following several hours I was entirely consumed with discovering the location of the flat, what familiar attractions were nearby, and where everyone else in the program was living.

My flat is located in Earl’s Court, which is located in Kensington, and is quite close to Hyde Park… all of which means close to nothing to me, but it helps to have a visual idea of where it is on a map of London. The most important thing is that it is quite close to the CAPA headquarters (which is located just between Hyde Park to the west and Piccadilly Circus to the east). A close proximity to the CAPA HQ is ideal because I’ll probably be traveling there at least three days out of the week for class, and also to pick up whatever mail I may receive as well as my weekly £40 meal stipend.

I discovered these photos of what my flat will probably look like:

1 2 3

The flat is equipt with a kitchen, a lounge, and a bathroom as well as two bedrooms, one with two beds and the other with three. I, of course, was stuck in the three-person room, which includes a bunk bed. Having a younger brother, I am not a stranger to bunk beds, so I doubt it will be an issue for me if I’m relegated to the top bunk. Two of my flatmates are also from my university, though I do not know them personally, and the remaining two are from Minnesota and Pittsburgh, respectively. I have spoken with each of them a little bit over Facebook and they seem quite friendly for the most part.

There is a weekly cleaning service for linens and the bathroom, which is truly fantastic. There is wireless internet, thankfully, except there is a quota of something like 1,000 minutes and 750 MB download allowance per week. This is the only thing that I expect to be an issue. Luckily you can purchase more more minutes & megabytes, which is something that I’ll probably be doing quite often. The standard plan does not allow for much Skype video chatting, which is something I hope to do often.

The other students are scattered around London in three other apartment buildings. There are actually no other students from my university in my building, except for those in my flat with me. I hope there are other students in my building as well, even if they are not from my university.

This announcement has made me more excited than ever before for my trip. I think learning the location and details of where I will be living caused the reality of this trip to really begin to set in. There aren’t any major announcements left to hear, so now all I have left to do is pack and prepare!

In all the drama about my less-than-ideal internship placement, I forgot to note that I’d also been e-mailed the list of CAPA-sponsored trips throughout the UK & Europe during the semester. They are as follows:

  • Oxford/Blenheim Palace (day Trip): Sunday 8th February
    25 Spots, £45
  • Paris (weekend): Friday 13th – Sunday 15th February
    30 spots, £215
  • Amsterdam & Bruges (weekend): Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd February
    30 spots, £195
  • Wales (overnight): Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th March
    26 spots, £109
  • Edinburgh & The Highlands (weekend): Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd March
    26 spots, £199
  • I’d already had a rough idea of which trips would be available, but it’s nice to have a list of the exact dates and prices. I will most certainly be going on the Paris and Amsterdam trips – I was planning on definitely visiting these places anyway, and, even if I do go on these CAPA-sponsored trips, I may still go on my own with friends as well (besides, the idea of having free reign of Amsterdam without having to adhere to a pre-determined itinerary that probably does not include head shops is quite appealing). Either way, though, these trips are ideal because, first of all, I’m sure I could get a better deal going on one of these trips rather than traveling on my own, and second, I would feel more comfortable being guided around a foreign city as opposed to aimlessly wandering around (though I will certainly be doing a lot of this regardless).

    In any case, I’m sure that I want to do the Paris and Amsterdam trips, but I can’t make up my mind about the others. They just don’t seem quite as interesting. I’ve been advised by CAPA program veterans to avoid the Wales trip (which I was planning to do anyway), so that one’s out. I feel like I probably should go on the Edinburgh trip, and I suppose, if I can, I should go on the Oxford trip as well. I don’t have any particular interest in these, but if I can do it, then why not?

    Of course, there is one problem: there are just under 150 students in the program, and, as you can see, space is quite limited. We’ve been advised to arrive at the CAPA HQ before 9 AM on January 19th to sign up to ensure that we get a spot – and even then, it can’t be guarenteed. I’d imagine that both the Paris and Amsterdam trips will be in high demand, and as they are the trips I’d like to go on the most, I’ll surely be fighting for a spot.

    I received notification of my internship placement just as I awoke yesterday afternoon (I’m on vacation – don’t judge), and what started out as impatient excitement turned into an steadily increasing disappointment. I was told that I will be working in marketing at The International Wine and Spirit Centre. The description of the company, as included in the e-mail, is as follows:

    The International Wine & Spirits Centre use their influence to improve the trading environment within which their members operate. They offer a range of up-to-date relevant services, information and direct assistance to members which will add value to their organisations. Their membership includes over 200 companies in 15 countries. They are involved with social policy on alcohol, lobbying on behalf of retailers, codes of practice as well as organising a number of events related to the wine and spirits industry, media and blogging.

    For all I know, this could be an incredibly interesting internship… for someone that is interested in this sort of industry, which I am not. At all. Yes, I would be doing marketing, and that is what I wanted, however the most important part of the internship is the company I would be working for. This is hardly the sort of company or industry that I see myself being enthusiastic about. I am most upset because I can’t imagine how CAPA thought this would be a good placement for me as it doesn’t seem to fit what I requested at all. I was looking for something more directly related to the media, specifically in online print publications. I wanted something progressive and up-and-coming; something that would require me to use new marketing techniques via the internet, which is what I am really interested in. The placement I was given seems to be quite far from what I was looking for.

    This was quite a big disappointment to me because the internship is a vital part of this whole experience, and if I am not placed at an internship that I will fully enjoy then I will not be getting as much out of the experience as I could be. Of course, I do realize that having the chance to live in London for over three months is an incredible experience regardless of how I feel about my internship. Still, I am going to do what I can to get this right. I spoke to the program adviser from my school and she said that, while nothing can be done about it until I get to London, I should discuss this with CAPA and they will do what they can to find me a better placement. This is what I plan to do and I am optimistic that I will end up with an internship that I will truly enjoy. If I cannot get another placement, then I will remain open-minded and I will try to get as much out of this internship as I can as it will be a new learning experience.

    In the end, this is only a minor setback. There are still exciting updates to come (i.e. the location of my flat and the names of my flatmates), and I’m sure that this situation can either be fully remedied or at least made the best of. We’ll see what happens!

    This morning I was forwarded my course schedule – the first bit of information that reveals a bit of what I’ll be up to in London. It’s not nearly as exciting as it will be to receive the address of my flat, names of my flatmates, and, of course, my placement, but it is still exciting nonetheless because I am now sort of able to plan out my weekly activities (and also simply because it’s the first announcement of this type I’ve received from CAPA).

    It appears that I’ll be able to work full days at my internship (wherever that may be) on Monday and Tuesday, and half days on either/or Wednesday & Thursday. I can’t remember how many hours I’ll be required to spend at my internship, so I guess all of those details can be figured out later. The most important thing, though, is that it looks like I’ll be able to keep my Fridays entirely free – perfect for weekend traveling. When I excitedly (and, admittedly, a bit boastfully) announced this revelation to Scott and my mother, respectively, they both promptly teased me… though I think their mockery may have been fueled by a bit of jealousy on their part. Who can blame them, really?

    Now it’s about three and a half weeks until I leave, which is really hardly any time at all. I have quite a few things to prepare for before I make the big leap across the sea; the first of which involves re-watching every episode of Peep Show to brush up on my British dialect. I don’t want to be too far out of the loop when I get there if I can help it.

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    This blog chronicles my experiences studying abroad as a student and intern in London during the spring semester of my junior year of college, from January to April.

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    This blog chronicles my experiences studying abroad as a student and intern in London during the spring semester of my junior year of college, from January to April.

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