Across the Pond This summer, Washington and Lee students experienced life in London as part of an immersive program offered through the Williams School.
Summer offers Washington and Lee students time to stretch their wings and explore, and for 16 students, the summer of 2023 included eight weeks of getting to know one of the world’s oldest cities. The W&L London Internship Program is a unique opportunity for students to take classes while gaining internship experience — all while exploring a new country.
Designed for rising juniors and seniors, the program includes two courses for W&L credit, a politics class on contemporary Britain, along with an internship class. The six-credit program works with Accent, a provider that helps match internships to the student’s interest. Students work 20 hours a week in an unpaid internship, with Mondays set aside for coursework and excursions related to topics discussed in class, including tours of the Houses of Parliament, the Imperial War Museum, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Supreme Court and the British Library. It also offers day trips to Blenheim Palace and Oxford, and two overnight excursions to Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The program was the fourth abroad experience for Kelly Hayes ’24. Hayes spent her summer interning at the Center for International Learning and Leadership (CILL), which acts as an education consultancy and policy firm in London with a focus on international education for young people.
“I would say that this is a program that’s undoubtedly worth doing,” Hayes said. “You have this built-in network of W&L students with you, but you also have every opportunity to go and meet people in a wonderful city.”
Elizabeth Oliver, associate dean of the Williams School and director of the program, said this experience is one of the most rewarding aspects of her job. Oliver launched the program in 2010 and oversees the course credit portion of the internship, for which students submit written reflections and create a presentation for their final project. Each year, she travels to London with the students for their orientation and returns during their final week for presentations.
“This was an amazing group of students who came from diverse backgrounds,” Oliver said of the 2023 cohort. “It always strikes me how the need to simply balance work, class and day-to-day needs in a new city provides a unique opportunity to grow for all of our students.”
Students attended classes on Mondays taught by King’s College of London professor of politics and contemporary history, Andrew Blick. Class sessions included a weekly debate where students research opposing sides of a topic, an aspect of the class Addie Cheek ’25 said was one of her favorites, along with excursions to culturally and historically significant sites.
“I am really thankful for those experiences being built into this program,” Cheek said. “It would have been harder to see all of these things on our own, and all of the visits have been guided so we’re still learning so much at the same time.”
John Jensen ’01, executive director of Alumni and Career Services, has been involved with the program since 2011. He has helped to add and shape programming during London program participants’ first week in the city that has subsequently served as a model for other career exploration trips now offered by the university. The program’s first week includes visits to alumni working in a variety of career fields in London, along with time for networking with the university’s only international alumni chapter.
“London has really attracted more of our alumni in recent years,” said Jensen, who previously lived and worked in London, “so it’s really allowed us to grow the program and offer more interaction with our alumni.”
Morgan Hill ’07 hosted an informational session for students at her law firm, Kirkland & Ellis International LLP. She said she was impressed by the caliber of participating students and the breadth of internships offered to them — a testament, she said, to W&L’s broader commitment to student development.
“My experience was that W&L is a place you can really make yours, while still feeling that you are a part of the whole,” Hill said. “It was where I started to develop confidence in myself and my capabilities. That sense of self that you gain when you’re in college is just so important, and I think programs like this one show students how many different paths there are.”
Robert Ludwig ’02, chief operating officer for venture capital firm Hoxton Ventures, had a keen interest in offering an internship position for the program. This summer, he was matched with Evie Otis ’25. Ludwig said his goal was to provide Otis with substantive, resume-building experience in the field.
“This program is a very unique combination of both the summer study abroad experience and work experience, especially given that it’s timed during that second summer, between your second and third years,” Ludwig said. “It’s often harder to find a substantive work experience that then sets you up for that critical third year of college. I would have done this program in a heartbeat if it had been available when I was a student.”
Otis, a history and accounting double major, worked with Ludwig’s team on data migration and analysis. Otis said the program was perfect for her combination of interests, allowing her to explore London’s rich cultural history while gaining valuable professional experience in her chosen field of finance.
“[Ludwig] was very thoughtful and intentional about how my time in the office was structured,” Otis said. “I had the opportunity sit in on a variety of internal and investor meetings, and the team was so helpful in providing me with context and getting me up to speed as we worked together.”
Janie Spedale ’25 interned with the group Art in June, assisting artist Sally El Dars with marketing and promotion, followed by an internship helping artist Eldi Dundee curate an art exhibition. Spedale, an art history and business administration double major, said the program blended her academic interests.
“I loved the fact that I would be taking a W&L class, so I knew I could rely on it being engaging and challenging,” Spedale said. “I also really appreciated that this program would not only introduce me to new people while I was abroad, but also introduce me to more of my W&L peers with academic paths that would not usually cross mine.”
Medaly Cardenas Retamozo ’25 said that while the London program cohort was learning to adapt to the cultural nuances of London, the group may have injected a bit of W&L culture into the heart of London as well.
“Although there is no speaking tradition, I still found myself saying hello or smiling to people in the local Sainsbury or Tesco,” said Retamozo, “and they would usually smile back.”