The internship program at FIE London was one of the things that drew me in. I knew that having an extra internship on my resume, especially one done abroad, would look so good to future employers. I lucked out and absolutely love my internship here in London. I was placed with a charity called Providence Row. The charity is aimed at helping the homeless and keeping them off the streets. The organization and what they do goes very nicely with my sociology human services major. Providence Row provides services like basic job training, resume building workshops, reconnections to family in different countries, mental health treatment, and much more. I work specifically in the fundraising department, but am involved in all aspects of the organization daily. Because government funds have been cut dramatically for charities in Britain, my job is one of the most important! Also, because the charity has had to make cuts, they need all the help they can get. I am given my own tasks and duties each week, the same as any other employee that works there. The work I am doing is essential for the organization to make money to stay running. Lots of my flat mates are given only “intern” type tasks and because of that they do not tend to enjoy their internships much. I think because I am well respected and doing work that is beneficial to the charity I am learning so much more.
I have found that the work in Britain is extremely different than in the states. I have always pictured business in the states to be very formal and have a large separation between work and personal lives. However, Providence Row is completely laid back. I am able to wear whatever I want to work, including jeans and gym shoes. I was surprised that the ladies in my office all share their personal lives with each other and were also interested in mine! Another very different aspect of work is the actual work ethic of the British people vs. the American people. My office tends to be quite slow and involves lots of tea making! I would guess that each employee spends about 45 minutes a day making and getting tea! It is very different with the interns at the charity. We take a quick 30-minute lunch but other than that we work quickly and efficiently at our desks. Last week I was given a task that my supervisor believed would take about 2 days. When I finished in just a day (which I actually dragged out a bit, I could have had it done in HALF a day) my supervisor and the other employees in fundraising were shocked! I had not rushed or worked overly hard on it, just normally. I think the speed and type of work between the two cultures is just very different.
Overall, I am enjoying my internship so far. I have learned so much from my supervisor and by doing actual work for the organization. I love being a big pat of the charity and I know I am going to take a lot away from this experience!
Olivia Sievert is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).