New York, New York: Interning in the Big Apple By Sophie Cowling

Sophie CowlingWhile I am yet to have a rat run over my feet, cry on the subway or steal a cab from someone when hailing on the street (things which officially qualify you for ‘New Yorker’ status) I have now been living in NYC for three months and it has become my home.

I am here as one of only four students from Birmingham doing an internship rather than attending an American/Canadian University. My internship is with British American Business and my role is in Communications – an area I’m looking to work in after graduation. I originally decided to apply for the internship instead of the Universities as I wanted to gain experience in the US work environment whilst also living in arguably the most exciting city in the world.

Knowing only two people in the city (but with family friends relatively nearby in Boston) it was also the biggest and most challenging thing I have ever done.

Visiting New York for a few days on a holiday is one thing, but arriving to live for ten months knowing only a couple of people is definitely overwhelming for the first few weeks. This lasts until you form a new routine and familiarity with your new life when the excitement of living in the city takes back over. Something to bear in mind for those thinking about applying for the internship is that the friend-making process is extremely different than in a University setting. The people you encounter at University are all in a similar situation to you but in a city like New York everybody is at different stages and in di?erent situations. While I have been relatively lucky with the friend situation – I have been introduced to friends of friends and have now got a great group of fun people to socialize and enjoy the city with – it is important to know that it is not an easy initial transition.

New York has been an incredible city to work and play in. My walk to work every day consists of walking up Seventh Avenue (fashion district), through Times Square, past Bryant Park, the beautiful public library (where Carrie almost marries Big!) and towards the Chrysler building to my offices next to Grand Central Terminal. My work networking events have taken place in some incredible locations too, such as a networking breakfast on the 35th floor of a brand new office building overlooking the Empire State building and our Transatlantic Business Awards Dinner was held at the Pierre Hotel on Central Park (where our Christmas luncheon is taking place in a few weeks). I have to keep reminding myself of where I am and how different it is from sitting in the library or walking onto campus every day.

It is crazy how walking out of my building in the morning and seeing the Empire State Building now feels completely normal and familiar.

Some of the great social New York highlights I have had include attending the US Open at the beginning of September, cheering on Andy Murray with a few Brits who happened to be sat next to me in ‘Team GB’ tops. I also went to Fashion’s Night Out, have attended a charity gala at Cipriani’s and last week saw the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. There is so much to do in the city I am barely ever at home – choosing instead to spend my weekends wandering around Soho or the West Village and my favourite Sunday activity of walking through Central Park. The great thing about New York’s location too is the proximity to Boston and Washington DC (both 4 hour bus rides) and I have spent several weekends away here to unwind from NYC for a few days while exploring a new place.

Working for a company rather than attending a University has really thrown me into the ‘real world’ of living in a huge city, on a budget, in my early twenties – working 9 to 5. Unfortunately however it’s not ‘a way to make a living’ as the internship is unpaid. This is an inevitability of interning at this age but it does take a lot to live in such an expensive city for a long period of time unpaid and isn’t a decision you should take too lightly. In spite of not being paid and the huge culture shock of being thrown into a 9-5 work environment rather than University – the experience is invaluable. The skills I have learnt in and out of the workplace will enormously help the transition from graduation to young professional when I finish my fourth year at Birmingham, and the networking I have been exposed to here will (?ngers crossed) assist me getting a job in the first place. I am so much more independent and self-sufficient than I was three months ago and am relishing the opportunity to live and work in a place that is so exciting ALL of the time. (For example: I went to the bookstore Barnes and Noble the other day to do some work and there were people lining up around the block because Johnny Depp was there doing a book signing. This is not a normal iLounge occurrence in Brum!)

This week is Thanksgiving which means the office shuts on Wednesday and I can go and have a pre-Christmas feast with my family friends who live in the city. The Christmas build-up is already in full swing here and NY really is the most festive place to be at this time of the year!

Sophie has returned to University of Birmingham and is in her final year of ACS and English Literature (JH).


An Intern in Chicago by Jo Goldhawk

jo chicago 2

I was one of the few of us who decided that we’d go the “unusual” route for our year abroad and apply for the internship program just to see what happens… Before I knew it I had a place to work for the British American Business Council in Seattle (Yes, it says Chicago in the title, wait for it…) and was so excited, Seattle is the birthplace of Boeing and Starbucks and Nirvana and how can this be a bad idea? To bring this fairy tale to its abrupt end my BABC placement fell through. (A few choice swear words were used at this point…) My second placement was brought together very quickly for a small orchestra called Baroque Band in Chicago. I knew nothing about Chicago, except that the Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Dark Knight were filmed there and Al Capone was once a big deal there. I figured it’d be decent weather (lies, currently snowing as I type!) and since I’d never been to Chicago or Seattle I figured it was a good decision, much better than trying to reorganise my whole year abroad.

I’ve been in Chicago for just over 6 months now and I adore every second of my city. Of course there are days when I’m tired of it and wish I was back in Bristol, but that’s probably because I’m bored of the constant questions about my accent – for the last time America, I’m not Australian!

My internship is so much fun, I can be creative and organising an orchestra is no small feat. I work hard and sometimes think I work harder now than I did in my first two years at Birmingham… Being unpaid is probably the worst part. American companies don’t generally pay their interns and Baroque Band couldn’t afford to pay me anyway but I’m doing ok! My weekends in Chicago aren’t ever boring, I’ve been to drag show bars, free comedy shows, the zoo too many times, visiting different neighbourhoods, soaking up the baseball game atmosphere, art galleries, museums and admiring the views of Chicago’s epic architecture. Chicago has great transport links within the city itself and outside I’ve been to New York on obscenely cheap airfare and to Memphis on a very long, long, bus ride. (Lucky enough I had a rather good friend with me to enjoy it with!) There’s nothing like standing on the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and knowing that you’re stood in a spot where something happened that changed the course of history.

I won’t lie, it’s hard being in a city where you don’t know anyone. It is so much harder than our first year in university where there were plenty of events and alcohol fuelled nights to make your best friends for the year, whereas here I have to make a real effort and talk to anyone. It’s even harder being away from my friends and family at home but I wouldn’t change my decision for the world – I’ve made some great friends here, made some great memories and feel more grown-up now than I did before I left. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I’m more passionate about my degree and my future as well as dying to travel some more! If you’re wondering if you should do something different with your year abroad and do the internship program, do it. The cities we got are epic (New York, San Francisco and Chicago) and none of us can say we’re not having the time of our lives!

Jo Goldhawk is back at University of Birmingham studying American and Canadian Studies (SH)

BABC Intern Hannah Keen talks San Francisco

  • by Hannah Keen

Ocean Beach, California

People don’t ever tell you how hard it is to move to a city by yourself and not have a soul you can call a friend. When growing up, your friends are pretty much ready made through school, college and clubs – as kids you have that thing in common, and you’re steadily moving through life at the same steady pace, going through the same processes. But as an adult it’s different. People have chosen their routes, their paces of life vary and each person has created their own life – preoccupied by work, bills or their own families.

As I watch the world go by from a Starbucks window here in San Francisco, you watch people’s varying pace of walking, styling of dressing, but all hold a façade of togetherness – even if it is under their sunglasses which Californians wear religiously even on the subway (which in SF we call the BART line).

I’m new, have no friend or family to hold my hand on the lonely trawl called house hunting, and I also have learnt that hiding behind my sunglasses is the best way to mask my fear.

But, if you remove your sunglasses and turn to the person next to you in SF, either on the tram, in the caféor standing on the pier watching the Pacific, you’ll find they’re the friendliest bunch of interesting people you’ve ever met. No one’s story is dull, no one’s day is normal – to an English girl like me anyway – and each encounter, conversation and person slowly reduces that feeling of loneliness that every newbie feels.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough and tiring to constantly put yourself out there, but what’s the worst that can happen? They ignore you? That won’t happen, people here in the city openly chat to the tramp on the street.

Moving to San Francisco maybe the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and these first few days have been a massive emotional roller-coaster – A ride I won’t be off for a while – but there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be right now. This is the biggest opportunity of my life so far and I intend on grabbing it with both hands, and enjoying every (currently sun filled) moment.

San Francisco is the city at the end of the Rainbow. San Francisco does not care who you are, what you’ve done, what you do; your race, gender, sexual preference, choice of poison or ‘air’…‘Cisco only cares that you accept all of the above and maintain your open mind. I am yet to meet a true San Franciscan – someone born and bred here – everyone I’ve met so far has been drawn here by the rainbow. No one cares about the past, it’s all about the future you can make.

Hannah is in her final year at University of Birmingham studying ACS and Business

Joe Kerry on Ole Miss

Joe Kerry on Ole Miss

Unfortunately there are no places available at Ole Miss this year, but Joe’s reflection on the University of Mississippi provides a unique insight into life in the South.

When I first arrived in Mississippi, I was struck by the famous ‘Southern Hospitality’ that the state is known for – walking from the hotel, suitcase and guitar in hand, no less than three people stopped by me in their cars and offered me a ride. People are friendly to a fault here. I managed to get a job at the Starbucks in the Ole Miss library, thanks to my J-1 visa. My Yorkshire accent has meant explaining to excitable American customers that, no, I’m not from Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa – I told one poor girl I was French, and she believed me – but I’ve met some great people through working there, and I’ve learned that the people here are genuinely excited to have an international student amongst them.

I live on off-campus accommodation at University Trails. It’s cheaper than living in Selly Oak, and has a free gym and a swimming pool. Most of the international students live with other internationals, but I ended up living with three American law graduates: one from Alabama, the other two from Mississippi. Sometimes, I feel a little like the odd-one-out – they’re graduate students, they’re religious, and we position ourselves at the opposite end of the political spectrum in some respects – but they’re all great guys, and it has been fascinating and eye-opening to talk to and live with people who are so different to me.

American FootballThe university’s American Football culture is fantastic. For every home game on a Saturday, students and locals alike head to the Grove in their thousands and take part in ‘tail-gating’ – the beautiful, green heart of the campus fills up with colourful tents, and even more colourfully dressed Ole Miss fans, who are more than happy to offer you a beer in a red cup, or a plate of delicious Southern food likefried catfish. I’ve watched the Ole Miss Rebels defeat Central Arkansas and get crushed by the University of Texas, and both times the 60,000-strong crowd has never relented in its chanting of the team’s ‘Hotty Toddy’ rallying cry. The great thing about being in America, in any of the states, is the prospect of travelling and experiencing new things. Oxford is close to Mississippi’s border with Tennessee: the international students travelled Joe Kerry at Gracelandup there to visit Graceland, Elvis’ mancave-come-mansion. Last weekend, we travelled up to Memphis again, stopping on the way to see the mighty Mississippi River, and spending the day exploring Beale Street, the blues Mecca of America: we finished the trip by watching the Memphis Grizzlies extinguish Lebron James‘ Miami Heat. Me and my fellow ACS student, Sophie Hay, will soon be piling into my American friend’s tiny car with two other international students and heading to New Orleans, Louisiana, and then onto Mobile, Alabama for Thanksgiving break. It’s also relatively cheap to fly between states. Last month, I flew out to visit my girlfriend Nula, who is studying at Pitzer College in California. I went from having a coffee in a small town in the South, to walking down Hollywood Boulevard in the space of 3 days!

kerry-miss-3Oxford is a small college town, so there’s nothing like Gatecrasher (thank God) or Snobs to be found anywhere, but the bar scene is fantastic – the Square comes to life on a weekend. The music scene here is great, too. From indie to alternative, back to country and blues, there’s guaranteed to be live music on the Square on any given night. I regularly play guitar with local musicians at open mic-nights. Mississipi is of course one of the birthplaces of the blues – B.B. King, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker were all born here – and I’ve even played the blues at a bar on the Square with one of my lecturers, the respected harmonica player and blues scholar, Dr. Adam Gussow.

The University of Mississippi has a real claim to being cemented firmly in American history. Mississippi was the second state to secede from the Union, hot on the heels of South Carolina. Its entire student body volunteered to fight for the Confederacy: the University Grays, as they came to be known, had a 100% mortality rate.

kerry-miss-4The Lyceum Building on campus was used as hospital during the War – a hundred years later, the building would feel the bullets of federal troops and angry locals during the infamous riot of 1962, when James Meredith, an African American, was integrated into the university. Early in the semester, I got to see James Meredith speak at a book signing, and I feel lucky to have seen a living, breathing figure of Civil Rights history in the flesh.   The university is celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Meredith’s integration, but the ghosts of the past still haunt the university. Mississippi is traditionally a Republican stronghold; disappointment and political protest was to be expected from Romney’s supporters after Obama’s re-election. However, some took it too far. There were reports of a small number of students burning Obama-Biden signs, chanting ‘the South will rise again’ and even making racial slurs at students on campus. Media reports of a riot on campus were hugely exaggerated, and there was a candlelit anti-racism vigil outside the Lyceum the next day, where student turned up in their hundreds in response to the ignorance of a few. Still, the shockwaves of America’s dark past are still felt today on the grounds of Ole Miss.

One of the reasons why I chose to study here is that I thought Mississippi would be a whole world away from my second home of Birmingham, and even further away from my native Yorkshire. I was more right than I could possibly imagine. During my time at Mississippi, and in America as a whole, I’ve done and seen things that I’ll never forget. Some things have been new and exciting; others have been enlightening for both good and bad reasons. I may be ready for home right now, but I know that come January, I’ll be eager to get back on a plane out to Mississippi and have another amazing semester.

ACS President Joe Kerry is back at University of Birmingham studying ACS and English Literature

New Brunswick (Fredericton University)

  • by Sam Wood

Students Going to Canada: Get this at the top of your TO-DO LIST!

THE STORY: FIRST AND FOREMOST, the  processing time for a Canadian study permit can  vary tremendously! I had my flight booked for 25th  August 2012, having only applied for my permit 2  weeks before. After I applied I noticed for the first  time on the Canadian government website that  study permits usually take 6 -10 weeks to  process:squeaky.bum.time.

I had applied for my study permit 14 days  before I was due to travel (and there was no way I  was going to cancel my non-refundable £700  flights), meaning I needed those 6-10 weeks to be  more like 6-10 days! Although I had filled out my  permit immaculately, every detail 100% correct,  every question answered perfectly, my aspiration to  study in New Brunswick for the year was looking as  bleak as a weekend summer escape to Hull (sorry  Walnut!).

I had heard tales from the storytellers,  mythmakers and legend-creators of old that some  permits could take 3 months to process, some 3  hours. I was father time’s bitch. However, a  miraculous event occurred (perhaps the most  miraculous event since the outcome of the Michael  Jackson court case in 2005) in which my study  permit was authorised within 5 days! No words can  describe how lucky I felt and how joyous I was. It  felt like I had scored the winning penalty against  Germany in the World Cup Final! CLOSE ONE! I am  now starting my second term at the University of  New Brunswick, Fredericton having the time of my  life! Anything and everything is possible on your  year abroad and the opportunities are endless!  Canadians are just the warmest of people, especially  here in the Maritimes. But I know I speak on behalf  of all the third year students studying in North  America at the moment when I say that everyone  (Canadian and American) is just so incredibly nice.

ADVICE: apply for your study permit as  early as possible! Do it before you book flights and  finalise your living arrangements! HOW? I applied for my study permit online using the Canadian  government website ( and went  through the necessary steps. The format has  changed slightly this year for online applications,  but the concept is the same.

First, you will be asked to register for “GC  KEY” which creates you a preliminary account for  applying for visas and study permits.

Second, you will enrol in “MyCIC” which is  the formal start of your study permit. The steps to  do this are easy and can be done quickly, but be  sure to remember your username and password  though!

Third, you will do the bulk of the permit in  the same way as an online interview. A number of  personal and security questions will be asked and  you will be timed to answer them (like when you  book tickets for an event online and it times you).  Don’t worry though! You can save your details and  come back to it another day, so the timing on your  computer screen isn’t really an issue!

Fourth, you will complete your online study  permit having double-checked your details and then  submit it to the embassy in London. The cost in  2012 was $125 CAD (£80) so get your cards ready,  and make sure you keep 2 copies of the receipt, just  in case!

Fifth, you are at the mercy of father time,  just like I was! Do yourself a favour and don’t do  what I did. In fact, the perfect way to apply for a  study permit is to do the opposite of everything I  did really. Don’t let the study permit get away from  your to-do list or put it off like I did. But at the same  time, don’t worry about it so much that it gets you  down. It really is an easy process! Once you fill it  out and get it submitted, all you have to do is get  unbelievably excited about all the fun you will have.  So don’t let the dreaded study permit get in the way  of one of the best years of your life!

Sam Wood is back at UoB studying ACS and History  (JH)

A Year Abroad in Kansas

  • by Samantha Tinsdeall

Samantha Tinsdeall in Kansas‘Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! KU!’, sunflowers and a sea of red  and blue aptly covers the most memorable motifs of my  year abroad in Lawrence, Kansas. The Midwestern  College is as invested in ‘school spirit’ as the portrayals  of US uni life lead us to believe on screen. The sprawling  campus (hills included – the complete flatness of Kansas  being a myth) is home to three sporting grounds for  football (American of course), Basketball (pretty big deal  at KU) and Baseball. The nature of these sports naturally  leads to tailgating, cheerleaders and subsequent Frat  parties, all of which are incredible things to see and  partake in -especially being British; the accent goes a  long way across the whole of Lawrence as well as campus. In particular the basketball games at KU are, in a word; insane. The stadium is routinely sold out and the Jayhawks make it the loudest stadium nationally, just to give you an idea of how incredible the experience is! No matter how involved with sport or like me how little you even registered it happening around you, at Kanas you can’t help getting excited about game days, even if your  excitement simply comes from standing in a crowd of ten  thousand with red and blue stripes on your face rather  than excitement for the actual game.

College basketballAs well as ticking many of the ‘all American  school’ boxes KU is also home to Massachusetts Street  (Mass Street), the main high street in Lawrence. The  street is made up of lots of little one-off shops that are  quirky and quite ‘hippyish,’ as well as a ridiculous  amount of small restaurants that are there to feed you  dishes from around the world (personal fave being a  Mexican restaurant). Along with a whole host of bars  each offering something a little different – from live  music, classic cheese (cocktail with beads included), a  take on both Irish and English pubs and also a few  ‘clubs’! On the whole KU is a College that is made up of  a lot of students from both in-state and out, surrounded  by one of the friendliest towns I’ve been to. The whole  experience for me was so laid-back and to re-emphasise,  unbelievably friendly. This is a simple gloss of my year  abroad in Kansas, so please if you have any questions  feel free to ask!

Sam is in her final year at University of Birmingham studying ACS and English  Literature

Halifax Lovin’

  • by Bethany Wells

HalifaxReading week is usually seven days of procrastination, napping, and not  feeling guilty for acquiring a hangover on a school night. However  forgetting that thing called a dissertation I traded this week of duvet  bliss in for connecting flights, jet leg, a spot of snow, and most  importantly a return to the maple-syrup-loving-land. I was in need of  washing away my year abroad blues. Yes this sounds pathetic but you  future year abroaders will experience this indefinitely on arrival back in  Selly Oak. Naturally the only way to do this was to return to the place I  called home last year: Halifax, Nova Scotia – located on the edge of east  coast Canada, but the heart of the Maritimes.

Rather than write a “dear diary” entry and bore the socks off  people I want to explain why Halifax has become one of my favourite  cities that made me return at the first chance I got and why you should  visit this Canadian wonder.

HalifaxHalifax has the promise of a big city with a small town heart.  Offering a slower pace and ridiculously warm hospitality, the Nova  Scotia City makes you feel appreciated and welcome rather than an  anonymous urbanite. Absolute gems of places can be found in the nooks  and crannies — you just have to look a little harder, my Lonely Planet  book didn’t always pick up on these hidden treasures. Downtown is  spoiled with the glories of cheesecake restaurants, vintage stores, live  music bars, delicious sea food places, and more coffee shops than you  can shake a stick at. A must visit place is “The Black Market”. The little  store sitting on Grafton Street proudly attracts attention with its  colourful hand painted exterior. However it is not the eye-catching  external making this place a must see. The inside looks like Aladdin’s  cave. The walls and ceilings are dripping with lots of little twinkly  wonderful delights. An endless collection of handmade jewellery, wall  hangings, lanterns and lots of other things that make the perfect gift or  selfish treat. Everything one of a kind and equally delicious.

After walking through all these culinary and crafty wonders  you are met by the wonderful waterfront. Whether snow, rain, or shine  the boardwalk and the harbour always offer a picturesque view. Down  this part of town you are welcomed by more restaurants, having the  added bonus of looking out over the water. The summer compliments  the waterfront best. There are ice cream shops galore, you can take a  dip in the outside multi-tier swimming pool, and often a baby seal or two can shuffle its way on the boardwalk and show some moves.

halifax-2Is unlikely you will ever be able to say “I was in the area” in  Canada as it’s so bloody huge, but if you ever do get chance to visit  Halifax it won’t disappoint. Going back as a tourist rather than a student  enhanced my vision of this even more. With a maple syrup farm a  stone’s throw away, a hockey stadium located at the heart of the city, the promise of meeting the friendliest people in the world, and a bus ride to the airport costing a single dollar, what are you waiting for?

Beth is in her final year at UoB studying ACS and English Literature