I am a chatty person, I am and probably always will be. So, when people found out I was interning in London, I was told, “don’t talk so much, it’s not what people do in the workforce there”. Now, that is a pretty tough task if you ask me. As it turns out, I can still be pretty chatty here (whoo), especially at an event whose sole purpose is small talk – networking. IES Abroad set up a networking event for their students, complete with red, white, and blue decorations and American snacks in honor of the 4th of July.
From a talkative girl’s point-of-view I went in with no nerves about getting to know people and network. And first and foremost, it was amazing to have some one-on-one time with my employer. Sadly, not a ton of supervisors were there that I noticed (or there was just a lot of students!), but my supervisor made all the effort to come even after a four-day business trip to Scotland. It was wonderful for me to have some time to get to know her on a personal level, something there is not a lot of time for at work. I got to learn why she came all the way from Portland, Oregon to London for a job with the US-UK Commission and her experience thus far with the company. Valerie explained to me the background and world-wide presence that the US-UK Fulbright Commission has. It was the first time since the welcome party, the Fulbright threw for their interns, that I really got to know my supervisor and chat on a level deeper than, “is there anything I can help you with” after finishing a project. or “are you alright” at the beginning of each day.
On the other hand, I was surprised to use this as an opportunity to also get to know the IES students better, which I think is networking in its own right. Our classes with IES are relatively small and there is not much opportunity to see all 80 students in one place. It was great to get there a bit earlier than most supervisors and talk with the students who are all working in such unique fields from business to fashion design to teaching. I know it was not the original intent of the networking event, but it was honestly a great way to make some contacts from soon-to-be working adults in the states. For me especially, it was great because I am a lot younger than most of the students here. At 18 years old, I still have three years of university ahead of me while many students are graduating in less than a year. So, it really became unconscious networking for me because by the time I am done at the University of Michigan many IES students will have been in the workforce for a year or two.
All in all, I think the networking event was a great idea. I may not have socialized with quite as many people as I originally anticipated, but I did get to know my supervisor, IES students, professors, and staff on a more personal level and make some interesting connections with people from a whole range of majors and backgrounds.