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July 26, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, day 69

When it comes to the 2012 Olympics in London, I’ve noticed two majorly different opinions here in London: 1.) They’re an annoying hassle causing chaos on the morning commute to work, or 2.) They’re the Olympics! It’s time to celebrate the greatest games on Earth.

Therefore, as of this morning when I managed to view the day 69 Olympic torch relay before work, I decided that if I can’t beat the crowds, I might as well join ’em. It’s the Olympics, after all, and how many people can actually say they’ve lived in a city (especially this incredible city) during the Olympics?

So with Tube update apps in hand, and an adjusted “get ahead of the games” Olympics work schedule (7:30 a.m. – 4:30 with an hour commute … ouch), I’m going into these games fully prepared to face the crowds, ignore the constant Olympic complainers, and enjoy the perfect way to end my summer here — with the 2012 London Olympics.

*Side note, this is a new attitude, because up until yesterday the thought of intensified people-packed Tube rides was giving me nightmares.  But maybe seeing that historic Olympic flame this morning helped cure that fear and spark some much-needed Olympic spirit inside of me! Here’s a quick look to get your Olympic spirit ready for the Opening Ceremony tomorrow night: 

July 25, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

Why should students intern abroad?

I’ve spent the past day and a half trying to search for articles to link in my blog detailing why interning abroad gives students such valuable experience. I know personally why it’s so important (obviously, or else I wouldn’t be here doing it!) but it’s always good to have a little third-party, non-biased credibility.

Interning abroad through Boston University is valuable now, and will be in my future career

Interning abroad through Boston University is valuable now, and will be in my future career

Unfortunately the only third party credibility I could really find was from intern/study abroad company blogs (come on news sites, work on that SEO!). On the fortunate side, though, lack of this kind of information is a green light opportunity for me to go ahead and share my experiences up to this point on why international work experience is critical for future careers.

And I do have a little third-party credibility stowed away, because back in my good old journalism days I actually wrote a freelance article for Next Step Magazine, a national publication, about the benefits of working, studying and volunteering abroad.

So, my top 5 list of why interning abroad is worth the investment:

1. Work samples with the wow-factor: Imagine a job interview, being asked if you have a certain skill set they’re looking for, and you’re able to respond with “Actually yes — I used XYZ skill set while working an international event with presidents and delegates at the beautiful Oxford University” (yes, that was me, and I’m still in awe that happened my first week!)

2. Confidence – If you build it, it will come: Being thrown into the mix within minutes of my first day at my internship, I definitely had to display confidence while crossing my fingers it would work out. Pitching journalists, especially UK journalists, for the first time I had that all-too-common pit in the bottom of my stomach. But I smiled, faked calm, sucked it up and just did it. And by building it that first day (and consecutively almost every day with new tasks), I can honestly say the confidence came, and I got several stories placed!

3. International industry perspectives: Sure we all know our industry inside and out in the country we’ve studied it in, but what about outside our beautiful borders? It’s reasonable to think you can do some research to get an international understanding, but imagine how much more you would know by actually working in the field, in a foreign country. And better yet, imagine when your future employers want some global insights and you can help out, not based off a Google search, but instead off that summer or semester you spent experiencing it.

4. Come to know and love those cultural cues: Nothing can prepare you more for successfully doing business overseas like experience working in different cultures. Believe it or not, TV isn’t really an accurate way to learn cultural cues — but interning abroad is. In just my first few weeks working in a British office, I’ve already noticed several cultural differences that I hadn’t expected at all going into it. Now they’re part of my daily life, and I’ll miss these cultural differences (most of them) when I’m finished here. I won’t spoil those for you, though, because that’s for you to come over here (or anywhere internationally) and experience for yourself!

5. Learn to be resourceful at a rapid pace: I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t inherit my family trait of Jeopardy-like memory. Therefore, I’ve learned how to be resourceful. And being over here working in a foreign country, I’ve further developed that skill, increasing my information-finding speed daily. I don’t know much about the tax system in XYZ country for one of our clients, or the trade groups in XYZ industry, but you better believe I’ll  find everything I need to know within minutes so I can meet my deadlines with solid, accurate work. This without a doubt, like everything I’ve already mentioned, shows why interning abroad will help me for years to come.

July 23, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

Stumbling upon Samuel Johnson’s house a welcome surprise in downtown London

Since the wise, ever-mature age of five years old, I’ve known I love writing and need it to be intertwined with my career path in one way or another. I loved crafting fiction from scratch, developing storybooks as family presents and, I’ll sadly admit, writing my brother’s punishment essays with anecdotes of how Winnie the Pooh would react to his behavior (unfortunately this isn’t a joke at all — my mom saved those essays).

Samuel Johnson's house, London England

Samuel Johnson’s house, London England

This love for writing sparked in me a love for the English language, for finding new, compelling ways to tell stories, and it’s an interest I still have to this day. That’s why when Amy (who loves all things literature) and I (your London blogger) stumbled upon Samuel Johnson’s house in London, we did a double take before getting overly excited and reading as much about the house as we could. Here’s what we found:

In 1737, Samuel Johnson moved to London and worked as a struggling journalist. While scraping by on the written word, he was developing his reputation in the literary world and in 1747 he was commissioned to write his Dictionary of the English language, which took him eight years. It was eventually published in 1755. Like many of Britain’s important historical figures, Samuel Johnson was buried at Westminster Abbey after his death in 1784.

One  piece of his advice especially sticks out to me as both a writer and PR professional, and is actually applicable to people from all professions. Simply put (in my terminology), take pride in your work. But as the ever so eloquent Samuel Johnson puts it:

          “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” 

So true. Are there any other quotes you like from Samuel Johnson? Let me know … I’m always open to new, inspiring quotes from some of history’s wisest people.

Samuel Johnson's house, London England

Samuel Johnson’s house, London England

July 22, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

Beatrix Potter brings us back to our childhood

When Peter Pan, Wendy and the gang flew across the London skyline to Never Never land, they must have dropped some “never grow up” potion in the water system, because after this past weekend in Cumbria, frolicking around Beatrix Potter’s properties, I’m pretty sure Amy and I drank from the fountain of youth.

Cumbria, England

Cumbria, England

We were deciding all week between checking out Jane Austen’s moors or Beatrix Potter’s Lake District, and chose Mrs. Potter because of our need to digress from real life and revert back to younger-year simplicity for a few days with some of our favorite childhood friends. And as we predicted, nothing says good-bye stress, hello happiness like Peter Rabbit and the flopsy bunnies running around our B&B’s backyard.

Cumbria, England

Cumbria, England

Stepping foot off the ferry and into the real Beatrix Potter land felt like walking into a storybook. We had Jeremy Fisher on one side trying to catch his dinner, and Jemima Puddle-Duck on the other, searching high and low for the safest place to hatch her eggs. I could go on and tell you that Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle was to our southeast pressing our linens, and to the northwest was Benjamin Bunny, helping that troublesome Peter find his clothes, but I think you get the picture — we were immersed in fairytale, and it was fabulous.

The little village we stayed in, Near Sawrey, was as peaceful as they come. It was the first time since Ireland that I actually heard pure, uninterrupted silence (besides the sheep, who get quite chatty after 11 p.m.).  I realized after a few hours there how much I miss the little things that make life sweet, like the smell of a campfire, clear nights to stargaze, and responding to the name “Stephanie” (the B&B owner misheard my name as Daphne, and for some really smart reason I didn’t correct him, leaving me to respond with a smiling “yes” as to whether or not Daphne wanted more coffee).

Hill Top -- Beatrix Potter's house, Cumbria, England

Hill Top — Beatrix Potter’s house, Cumbria, England

Still high on life and Peter Pan’s youth potion, Amy and I spent all of Saturday exploring anything and everything Beatrix Potter. Our first stop was Hill Top, her working house where the creative magic happened. We saw the desks she sat at along with the garden views that inspired her to create the classics we know and love today. I inherited my mom’s love for Peter Rabbit, so every time I saw a bunny in her front garden I got giddy with excitement (even though they were strategically placed there for tourists like me).

Hill Top -- Beatrix Potter's house, Cumbria, England

Hill Top — Beatrix Potter’s house, Cumbria, England

The next stop was Beatrix Potter World, which the B&B owner told us was really only for the younger crowd. But if Mr. B&B knew anything about Daphne and Amy, he’d know they were heavily under the influence of childhood nostalgia mixed with Peter Pan potion, and therefore more than young enough at heart to enjoy it.

And I honestly believe that whether you’re young, old, or some (unspoken) age in between, remembering Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle or Hunca Munca will bring  a smile to your face on any occasion. And I know personally that her most famous opening: “Once upon a time there were four little rabbits,” will get me, (and Daphne), to smile with childhood happiness every time.

July 21, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

Chelsea, where have you been all my life?

We’ve lived in the beautiful borough of Kensington for almost three months now, but for some reason it’s taken us two and a half months to discover the charming, quaint neighborhood of Chelsea only one mile away. 

To celebrate a second successful week interning in London, Amy and I chose to mix it up a little bit and try out a new neighborhood’s pub scene. It was between High Street or Chelsea (both in walking distance, I’m avoiding the Tube at all costs), but since I’m still slightly scarred from the overpriced High Street haircut, Chelsea was the easiest choice.

And thank goodness it was, because just walking through there once we were already planning our next visit. The neighborhood itself feels like Beacon Hill in Boston (or Mount Adams in Cincinnati, of course!) with cute little shops and quirky, independently-owned restaurants, cafes and pubs. It’s bustling at night with people just getting off work, but still calm enough to sit back, unwind and enjoy a cheese board and/or a (slightly warm) pint of Fullers — the perfect combination.

I ended up walking back through that same borough again this morning for a physical therapy appointment (because PT is on everyone’s London sightseeing agenda), and with my glasses on I could actually read the store signs and fully comprehend my need to do some Chelsea exploring as pronto as possible.

But with the closest Chelsea block including a cheese sample shop, Belgian waffle café and creperie, I might need someone to roll me along the rest of my exploring route (any takers?), because when it comes to carbs or cheeses, it’s a sin to say no.

July 19, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

Yummy toffee from Ye Olde Cheshire

I’m not usually one to order desserts, because I try to save them for special occasions (e.g. taking my dog out to get ice cream — which will be happening the first day I’m back in the States). But sometimes, only sometimes (ok, so probably anytime), you can twist my arm for some sugary goodness, especially if it comes with a side of history.

A good friend and world traveller told me before heading over  here that I must try the sticky toffee pudding at Ye Olde Chesire Cheese. Not only is the pudding a famously delicious London treat, but this particular secret sticky toffee pudding recipe is found only within the walls of the historical Chesire Cheese, one of Charles Dickens’ favorite pubs.

I did some reading up on the pub after hearing about the pudding possibility (food research is my favorite research) and found that Charles Dickens’ favorite spot of the pub was just next to the fire place in the main dining room. Therefore, Amy, Carolyn and I made sure we got our dining room seats to retrace Dickens’ steps and get the full effect of the experience.

With the dim lights and old-school restaurant set up, all I could think of was Ebenezer Scrooge at the Melancholy Tavern, sitting alone and asking for more bread (after 20-some years reading that with my dad, I’m pretty close to full memorization).

I snapped out of my Scrooge nostalgia just in time for our sticky toffee pudding to arrive — and oh my did it exceed expectations. The food-high joy of eating one of London’s best, famous, delicious desserts in one of London’s oldest pubs felt almost too good to be true.

It was good, it was true, and in just about two minutes it was gone. But I’m sure I didn’t eat the whole thing (definitely impossible …), it must have been a ghost, maybe Jacob Marley? His routine of carrying pounds upon pounds of metal chains and emotional baggage could really work up a need to late-night binge.

July 17, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

My introduction to the city of Oxford

I’ve heard from numerous sources that Oxford is on the “must” list for any English sightseers. While I now consider myself a true Londoner at heart (until August 11, when I part ways with that pleasant Underground system), I do fancy myself a sightseeing adventure every now and then. Especially when it involves once-in-a-lifetime work experience through my internship.

To give me an extensive feel for the world of PR agencies, my supervisor invited me to come along to a recent international conference she and other employees helped coordinate in Oxford. The entire event took place in the Oxford Examination School, so I got to know that building quite well. Unfortunately, besides a few glimpses here and there, I wasn’t actually able to see much of the city beyond that. For international event experience in the first week of my internship, though, I’d definitely say it was worth it.

But I won’t bore you with the details of my love for the field of PR (like I just did yesterday). Instead, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of my trip to Oxford. Simply put, it was breathtaking. I only saw a small portion of the area (from my hotel window which was lovely), but even a limited look at the City of Oxford made me realize without a doubt that in the very near future, I need to come back.

Oxford, England

Oxford, England