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London Calling For students like Lourdes Arana '21, the London Internship Program combines course work, internships and alumni support to create an unforgettable educational experience.

“In the future, I will feel more confident when I interview or apply for jobs out of my comfort zone, knowing that I spent a summer working in a foreign country and a different work environment.”

~ Lourdes Arana ’21

lourdes4-480x533 London CallingLourdes Arana ’21 in London for the London Internship Program.

Hometown: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Major/Minor: Economics and global politics double major; undeclared mathematics minor.

How did you pick your majors and minor at W&L?

I’ve always had a great interest in politics and economics. In high school, my favorite subjects were AP micro and AP macro, and my favorite extracurricular was Model United Nations.

Aside from this, growing up in Guatemala, I was very aware of the political climate and the way it directly impacted my upbringing. I noticed that although the country was extremely rich in natural resources and culture, there was a great disparity between the top one percent and the rest of the population. Since a young age, I was exposed to the reality of my country, and through different volunteer opportunities, I learned more about the gender inequality, lack of social justice, and political instability that affected the lives of those around me. This motivated me to learn more about politics, and eventually I became a politics major.

Although I’ve considered going into party politics, I believe in making a change through NGOs and intergovernmental organizations. My last year of high school, I realized that successful politicians are knowledgeable in economics and finance. I’ve always loved numbers, and this was one reason I pursued an economics major. It wasn’t until coming to W&L and taking a class with Associate Professor of Mathematics Elizabeth Denne that I discovered that my love for numbers was far greater than I had previously imagined. She inspired me to pursue a math minor, and although I haven’t officially declared it, it is something I’m avidly pursuing.

Why did you decide to apply for the London Internship Program?

The London Internship Program captured my attention because it provides the opportunity for a cross-cultural experience, learning about contemporary British politics, and an internship in my field of interest. I’ve taken many politics classes through W&L’s politics department. I’ve taken classes on Latin American politics, American politics, but I’ve never had the opportunity to take a class solely about European politics. Taking a politics class about contemporary Britain during a time of uncertainty for the country was a factor I considered when applying. I knew Britain would be undergoing Brexit talks, but I did not expect to be in the country while the Conservative Party nominated a new Prime Minister.

I still have no clue what my career path looks like. I have a lot of different interests and I find it very hard to settle down. I hoped that by the end of London Week I would compare different industries and decide which ones aligned the most with my interests. The LIP program seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn more about my likes, my dislikes, and myself. Aside from the academics, I have always loved traveling, and this program combined the three things I love the most: politics, self-discovery and traveling.

Where are you interning during these eight weeks?

I’m interning at Rosa UK, a charitable fund that supports initiatives that benefit women and girls in the UK. Rosa partners organizations with corporate donors to benefit underrepresented women and girls all over the country. They acknowledge that while many women and girls in the UK enjoy the freedom of choice and have opportunities for success, this is not a reality for all. The organization was created to further women’s organizations seeking to make a change in the UK and create more awareness about the importance of women’s rights.

What’s been the most formative part of the internship for you so far?

I don’t feel like an intern at Rosa, I feel like part of the team. The tasks that are entrusted to me are projects that would not normally be handed to an intern. I’ve learned more about what it takes to run a successful charitable fund and to see the impact that my work has had on the office and the numerous organizations seeking funding through Rosa. Through this internship, I’ve learned more about women supporting women and empowering others to raise their voice. The most formative part has been reflecting on this experience and recognizing that I enjoy helping others and that my ideal job entails having a positive impact on my community. I’ve loved being able to represent Rosa at different events and to different social groups.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend a roundtable discussion held at Parliament about the gendered nature of mental health in the UK, and I met different MPs and discussed possible policy options to address this issue. This event, in particular, helped me see the other side of things and what it feels like lobbying government in favor of a certain policy. I’m a firm believer in Rosa’s vision and I hope that the organization’s efforts kick-start greater awareness of the women’s empowerment movement in the UK and abroad.

Group-shot-on-London-Bridge-with-Tower-Bridge-in-background-800x533 London CallingWashington and Lee students participating in the 2019 London Internship Program pause for a photo on London Bridge.

As part of the LIP, students take a course with Elizabeth Oliver and a course on Contemporary Britain that is taught by Andrew Blick in London. How have those classes prepared you for this experience and for what you may encounter after graduation?

Prof. Blick’s course has helped me gain cultural insight into the British. Not only have I learned about political processes on the other side of the pond, but I’ve also learned about British history and the way it has shaped Britain’s present. A lot of the challenges that the UK is currently facing can be traced back to centuries ago. For example, the growing tension between the different nations that make up the UK is nothing new, and as these tensions continue to escalate, the government must come up with new and innovative ideas to solve such challenges. Prof. Blick has done an amazing job of teaching us about the politics of a country that doesn’t have a written constitution.

On the other hand, Prof. Oliver’s class has helped me reflect on my time abroad. Keeping a journal for her class has been a creative and helpful way of reminding myself of what I did during my time in London. In a couple of years, I’ll be able to look through my journal and analyze how I solved challenges faced during my internship, then apply them to my future career. Her class has been a great way for me to stay true to myself and to learn more about English working culture. In the future, I will feel more confident when I interview or apply for jobs out of my comfort zone, knowing that I spent a summer working in a foreign country and a different work environment.

During London Week, LIP participants got a chance to visit with W&L alumni at their place of work, which included Harrods, Dow Jones, Channel Syndicate, Hearst UK, Google, and Goldman Sachs. What did you find most helpful about this experience?

London Week was one of my favorite parts of this program. Being able to visit some of those companies was a surreal experience. I never imagined I would be sitting inside the Google London office and chatting with a W&L alum. Listening to other W&L alumni discuss their career paths and how W&L prepared them for the future has been a very rewarding experience.

I’ve learned that your major doesn’t determine your future career prospects and that it’s not uncommon to change your mind halfway through your career. As someone who has a lot of different interests, I feel better knowing that many of the alumni also had a wide range of interests and they sought after a career that perfectly combined all, or most, of them. This has shown me that I don’t have to prioritize politics over economics and that it is possible to find a profession that combines both. Aside from this, I was very grateful for their career advice and their advice on making the most of my time at W&L.

What does it mean to you that so many W&L alumni devote time to experiences like this?

I’m grateful for their time to explain to us their job, their career path, and what to take advantage of during the rest of our time at W&L. The fact that they’re so welcoming and willing to talk to us shows me that despite not being part of the same class, they still consider us part of their community. It is clear that the alumni have a deep and special connection to W&L, and I aspire to have the same connection someday, so I can open my doors for other students, like me, who are still unsure about what they want to do in the future.

Has this program helped you to develop closer relationships with some of the students with whom you are traveling?

I’ve become so much closer with other sophomores that I only knew by name. I had seen a couple of the other students in some of my classes but I had not had the chance to interact with them the way I have on this trip. Not only have we all become close travel companions, but we have also built a strong bond over watching the English and our obvious “Americanness.” I’ve specially built a close bond with my roommate, Emma Wilson ’21, a fellow economics and math major. We’ve become great friends in the past seven weeks and I hope this friendship will transcend into the school year.

What would you say to a student who is thinking about applying to W&L or attending W&L?

If you’re thinking of applying, do it! You definitely won’t regret it. W&L has so many amazing opportunities to offer that you won’t find anywhere else. My advice for students currently attending W&L is that they should consider studying abroad. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Paris, and now to London, through W&L’s study abroad programs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Career and Professional Development Office is a great resource for all W&L students that need career advice. Make the most of your college years!

Lourdes1-480x533 London CallingLourdes Arana ’21