My Internship in London 2018
Praktikumsbericht von Rebekka Janning, AHR 13 F
About my internship
At the beginning of the year a teacher at school told us about the opportunity to do an internship in a foreign country. I liked that idea and soon we started to plan everything. My plan was to do a six-week internship in London. Most of that period should be during my summer holidays, so I decided to go from the 30 June until 11 August. My teacher, Mr Tinnemeyer helped me with the application for that internship. We sent it to the organization “Europäischer Bildungsverbund e.V” and they did the rest for me. They got in touch with an organization in London which arranged accommodation in a host family and a workplace for me. They also arranged a one-week course in a language school. So, my stay was segmented as follows: The first week was at the language school and in the remaining weeks I worked at the Saint James Backpackers Hostel in Kensington. I had several reasons why I wanted to do this internship. Firstly, I wanted to improve my English, I wanted to become more fluent, and I wanted to get used to making conversation in this language. I didn’t see a better way to achieve this than this internship, because in London I would have no choice but speaking English. A second reason for my decision was that I wanted to improve my personal skills. I wanted to become less shy towards strangers and I wanted to be able to get along better with other people, even if I maybe don’t like them too much. A third reason was that I wanted to do something on my own. Just me and nobody else, because like this I could learn where my personal limitations are, and I had to get along on my own. Another reason was that London is a completely multi-cultural city, so I could meet people from all over the world.
Let’s start the adventure!
My adventure started on 30th June at around 2am. When I woke up, I packed the last things I needed for my internship in London. That was stuff like my mobile charging cable or other little things that went into my hand luggage. I sat together with my family and we enjoyed a last cup of coffee together. At around 3am we started the trip to the airport Cologne Bonn. My parents helped me with my luggage and came with me until the registration of luggage. We said goodbye to each other and they drove home again. From that point on I was alone. I was nervous, because I had never flown on my own before. I easily got through the safety checks and I didn’t have any problems with the boarding. When the plane started and got faster and faster I was a bit scared, but everything was fine. When the plane was in the air I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until I landed in London Stansted. I got off the plane and everything was as easy as in Germany. I had to go through some ID controls and then I got my luggage back. For getting to Stratford, where my host family lives, I had to take the coach. It is a special bus taking passengers from the bus stations to the airport and the other way around. Having arrived at Stratford Station my host mum picked me up and showed me the way to her house. After my arrival I had time to get some sleep and to unpack my suitcase.
My first days in London
On Saturday afternoon, my host mother Dulcie showed me the city of Stratford and the famous Westfield shopping precinct. In the shopping centre are the typical shops like H&M, Primark or Zara, but also shops that are more expensive and special. After that Dulcie and I went grocery shopping and when weekly shopping was done we got back home and I got back in my room. I laid on my bed and wanted to read a book, but I immediately fell asleep because I was so tired. I didn’t do much the rest of the day. I told my family and my friends about my arrival and then I went back to sleep.
The next day started with a small English breakfast. I had toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and baked beans, but I hadn’t had any sausages, mushrooms, hash browns or tomatoes, like it is usual. It was very unusual for me to eat this hearty in the morning, but I liked it. After my first breakfast in the UK I went to Westfield again, but on my own. I went there by foot to see something of the city of Stratford. The weather was awesome, there wasn’t any rain or even clouds, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining. It was like this for the next four weeks and that is very uncommon for London. I strolled through many of the uncountable shops in the shopping centre, but I didn’t buy anything. I should have many more chances to go there so I didn’t want to spend all my money on my first day. I went back home without any problems, thanks to Google Maps. At this point I realized that this application would be my best friend in the next few weeks. Back at home I had a lovely dinner with Dulcie who is a fantastic cook. She didn’t cook typical English food often, but I had Sri Lankan food many times and, though it is very spicy, I loved it. We ate outside in their little garden and chatted the whole evening about many different topics. Dulcie explained in detail why she loves London so much. The people there are so open-minded, I’ve never seen that in another city like it is in London. There’s a good thing about it: Most of the people accept you like you are and it doesn’t matter whether you are thick or thin, with long or short hair, tall or small, with green or blue or brown or blond hair. We talked the whole evening, but I was very tired because of the many impressions I collected during my day in the shopping centre. I immediately fell asleep when I was in my bed.
My host family
My host mother Dulcie is born and raised in Sri Lanka, she moved to London when she was 18 for studying, now she is about 55 years old. She is married to an English man named Terence, but he’s mostly called Terrie, he is also about 55 years old, but he isn’t living at home now, because he must take care of his ailing mother who doesn’t live in London. I haven’t met him the whole time I stayed there. Dulcie and Terrie have got two children called Nimali and Sean. Nimali is a young woman in her thirties. She is married and has two children. She lives in a small house in London with her family. Unfortunately, I also never met her or her family. Sean is about 30 years old. He’s living at home right now. He used to work for the BBC, but he wasn’t happy with his work, so he gave it up. He also gave up his flat and moved back to his parents’ house. He is searching for a job he really likes and that really fits to him. Both are very nice people, especially Dulcie is a very lovely woman. She loves cooking and her meals were always awesome, but she really enjoys spicy food and sometimes it was too spicy for me. She sometimes even cooked separately for me. When she made rice with vegetables for dinner, for example, she had two separate pans. One for her and Sean, with a lot of chilli, and one for me without chilli. The last family member I would like to mention is Kuro, Sean’s little black tomcat. At first, he didn’t like me, but he got used to me very fast and we both enjoyed cuddling in the evenings.
My first day of school
My first Monday in London was very exciting. I started my first day of school and I had to take the bus and the tube for the first time.
For my way to the “Speak Up!” school, I first had to take the bus to Stratford station and then I took the central line to Oxford Circus. The school is on the famous Oxford Street.
The school specializes in teaching English as a foreign language. There you can find people from all over the world and in all ages. Some people there are in their twenties and must learn English for a certificate for university or for work. Other students there were maybe between thirteen and sixteen, they were there on holiday to improve their English for school.
Classes were divided in different levels from A1 to C2.
The first thirty minutes at school were a bit confusing because there were many new students, and everyone had to be registered and put into a class. For registration everyone had to pass a level test to see how good their English is. My test results said that I had to go into the B1 class. My teacher’s name is Billy, she is maybe in her thirties and very nice. She listened to us and she corrected our mistakes but without getting upset when we made the same mistake twice. In my class were about 8 people from all over the world. Everyone was between 18 and 25 years old, but I was the youngest. There were two girls from Italy, two boys from Turkey, one girl from Japan, one girl from Poland, one girl from Belarus and me, the only one from Germany. The class was nice, and the lessons were funny. Lessons were every day from 9am to 12am. We started with learning some new words and talking about a topic. Then we went ahead with some grammar like state verbs or different tenses. When we were done with that we had a 15 minute break for a little breakfast. After that we mostly did speaking exercises. We had to talk to our partner about a specific topic or we had to discuss a topic in little groups. The last daily exercise was a little vocabulary exercise. We got together in teams of two students. One faced the board, one sat with the back to the board. The one who faced the board had to explain the words that were written down there to the partner, but without saying that specific word. The partner had to guess the words on the board. It was a bit like the “taboo” game. Then I spent most of my afternoons on Oxford or Regent Street. For lunch I mostly got a sandwich or a salad from the supermarket, but once or twice I bought take away food from a restaurant.
Free time activities
I spent my second weekend with Dulcie. On Saturday we went to the Newham Carnival where many schools and associations walked a parade in colourful costumes and with music. The atmosphere was vibrant, everyone was in a good mood. Everyone was open-minded and friendly. Next to the route of the parade was a little cultural festival in the park, where you could try food from all over the world. From different parts of Asia, Europe and even Africa.
There were many places for children, where great cooks showed them how to easily cook a healthy meal. They showed them how to cut vegetables and they taught them the names. It was fantastic to see how bright the children’s eyes were, when they first tried their own food.
Because the festival was in the city and because of the hot weather the organizers made a little beach area for the children. They built a big pool and surrounded it with sand so that it seemed like a real beach. Around this area were little booths where they sold ice cream and cold drinks. All the children looked so happy and I even was a bit jealous and I wanted to be a child again.
This day was amazing, and I think I will never forget how open-minded everyone was. No one showed any prejudices against others and everyone was happy.
Dulcie and I had dinner together in the evening and as dessert we treated ourselves to some vanilla ice-cream topped with dahlia liquor. I brought her a small bottle of this drink as a little present. This liquor is made in Legden and represents a piece of my home. She was quite happy about this little present and this wasn’t the last time that we ate the liquor on ice-cream. I went to bed and was so happy about the day and about my experiences. When I had a day off one of my favourite places in London to visit was Leicester Square. I loved spending time there, because there are always people and there is always at least one busker playing. I must admit that I love London’s buskers. Most of them are talented people who really love the music and who really love to perform.
But I wasn’t only at Leicester Square, I also loved the Piccadilly Circus. Just sitting down there and watching all the people crossing the streets was exciting and calming simultaneously.
I often enjoyed the very sunny weather there, when I had my days off. That was usually on Tuesday and Wednesday, that means that I had to work at the weekends, but that was totally okay for me, because the weekends at work were mostly very calm quiet, because everyone was out sightseeing.
When I didn’t have to work I mostly was in the centre of London. I visited all the typical tourist sights, like Westminster Abbey, the Houses of parliament, Big Ben or the tower bridge. One day when I was in Hyde Park I went swimming in the Serpentine Lake to cool down a bit, because it was so hot on that day.
I also visited the National History Museum and the National Gallery. One special feature about London is that nearly every museum is for free, so you don’t have to pay for entrance, but the big tourist attractions, for sure, like the Tower of London, charge you a big amount of money for entrance.
After work I spent now and then some time in South Kensington. I really enjoyed watching the people walking around, because you see so many different types of people. Families, tourist groups, school classes, friends, couples, people on their own, like me. Though everyone is different, you can see some similarities between the people. For example, when you look at couples, especially in a shopping precinct, in nearly every case the man is carrying the bags for his girlfriend or wife. This is just an example, but there are similarities like this also in almost every other case and it is really exciting to watch.
One day, I saw London by night. In the evening I went to the London Bridge and watched the sunset. Tower Bridge looks awesome in the darkness. You can’t really call it darkness, because there are always some lights on and there are always people, but though it was awesome to see.
Another day after work I met my schoolmate Rebecca, who was in London with her sister for a few days. We met up one afternoon and went to the Shard together. The Shard is a huge skyscraper, I think it is the biggest one in London. We went up there until we were on the 70th floor and could see all over London. The view was breathtaking. You could see everything, the Wembley Stadium, Big Ben, the Tower of London and so much more.
After we took many pictures, we went to Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square together and we also visited Waterloo Station, the oldest tube station in London. We had a really nice time together and enjoyed each other’s company.
One day, it was Friday 13th July, I went to see the city centre, but I forgot that Trump was in the UK that day. I bumped into a huge protest march by people who are against Trump and his opinions and suddenly I was in the middle of this demonstration.
At first, I was completely overwhelmed by the situation, but everyone was friendly and super nice. No one was remotely violent, and everyone cared about each other. The atmosphere was very special.
My work at the Saint James Backpackers Hostel
My internship started on Monday, 9th July. I had to get up early in the morning, because I had a long way to work. I lived in Stratford in the east of London, but my workplace was in Kensington in the west of London. I took the tube for 45 minutes every morning and every afternoon.
On my first day, I had to start my work at 8am, but I arrived at 7:30am. The two receptionists, Daniel and Dina, welcomed me warmly and they offered me a cup of coffee. I chatted a bit with them and at 8 my first shift started. Daniel is the nephew of my boss and he was very friendly. He showed me around the whole hostel and told me where I could find everything. The hostel is in an old Victorian building, but the inside has been recently renovated.
When you come in you first are at the reception. This area is very bright because of big windows. Then you enter the dining area, where breakfast and dinner are served. There you find a big wooden table where many people can enjoy their food. This whole area is also very bright because of white walls, though the table and the flooring are quite dark. Next to the dining area is the living room with two couches and two beanbag chairs. There you can watch TV and Netflix is also provided, if you prefer that. Next to this area are two more tables where most of the guests either take their meals or work on their laptops.
Then Daniel explained what I had to do in the morning from 8am to 10am. I was responsible for the breakfast and I had to make sure that there was enough bread, milk or cereals, for example. After 10am I had to clear everything up. The rest of my tasks for the day were clearly listed in an excel sheet on the computer at the reception, where I had to sign up what I’d done and what I hadn’t done. That were things like cleaning the dining tables, cleaning the kitchen or hoovering and mopping the dining area and the living room. The work wasn’t too hard, and it was okay. After I finished work at 3pm I went home and didn’t do much the rest of the day.
My days at work were quite similar every day, but I had much contact to the guests, because I was one of their first contact persons if they had any questions and that made everything very exciting.
One of my tasks in the morning was baking the pancakes and at the end of my internship I already knew who wanted how many pancakes and who liked them with syrup or rather with peanut butter or jam.
People I met at work
There were some long-term guests in the hostel, who stayed there for a few weeks, so I saw them every day and I recognized their habits and their routines.
During my time there I met people from all over the world. Many of my colleagues are from Italy, others are from Hungary, Croatia or Spain. Most of the time I was the only girl from Germany, but in my last week another girl from Germany arrived. Her name is Mira and she is a student from Lüneburg. We got along well with each other and my last days at work were funny, because of her. It was nice to have the opportunity to speak my native language, but when the other staff members were around, we spoke English of course. I really like her, but I also liked my other colleagues.
One Italian boy named Luca was super nice to me. He is one of the housekeepers and started his shift at 10am every morning, so I always made some fresh pancakes for him and as a thank you he sometimes shared his food with me during our lunch break. He is a nice cook, he learned cooking from his grandma when he was about 5 years old. One day, he taught me how to make Italian pasta by myself and it wasn’t only super easy, it was also delicious.
Not just my colleagues were awesome, but most of the guests also were super friendly. One guy from France, named Pierre, stayed with us for about 4 weeks and he was funny. Every morning he went into the kitchen and he was in a great mood even before his first cup of coffee. Every day he borrowed the guitar from the reception, they’ve got one for the guests to borrow for free, and he played songs for us. He always loved playing songs by James Blunt for us.
Two other nice long-term guests were Jordan and Andrew. They are both about twenty years old and from Glasgow, Scotland. Both make their money as buskers and they want to move to London. For their move from Glasgow to London they live in the hostel for a few weeks to get everything organized. I saw them both busking at Leicester Square when I had my days off and I really love to hear them sing. They both have beautiful voices and when you see them playing you feel how much they love their music. Both are working on their own music, but that business is very hard.
I met many more nice people, but I can’t name everyone, that list would be far too long. I hope that I will stay in touch with as many as possible of them, because they all were super nice and friendly and every one of them had already experienced so many interesting things, so that they always had a story to tell.
My last day in London
My time in London passed by too fast. It didn’t feel like six weeks. Every Saturday, when another week was over, I sat together with Dulcie and we enjoyed dinner together. Every time we wondered where the time had gone. Whenever another week was over it just felt like it was a day or two, but not like seven days.
My last day in London was Friday, 10th August. I didn’t do much the whole day. I went to the centre of London one last time and I saw all the sights one last time. I went to the London Eye and I also went to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. During my whole stay the weather was fantastic, but on my last day it was raining heavily, like the city was crying.
I went home early at noon, because I had to pack my suitcase. After this was done I went into the kitchen to help Dulcie with dinner. That evening we had dinner very early, because I had to start my journey to the airport very early on Saturday morning. At the table we reflected the six weeks and we wondered how fast the time had passed by. After our dinner I went upstairs to my room to catch at least a bit sleep. I was super excited to finally see my family again, maybe this was the reason why I stayed sleepless. I fell asleep at midnight, but the night was over at 3am. At 3:30am I took a taxi to Stratford bus station. Dulcie helped me to get all my luggage into the taxi and then it was time to say goodbye. We both were very sad that our beautiful time together had ended so fast. When we hugged one last time, both of us had tears in our eyes. Dulcie closed the car door and I realized that my time in London was over. The taxi driver dropped me at Stratford bus station and there I took the coach to Stansted. After having arrived at the airport, everything was as easy as six weeks ago. There was a long queue at the luggage registration, but I think that this was maybe because of the Ryanair strike on 10th August. I was lucky enough, as everything went well, because my flight was booked with Ryanair. I didn’t have any problems at the airport and the flight also was okay. We had a delay of about 30 minutes, but the flight itself was relaxed. Like on my way to London, I slept the whole flight and didn’t wake up until we landed at the airport of Cologne Bonn. There, everything felt so unusual, because I had to speak German again. At the passport control I said good morning to the border guard and when he answered in German I firstly realized that I was nearly at home again. At the luggage claim area, I had to wait a few minutes for my suitcase and my backpack but that wasn’t a problem for me, because I was super excited to finally see my family again. Fully packed with my laptop case, my backpack, my suitcase and a huge smile on my face I finally met my family again and there I realized how much I had really missed them the whole six weeks. They helped me with carrying my luggage to the car and then we drove home. In the car I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but I also couldn’t sleep. It was a strange feeling, but I was just happy to finally be home again.
To sum up I can say that I would recommend an internship in a foreign country to everyone, because you can only grow with this challenge. I think that I didn’t improve my English remarkably but I’m more confident in making conversation and to talk in general.
Even though my work wasn’t necessary for school and even though I didn’t learn anything important for business administration I could improve my personal skills. I learnt how to keep calm in stressful situations and I’m more open towards strangers. I learnt how to get along with people even though they are unlikeable or annoying and the most important thing for me is that I learnt how to survive on my own. I didn’t make many friends at work and Dulcie was working all day long, so I had much time for myself and I really appreciated that time. I never had a problem with being alone, but now I’m more used to it and I don’t think that this is a bad thing. I’m more independent than I was before. So, I don’t regret my decision. If I could turn back time I would do everything like I did it now and I’m super happy with the new people I met and with the experiences I gained.
I want to say a special thanks to the Förderverein BWV Ahaus. All these experiences would not have been possible without their support.