Levelling Up in London Brendan Smith ’24 worked in the British House of Commons as a parliamentary research intern in London.
“Public policy and good government can produce positive impacts for people across a country and, in some cases, the world.”
~Brendan Smith ’24
Name: Brendan Smith
Hometown: Poquoson, Virginia
Major: Global Politics
Minor: Law, Justice, and Society
Q: What factors led you to choose W&L?
I chose Washington and Lee University because of the incredible opportunities it offers. I could tell through my tour and research that W&L is a school that cares deeply about its students. W&L’s size allows faculty to craft personalized approaches to classes which was important for me as a student who easily falls behind in larger classes. W&L’s focus on skills like writing, speaking and research was also a large factor in my college decision as someone interested in law school.
Q: How did you choose your major and minor?
I chose to major in global politics because international affairs are deeply interesting to me. Managing relations between different countries and exploring how different people choose to govern is fascinating to me. I also enjoy global politics because solutions to a lot of the problems we face domestically can be found abroad if we look hard enough. I am also minoring in Law, Justice, and Society because of my interest in public policy and law. I enjoy volunteering and trying to help people in need, but nonprofits and NGOs are often limited in their reach. Public policy and good government can produce positive impacts for people across a country and, in some cases, the world.
Q: How did you find out about your summer internship? Did anyone at W&L help?
Ever since I arrived at W&L, I knew I wanted to study abroad. Although my professors have done an amazing job teaching me about global politics, I felt that I needed to go out and immerse myself in a different culture to be able to fully understand it, so I began looking for opportunities as soon as I arrived on campus. I found out about this opportunity by going onto the Center for International Education’s (CIE) database and then meeting with the wonderful Cindy Irby, assistant director of international education and the study abroad advisor at CIE, who walked me through the application process and helped me apply for grants to fund my experience. I am also grateful for help I received from Career and Professional Development and the Johnson Opportunity Grant program.
Q: Tell us about your internship experience. What did you work on and what interested you about this internship program in particular?
This summer I worked in the British House of Commons as a parliamentary research intern for Sara Britcliffe MP, a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) for education and Member of Parliament for the Hyndburn Constituency in Northwest England. A PPS is a junior ministerial leadership position directly under Ministers of State. This means that I got to work on several important education initiatives including a project called “Levelling Up,” which is an investment program designed to improve key public services such as public education and to revitalize communities that were left behind as the U.K. shifted to a post-industrial economy. One of my most important jobs was responding to constituent concerns. Each member of Parliament (MP) only represents about 80,000 people. As a result, most citizens are very involved in government and have relationships with their MPs. Constituents will often contact their MPs with questions about policy, government initiatives or local community issues. It was my job to make sure all of these individuals had their questions answered and concerns heard.
Q: What do you miss about W&L while you’ve been away?
Living in a big city is a lot of fun with tons of opportunities to grow and try new things – but nothing in London compares to the beauty of Lexington and the small-town, homey feel that I get every time I come back.
Q: Outside your internship, what have you enjoyed most about living in London?
Working in London has been an exciting learning experience, but outside of my work I enjoyed the friendly culture the most. I was afraid it would be very fast-paced and that people wouldn’t want to slow down to chat or rest. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Local Londoners were very friendly and loved having a good time. They were open to talking about the differences in culture and were helpful answering all the questions I had with far less judgement than I expected. I was also lucky enough to live in a flat with two other W&L students in London. I hadn’t met them before this summer, but it was nice to have some familiar faces to talk to before we all settled in.
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