My time with Global Experiences was generally very good. I applied late in the game, and they were very accommodating and made sure my first steps were completed in time so that I could be enrolled. From there, communication took a long dive off a cliff, however. Because I'd applied so late, I was concerned about getting my paperwork done for both the program and my visa, but when I would call with a question, it would often be days or weeks before I heard an answer. I was also talking to several different people at once, and I had no clear idea of who was doing what and who should be receiving which materials. Once I was in London, Melissa was excellent. She answered questions and had tips and pointers for everything from transportation to work to entertainment.
Placement was a bit difficult. I didn't receive my placement until about two and a half weeks before I left for London, so there was some serious concern about whether or not I would have a visa in time to travel. I had to rush order my visa and send my passport express mail just to have a prayer of getting it back in time. This was both incredibly stressful and an additional expense.
In preparing to go, I would say ask your employer what is expected of you instead of GE. I had almost a whole suitcase of business casual clothes that I never wore and did nothing but take room and weight, because I was told I would need them for my internship. As it turned out, my workplace was very laid back, and I was one of several people in this situation. The only time I needed to dress up at all was for a launch event for our summer project. What I'm saying is, ASK YOUR EMPLOYER ABOUT ATTIRE BEFORE YOU PACK. It is very possible that you will be able to wear your regular clothes for work. There will be souvenirs and food and whatever else you find to bring home that will be much more important than that extra pair of khakis.
The program itself, I enjoyed a lot. My placement was wonderful. I worked at a non-profit called the Ministry of Stories, which does writing workshops and community events for children in the surrounding neighborhood. It includes Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, whose proceeds help to fund the workshops and draw attention to the organization. It was not directly in my field, but because of the environment in which I was working, I was able to develop many professional skills which I had used only minimally in the past. Teamwork was the most important, because we were a small group of people taking on huge projects. Because of that, I was able to gain experience in several areas including public relations, marketing, data entry, event planning and some retail work. My last project was co-heading a social media takeover with the Ministry's PR coordinator. It was a lot of responsibility and the learning curve was huge, but it was ended up being brilliant and it was fun to do! Everything I did was important to the organization as a whole, and that was both educational and fulfilling.
While participating in the program, we lived at NIDO Student Center. NIDO itself was kind of dreadful, but it served its purpose well. It is better than most freshman dorm rooms, and you aren't there that much anyway. My tips would be to bring your own ethernet cable (the one they provide, which you have to purchase, is short and there is only wifi in the common areas) and don't eat there unless you have to, the exception being good coffee.
GE did a very good job pairing us with roommates. My roommate and I, while very different, were great living together. Because of the dorm style of NIDO, we quickly made friends with the people living in the rooms next to us. It was a way that made a huge new place feel a bit smaller and more manageable, and it helped to have a friend right off the bat.
I did not participate in many social aspects of the program. The welcome bus tour was excellent, despite the rain, especially since we did it the first day. It gave us a good feeling of where things generally were in the city as well as making us aware that we were really in London. There were three weekend day trips, one each to Dover, Brighton and Greenwich. I went to Greenwich, and we had a tour and then were given a couple hours to enjoy the area. There were also pub nights, a welcome and farewell dinner, and a couple of other things along the way. I enjoyed what I participated in, but I generally felt as though I'd rather be doing something else. There were a lot of cultural activities, both British and otherwise, that GE could have exposed us to, but I had more luck discovering on my own. For instance, NIDO was within 15 minutes walking of a whole street of amazing ethnic restaurants, everything from British pub food to Mexican to Turkish to Thai, and the only place we went as a group was a pub and a chain Indian restaurant that wasn't very good.
In many ways, Global Experiences is what got me to London more than what made the trip for me. I fell in love with the city and the people, and the most memorable parts of the experience were the things I did on my own or with friends: I was able to take two weekend trips and several day trips, and though I spent as many days as possible sightseeing in London, I only scratched the surface of what the city had to offer. I was also lucky enough to be there during the Olympics, so I went to the opening ceremony concert at Hyde Park and two football matches in Manchester. I made friends with program participants, as I mentioned before, and with locals I met at the pubs or at work, many of whom I'm still in contact with.
Overall, I had a wonderful summer, but it had very little to do with Global Experiences. Your internship experience will be what you make of it. Take advantage of the city and surrounding area and be the best employee you can be, and it will be worth every once of stress and every penny spent it took to get you there.