My first morning class in London had me pondering techniques for dividing cultural differences between the UK and the US and personality differences between humans. University professors are notoriously quirky, and Professor David Edye of European Government and Politics was no exception. He gave us a variety of options for addressing him, including the entire line of English nobility titles (including king), had several “intellectual interludes” throughout our first class period, and loved talking about his eclectic life (which sounds like it’s mostly been spent in airplanes).
He told us that, as he flew into Newark a few years ago, he saw an IKEA. “This is globalization,” he proclaimed, telling us that the storefront made him feel right at home. Ironically, I felt the same way when I found the IKEAs here in London. It’s amazing what a little bit of familiarity can do for you.
I immensely enjoyed my first day of classes both Monday and Tuesday, as the professors here are much more interested in name games and our personal lives than the ones back home ever were. To clarify, I have several professors at Ursinus who are some of my favorite people and have essentially adopted me as their child, but we didn’t get there starting at day one. I particularly like the introductions here because I say, “My name is Hillary,” and every English person in the room exclaims, “HILLS!” Apparently this is the nickname they use for their Hillarys and I am kind of in love with it.
After class, I headed down to the CAPA Travel Fair, which was simply a room full of travel businesses catered to students studying abroad. Weekend Student Adventures, WSA, is a new company run by Andy Steves, son of famous travel writer Rick Steves. As I passed his table, I noticed his prices were denoted in Euros. Being the smart alleck I am, I said something to the girl at his table about the decision German courts face this week and the decision’s threat to the Euro. After I told her jokingly (kind of) that Andy should switch currencies, I met Andy Steves himself, who had been standing behind her. Though I thought to move away as I had essentially just insulted his business collections choices, he initiated an extended conversation about the economic climate in Europe and his company’s history of collection approaches. Are you Americans back home yawning yet? Well, the conversation ended with him asking me to come aboard for the semester, travel writing and working on some business projects. Um. YES.
Unfortunately, I had to run to my already-established internship at Venture Business Research for the afternoon. Things I learned in four hours there: 1. English people seem much more focused than American people. 2. The CEO of VBR is absolutely amazing and the story behind the VBR name is inspiring beyond words. 3. Companies with the word research in their titles employ people who do a great deal of research. 4. I will never, ever, ever be able to do business research in that way. At the end of the four hour stint at VBR, I boarded the tube with a cranky attitude and hunger for human interaction. Computers are not my friend.
The night got far brighter after my return home, though, when Mommy Sandra made me eggs and toast for dinner and surprised me with a naughty but perfectly appropriate baby lemon cake. After dinner I returned to my room to figure out how to handle the fact that I hated the endzone of my career path. Soul searching is difficult, but doing it in a foreign country with all your advisors on the other side of the world is really difficult. I was on Facebook messaging with my big sister, Skype with my mom, and email with my professor parents all at once, trying to figure out what to do with my predicament.
While I was torn between being the whiny brat who quits after the first day and the martyr who sucks it up and tries to get something valuable out of it, my new life philosophy hit me: Screw it. I’m in London. Who wants to spend 20 hours a week of the thirteen short abroad weeks being miserable? No one.
As it hit 9:30pm and I was still talking about it with my oldest sister, I made the decision to ask for an internship switch. And then, at 9:30pm, my sister congratulated me and excused herself from our conversation because she had to go get my four-year-old niece from pre-K. I was tempted to call some child services representatives to have a serious conversation with my sister about leaving my favorite children in the world at school until 9:30pm, but she claims it was only 4:30pm in Eagleville and the pickup time was legitimate. The Atlantic ocean can be quite the trickster at points.