Column: My first day of work in London: UM student chronicles his journey abroad


Griffin Neal
Oxford Stories

My trek to my first day of work began rather bleak. A light morning drizzle quickly transformed into a heavy London rain as I walked from the Underground in search of coffee before my day began.

I settled in a traditional English cafe called Pickles and ordered a latte. As the waitress arrived with my order, she brought a small plastic container holding what resembled the complementary breath mints that insurance companies pass out, to which she eventually explained was actually sweetener.

They were indescribably small, so naturally, I popped in five or six. I soon came to the bitter – or sweet (?) – conclusion that each capsule packed the power of one Splenda packet, creating a rather potent, saccharine-dominated flavor.

My waitress, watching this all transpire, smugly asked if I wanted more coffee with my sugar, to which I could only respond with laughter. Despite my coffee bean, sugar water fiasco, my day was on the upswing.


The rain only intensified, but my walk from the shop to work came under the umbrella of various construction awnings that shielded me from the endless barrage of rain. Once dry, I was met with cordial introductions from everyone at the Local Government Association – a membership organization funded by the British Government that ensures UK Councils are well represented in the Halls of Parliament, and effectively my home for the next three months.

I was given a crash course in English politics, the state of disarray surrounding Brexit, and reminded on multiple occasions to drop the “ma’am” and “sir,” because unless I’m talking to the Queen, I should keep my Southern pleasantries to myself.


I left work in a state of near euphoria at all the opportunities it possessed, from meeting important leaders in Labour, to weekend conferences, to the potential for personal research projects. Walking out the door of the LGA, I moved up a stretch of pavement, covered in a deep, dark shadow. But this time, it wasn’t from the rain.

The clouds dissipated, and the sun beamed. I was standing in the shadow of the Halls of Parliament, flanked by Westminster Abbey and other imposing gothic architecture. Hundreds of years of leadership, innovation, and political philosophy were cultivated along this walk, and for whatever reason, it struck me at that particular moment.


Disclaimer: I do not think my semester-long internship qualifies me to compare myself to great philosophers or British icons, I’m definitely still a dumb college kid who has two suits and can’t figure out the subway system, but that walk from work was unusually sobering.

As I glance up from my keyboard, I witness an androgynous-looking individual taking elephant-sized bites out of a raw cucumber, in between gulps of an off brand energy soda. I feel like a character heading to the Capitol in Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games, not a 20-year-old kid from the South heading home from work, which is probably a good signal that I should retire from typing.

This was a lot of unnecessary detail but again, I hacked it away while on the ride home. I’ll write about cool stuff next time.

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