Here I am, writing my final reflection. I decided under the time constraints I cannot write much more than I have, and I don’t think my memories would be better now than they were when I recalled them each week. So, I have decided to take a paragraph from each week which gives a picture of that week of work or travel.
Week 1: Getting to London
I approached my gate at Hartsfield-Jackson with about 90 minute to spare. A perfect opportunity to sit and read my book. After about 30 minutes of enjoying the read, a Delta employee at the gate says, “I’m sorry to inform you all that this flight has been oversold. In order to limit the inconvenience, we are offering a $500 Delta flights voucher to the first seven volunteers. You will stay an extra night in Atlanta then fly to Philadelphia at 1:30 PM tomorrow and leave for London at 8:00 PM, and finally arrive in London at 6:40 AM on Saturday morning.” I was frozen for a moment, considering what was going to happen over the next hour. I heard Delta increases the voucher value as time approaches boarding, so I decided I would take the voucher if the price reached $2500. As time went on, people were seriously holding out. A few people jumped on the $1000 voucher. Then $1500 was announced, and I could see new faces in the crowd of people become interested. More time passed, the Delta employee approached the intercom to announce a new voucher value. He said, “I’m still looking for two volunteers, and the price is now $2000 in ‘Delta dollars.’” I got up from my seat, but so did three others from among the crowd. We made eye contact. An animalistic instinct, never felt before, came over me. I made a sprint, but then came “the trip.” As I made my pounce towards my free trip to Barcelona, I tripped on my backpack and catastrophically fell to the airport’s carpeted floor. The defeat was poetic. The jokers from across the gate got the vouchers. Feeling defeated, I returned to my book and waited to board my flight, a moment that was approaching quickly. I noticed an older, British couple was sitting next to me as I saw the woman staring at me in very concerned, motherly fashion. She leaned over and said, “You’ll get to spend an extra day in London while their in that shit town of Philadelphia.”
Week 2: My first day at work
After several hours of making binders, I was convinced this machine was now purposed for psychological experiments on office workers to test their capacity to uphold the charade of office civility. In need of refreshment, I gave myself a pep talk. “You’re in London. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Big Ben is here. They call cookies, ‘biscuits’. As long as you are diligent, respectful, and don’t mention The Boston Tea Party, this summer is going to be great.”
Week 3: London Bridge Attack
I was laying in bed when I received the news alerts from BBC and SKY news. A series of texts and phone calls from concerned family and friends followed. This is the second terrorist attack in U.K. since I arrived two weeks ago.
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If people in the U.K., US, and other developed countries let this attack create more fear and prejudice towards Muslims, the extremists win. They succeed in pushing deeper wedges between the West and Muslims. They want Muslims across Europe and the US to feel isolated and discriminated. We cannot shrink back into nationalism and small mindedness. There isn’t a perfect answer to these issues, and I claim to be no expert on these matters. Still, the answer cannot be to betray the beauty of our own creed and discriminate others on the basis of their faith. Democracy is about being able to say “WE” despite differences of ethnicity and religion. It’s easy to cling to ethnic and religious bonds during times of stress, but globalization has forever disrupted these old forms of social trust. The world has changed, and we need new ways of thinking about each other.
Week 4: Seeing London
This weekend I took part in many tourist activities. The inner elitist in me wants to act like I’ve have seen and done it all before. “I’m a Londoner now, and I don’t have time for slow-walking tourists.” These thoughts are probably my brain’s attempt to reinforce a sense of belonging to this new and wonderful place, but most of the time, this snarky voice needs to be pushed aside. This is what I tried to do this weekend. I went to Portobello Market with the other GSU London interns and walked across London sightseeing.
Week 5: Earning respect and getting work
This week at work, I was given my first research project — to differentiate cryptocurrency and blockchain protocol non-profit foundations. One of ZYen’s clients is one of these foundations, and they are building research proposals for their foundation to fund. My project is to research other similar organizations like the Bitcoin and Ethereum foundations and also non-crypto foundations like the Rotary Foundation to find their mission, research proposals, and organizational structure. After three weeks of making binders and endlessly reading through Z/Yen’s entire library of publications (over 400), this project gave me a lot of life this week.
Alongside this project, I’m helping one of Z/Yen’s developers to build a blockchain-based trade system for a set of international clients. My boss, Michael, asked if I could help by communicating with the clients about the functionality and operability of the system as the developer, Bikash, is from Nepal, essentially serving as translator for code and Nepalese. It’s been challenging, but rewarding as the project has progressed into a functional prototype for the client to test.
Week 6: Weekend trip to Rome
I tried to catch up on some much needed sleep on the 2 and a half hour flight to Rome Ciampino Airport, but the man sitting beside unfortunately had the same idea. He was what has been colloquialized as a “mouth breather.” For those who don’t know, these are people who breath with their mouths open while they sleep. Every time my eyes closed, warm breath from the man beside me steamed over my face. Airports and airplanes can really make you a cynic about the state of humanity.
Week 7: Soldering through a tough assignment
At work, I am continuing a project that has been persistent and maturing. We were hired to develop aresearch program and coordinate a new strategic mission for the client. Michael, my boss, and others have been busy, so much of the workload for the project has been given to me. I have written about 30 mission statements this past week. If you have ever developed a strategic mission for an organization, you know how excruciating it can be. This coming Tuesday, I will help my boss present the new strategic mission and research program to the client, so wish me luck.
Week 8: My first client meeting
At work, I finally presented my work to the client with my boss, Michael. He and I stepped onto the elevator headed towards the client and our presentation of their new research program. He looked at me and asked with a smile, “So, where are you sitting in this meeting?” It was a question whose answer was likely to be corrected before entirely finished. My mouth opened slowly, and then he quickly said, “As far away from me as possible.” I did not think to ask why because I knew he was sure to utter the explanation in the following moment. “It’s an old consulting trick. The client is less likely to feel like you are ganging up on them if you disagree.” I began to wear his wry smile too.
Week 9: Auschwitz
My time abroad is fastly approaching its end. Every day, my roommate and I have conversations about how we will miss London once stateside. I said in an earlier post that travel doesn’t change people, but that it only accentuates who you actually are. I disagree with myself now. Travel does change you. Seeing history and embracing new cultures mix your mind into a new chemistry of thought, expression, and even language. I earnestly think differently about the world from when I first arrived in London, and it will be interesting to see how Atlanta receives me when I return.
Week 10: Finishing a project
I found my dialogue on work in this blog has been a bit too explicit considering the projects I have been assigned, so I have decided to limit my discussion of work activities for the remainder of my blog. If privately asked, I can say more. This stance considering, this past week of work went really well. My rapport with my boss, Michael, has improved. I can understand his instruction and direction on my work better and better as the weeks move on. It always feels good to have success at work and to be able to take on the challenges of the day.
Week 11: Preparing to leave my responsibilities
Next week will be my final week of work in London. I will probably be editing the press releases and closing details for the continuation of the research programme. Leaving a role can be difficult when the project is entering a new stage as the responsibilities and knowledge of the previous stages have to be given to a new person, who may not be able to understand the full timeline or scope of the project, so I will more than likely spend my last 2 days at work instructing my replacement. This summer has been a thorough education in many different workplace/career scenarios, whether working with interesting personalities, stepping into bigger roles than expected, or training people to take your place. I could not be happier with the experience and have learned ever so much because of it.
Week 12: My last days
My last week of work was all about saying goodbye. I closed out my current projects or turned them over to another co-worker. I had a final review with my boss, Michael, where he encouraged and instructed me. And finally, on my last day of work the whole company went to a cricket match at Lords stadium in London. I could not have envisioned all of the wonderful experiences I have had this summer: traveled Europe, gained experience working for a great firm, and made friends from all over the world.