I haven't written as much as I intended to, so there is a lot to catch up on. We got our internships 2 weeks ago, and I ended up not in Parliament, which I expected because I didn't do the security stuff everyone was talking about since we got here. My internship is working for an international non-profit governmental organization (NGO) called Minority Rights Group International. It's really interesting work, but I never felt more out of my element at a job before. I'm working in the Communications Department with my whopping zero amount of communications experience. It's just something I'm not used to, plus I don't feel like the internship relates to my studies in British Politics in any ways like so many of the other internships do. Other interns are using experience from Parliament or in their local government jobs in class discussions as well as essays, but my internship does not really relate in any way. It has such an international focus and the work I am doing focuses so much on indigenous populations in Africa that it is hard to relate that to British public policy or parliamentary procedures. The internship doesn't have anything to do with my dissertation either, which is disheartening. I'm realizing that, unlike other Scholars in the program, my internship will be like a fourth class for me, a totally separate experience outside of my classes and research. I don't see this as necessarily a bad thing, but it will require me to put more work into my essays and dissertation since I do not have the advantage of using life experiences to supplement my knowledge.
I realized what was difficult about coming into this job was that I didn't interview for it. With Northeastern and my co-op experiences, I got used to the process of finding a job for myself. I developed the skills of interviewing and at the same time the ability to decide if a job was right for me while my potential employers were deciding if I was right for their job. I also always had my responsibilities outlined for me and knew a general idea of what my work would entail long before I started my first day of work. I got to this internship not knowing what to expect in terms of responsibilities and not knowing if I actually qualified for the job. This gave me a great sense of unease and some trepidation about my ability to perform well on my internship.My first day of my internship was one of the hardest first days of work I have ever faced in my life. I walked in and after giving my boss a summary of my past experience, I was given a heap of papers and told to read through them and begin to write a media brief for a campaign they were currently working on. In addition to that I was assigned to figure out ways to better advertise the campaign, and finally I, in the future, would need to set up interview contacts for a media event in November. During this exchange of tasks, I was also told that everyone was quite busy at the moment with an annual publication so it might be a bit of "rowing your own boat" for awhile. It was a bit overwhelming…to say the least. I was really difficult for me to enter a job with an unfamiliar skill set without being offered any training or introduction into the work I was doing. I wasn't given the intern guidebook with helpful hints for new interns until the second or third day I arrived. While I still feel a bit out of place at my internship, I think it's going to be a great growing experience for me and a way for me to be challenged in an unfamiliar setting. I have a chance to have my media brief published too!
Aside from my work experiences lately, I have had some strange experiences in the past two weeks the most notable of all was waking up in my room at 2am and seeing a strange man dressed all in black in my doorway. It has to be understood that my room is in the absolute back of my flat (down the entire hallway and to the left down another hallway), and other rooms had doors unlocked, yet mine was the only one that was opened by this man. I have also been sick lately and was in a Nyquil-induced sleep and apparently it took a bit to wake me up (my roommates called out to me twice before I stirred). He said there had been a robbery on a lower floor of the apartment building and that our flat's door was unlocked and our bedroom door was unlocked so he thought he should check if everything was okay in our flat. He asked if we had everything there and we said yes. All I remember seeing was this huge flashlight he had. We realized soon after he left that he didn't identify himself as a police officer, didn't show identity, and had no apparent badge. We called the emergency number for the program (we realized later that we were so shaken we were actually calling the office number) then the police. In the end it was confirmed that there was a robbery in the basement and there were police in the building, but three days later and there is still no absolutely positive word that the person who walked into our room was a police officer. The RA, when we spoke to her, told us it was a cultural thing and that police here were different than in the US, but then other people we talked to said that it was quite weird for a police officer to not knock or show identification before entering a premise. Either way it was quite the experience. I felt so much safer in this neighborhood in London than I ever did in the area I live in around Boston. It went to show many of us that while we may be in a dorm-like setting that doesn't make it really safe for us since we are still in a really big city. My roommates and I now religiously lock our bedroom door at night. Once I was even locked out of the room because one of my roommates was being so vigilant.
Liz is here visiting from Belgium this weekend and it's good to see a familiar face; someone who actually knows my friends at college. I didn't realize how much explaining would be necessary because for the first time since freshman year for me I am surrounded by people who know nothing of my background or friends. I have to explain about experiences I've had and inside jokes that normally would go unexplained in Boston. In addition to the familiar face, it was also good to have a weekend to go around exploring London rather than staying in doing school work. I've found that there is a lot more to this experience than getting good grades like I would be concerned with if I were back in Boston. There's so much more for me to do here. We found the Peter Pan statue and just walked around enjoying London, which is something I have not been able to do since schoolwork always seems more pressing. I didn't truly realize how much schoolwork and reading would be involved in this program. I know that part of the true education of study abroad is getting to know yourself on a better level as well as immerse yourself in the cultural environment that you are living in. We thought one way to do this was to go to a pub to watch a rugby game and cheer for England. Unfortunately for us however, we didn't realize our area was predominately French supporting so while we were cheering, we saw some pretty sullen faces surrounding us. It reminded me in some ways of US sports, especially when they are watched in college. There are all these students from different states ingrained with a favorite team from family, the area they grew up in, or peers, and they are all thrown together in a college and watch games together. I remember the Super Bowl my Philadelphia Eagles FINALLY were a contender in, and of course they were playing the New England Patriots. I felt awkward and unable to cheer for my team being surrounded by Pats fans, and maybe that is how some Londoners feel in areas predominated by other loyalties/affiliations in sports.
Someone on the program told me my real mission here is to find my personal inner strength again. I found that I have intertwined my strength with James in a lot of ways, and sometimes I feel lost here without him. I am admittedly overly emotional here, but unlike at home where I feel I can control it, the littlest thing will set me off here. I hope this trip allows me to find my own independence while I still keep a strong relationship with my boyfriend. It will be good for me to find that I could be strong again on my own, since I know he cannot be there every single time I need help. Not only that, but I need to be strong again for my own sake and to show myself that I am able to be a self-sufficient person. I hope I will find that in myself again.