“We have an intern position for you at Wimbledon!” read the email I received late this summer. My first reaction was to question whether it was the real Wimbledon—the world-renowned tennis tournament? Really? Wimbledon wanted me?
I had completed my internship application for IES Abroad only a few months earlier. As a journalism major, I simply hoped for a position relative to the field that would give me valuable new experience. Never in my craziest imaginings did I expect Wimbledon.
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum had no idea who they were getting – I’ve been swimming competitively since I was eight years old. I severely lack hand-eye coordination. I’m convinced tennis was the reason I received a B in gym class sophomore year of high school. I’ve probably watched a total of ten minutes of tennis on TV, but even that might be stretching it. I knew Andy Murray and I knew 0=Love. That was it: world’s worst tennis fan. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.
I arrived for my interview at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, otherwise known as Wimbledon, after an hour commute on the Underground filled with nervous thoughts, cautious excitement and plenty of hoping I wouldn’t trip in my heels. Upon my first steps into the AELTC offices, I could immediately sense the “British-ness.” It was fantastically overwhelming and incredibly intimidating at the same time. British culture was still brand new to me, and I was eager to soak up every bit I could. But how? Would I fit in? Would I forever be the awkward intern from America?
The interview went well and I started work a few weeks later. Although my internship had journalistic aspects, it was largely marketing-based. In other words, everything was fairly new to me. In addition to a brand new country, brand new culture, and brand new work environment heavily influenced by said brand new culture, I encountered brand new tasks as well. Despite the fact that this internship was far from what I had imagined, I think it’s proven more valuable than one more closely related to my career path. I’ve encountered countless opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone, learn new things, and add to my resume.
I’ve learned what goes and what doesn’t in a British workplace, the do’s and don’t’s of working at Wimbledon. Here are just a few:
DO make friends with the security guards. It makes the walk through the gates each morning exponentially more pleasant.
DON’T refer to the season spanning September-November “fall” in the first document you submit to your boss. In England, it’s “autumn.”
DO wait to see if it’s acceptable to eat communal food in the office, but after sufficient time is spent analyzing others’ behavior and eating is deemed acceptable, take a biscuit or piece of cake. It’s a cultural experience.
DON’T go crazy on the endless supply of coffee. It can have negative effects on both your ability to focus and your rapidly increasing need for caffeine on the days you don’t work.
DO enjoy the little things that make office life fun, such as your boss’ assistant’s discovery that the sticky parts of old Post-It notes make excellent keyboard dusters. (Really, go try it!)
DON’T be afraid to ask for help using the copier 6 weeks into your internship. Your lack of this trivial knowledge simply means you’ve escaped the cliché definition of intern work.
DO have lunchtime conversations with your boss about anything from Jane Austen’s greatest novels to the origin of language and the current plight of native populations. It doesn’t have to be all-tennis-all-the-time.
DON’T forget to interact with other people outside your department. British people love to say good morning and frequently answer “Yeah!” immediately after you ask them how they are. Maybe also ask them what they had for breakfast, go buy it, and hope that their cheerfulness rubs off on you.
DO try your best to act professional and embrace British workplace culture. Sometimes that means drinking a glass of champagne at a very large, elaborate and overwhelming tourism convention. Tough, I know, but just go with it.
DO embrace every chance you get to visit Centre Court. It’s magic rubs off on even the least enthusiastic tennis fans and has a tendency to make you really appreciate the opportunity you’ve been given.
Through my Wimbledon experience, I’ve had the opportunity to witness a CNN video shoot, attend the 2013 World Travel Market, learn about the tourism industry, become familiar with British paper sizes (A4, A5, etc.), and add several Wimbledon Champions and the years in which they won to my collection of random trivia facts. I’ve had so many chances to learn about industries I barely knew existed as well as to strengthen my journalistic and marketing skills. Working in a different country has given me experience I could never find elsewhere, and this experience will hopefully prove invaluable as I begin my search for future internships and jobs, regardless of which part of the world I find myself in.