Over the past few days reality has set in rather quickly, thanks to the Arcadia orientation staff and the pound to dollar exchange rate. Our first three days in Britain were spent attending long days of orientation meetings, full of warnings about getting into unlicensed cabs, watching our purses on the Underground, and adhering strictly to the Arcadia guest and quiet hours policies. Sprinkled into those dire warnings were glimpses of happiness (trips! friendships! the time of your life!), but the demeanor of some of the staff tells you very quickly that they have seen far too many silly American students for their tastes.
One thing mentioned over and over again over the first few days of orientation was the fact that the European workplace was very different from home (who knew?! …ahem). We have been reminded that we will probably be relegated to menial tasks (fetching tea and filling in spreadsheets) and that we will most likely receive little to no supervision or instruction past our first few days. We have been reminded multiple times that American students coming straight from the rigid control of university are often upset because they receive so little direction at their internship placements – often they are not told exactly what is expected of them, and they are not given exact details of how to complete specific projects or tasks. While this information was helpful the first few times I heard it, it got a little discouraging after a while. One of our assigned course readings literally said: “Set low expectations about how good it is going to be, and then you won’t be so disappointed.” WOW, buzz kill!
In addition to those inspiring words of advice, being in London means you get a huge cross-section of world cultures, bringing with it a cross-section of the world’s most fashionable, rich, and beautiful people. Europeans tend to take much more time on their appearance (walking around in public in flipflops or sweatpants? never!), so they always look put together. Add that to the fact that they live in close proximity to the fashion capitals of the world, and there is a constant flow of model-like women (and men) walking around in the latest style of clothing, looking to all the world like they stepped off the pages of a magazine. Of course, there is a huge range of variability, but compared to America where the the girls who take time on their appearance are baked-orange girls from the coasts, Europe is the place to be if you really want to feel behind the times and out of style! Sigh.