Vanessa N., KB131 15.02.2013
Experience report 1
Internship in London
(03.01.2013 – 15.02.2013)
1.1 Location and facilities
1.2 The CSE Team / Colleagues
1.2 The English courses
1.3 Working hours
1.5 Impressions of office training at the CSE
2.1 Arriving in London
2.3 Danielas shared student house in Tooting
2.4 Manishas shared house in Finchley
3 London in general
3.5 Tubes, Oyster card
3.9 Keep calm and carry on
Location and facilities
I am having my internship at the language school “Central School of English” (CSE) in Central London. It is located right to the tube station “Tottenham Court Road” on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. The Entrance is right between Primark and Burger King. You go a long staircase up and enter an entrance code, pass a little hall and have access to the reception and study centre on the right or you go upstairs to the classrooms. The teacher’s room is right next to the reception. It is used as staffroom in general.
The CSE Team / Colleagues
When I started my internship at CSE my superior Jerry (Principal of the School) was on holiday. I got to know Simon (Director of Studies) and Laura S. (Client Services Officer). Laura S. left a few days later to start a new job. Laura M. (Receptionist) came back from her holiday. Silvia (Account Services Administrator) works only in the afternoon.
From time to time David and other colleagues work at the CSE office. There is a successor for Laura S. meanwhile: Zenaide. She is in the early 20s and is in charge of customer service and Sales. She deals with enquiries.
Jerry and Simon are Scottish, Laura M. is Catalan and Zenaide is French. There are about five permanent teachers and a few freelancer. Simon also teaches from time to time.
My colleagues seem to be really young compared with my office colleagues during my last internships. The average age is somewhere between thirty and fourty years. I am really happy my colleagues are all nice, polite and funny. I totally feel welcome and accepted in the team.
The English courses
CSE offers different courses: General English, Business English, IELTS Preparation, Cambridge Exams Preparation, One-to-One lessons, Masterclass. You can choose between Intensive, Standard and Semi-Intensive level. It is also possible to combine group courses with One-to-One lessons. The students have classes in general from 9.00am to 16.00pm if they do an intensive course. They are taught in Fluency, Accuracy and Expertise/Skills. So the students are trained in spoken communication, fluency development, listening skills, pronunciation, written communication, reading comprehension, correspondence, sentence structure, use of tenses, vocabulary development, grammar practice, personal goals and study planning, study skills, English for career purposes etc.
I usually start on Monday’s at 8.00am and the rest of the week at 10.00am. I finish all week at 4.00pm but from time to time I’ll finish at 4.30pm, 5.00pm at the latest. I usually take my lunch break from 1.00pm to 2.00pm, but I agree in advance with my colleagues. So we are flexible with that. As soon as they are more students to come in the next season I might have different working hours.
My tasks are welcoming new arrivals, taking their passports and photos. I give them an information letter (update: a welcome folder), ask to fill in emergency contact details. I hand out grammar tests and ask them to fill them in in the study centre. I correct the results with a template, check the student’s VISA and make copies of passports and VISA. I put the VISA information into a file and send the information to the Principal of CSE.
CSE offers the students a social activities programme for every week. Once a week I inform the students in classes about the current social activities.
I print registers for the teachers and timetables (class lists) for the students.
I put the student’s attendance and absence in the classes of the previous week in New Eloise system. (Eloise = Electronic OISE; OISE is our partner school and we used to be one school together before)
I send a summary of the absence of students to the Director of Studies.
At the end of the course each student gets a certificate.
I print a Leavers Level List and get the grades for the students from the teachers so I can print certificates for the Leavers.
As we are expecting new arrivals I print welcome letters and send them to the students. Welcome letters include the time we want the students to arrive on the first day and information about the first day and directions. The International Student House (ISH) has to be informed about the new arrivals or students changing rooms on the upcoming weekend. Therefore I check student bookings for accommodation and update and summarise the information within a grid, which I send to ISH. For new arrivals I print labels for academic and student cards.
There is a blue box with academic cards. I put them into correct order from time to time. So the current students are ordered by names in alphabetic sort.
The new students are right in front and the students who already left are behind the alphabetic sort ordered by the week they left.
Silvia gives me supplier invoices to file. I put them in alphabetic order. I send payment confirmations to students and agents by e-mail.
I already dealt with enquiries, having direct customer contact in personal in our front office or on the phone, via e-mail. So this includes business correspondence.
I joined the Business course to get an idea of the content and also for my personal improvement. Maybe I will attend the Business course again during my internship or have a look at the other classes.
Apart from this there are always ad-hoc tasks where I can help out spontaneously.
It is planned that I will do internet research, e. g. searching for hotels near by CSE and ask for corporate rates (discounts) if we send students to them regularly.
I will also add host family introductory letters to our automated Eloise system (software). I will draw up info sheets, compiling information to pdf’s to send to the students and agenda about each of CSE’s residence accommodations.
Impressions of office training at the CSE
It’s a great training atmosphere and not so stressful as I’m used to it in Germany. There are busy days, but I’m often ready with my tasks before finishing time. So I offer my colleagues to help them or find out myself what I could do to be a helping hand. Sometimes I antedate tasks.
What I like is that my colleagues always have a sympathetic ear for me. Even when I am trained at CSE for six weeks now there are tasks which are routine and there are new tasks meanwhile. And I already know that there are going to be several tasks for me in the future which Jerry already introduced to me. So it is not going to be boring and I have something to look forward to.
Arriving in London
Arriving in London at Heathrow Airport was exciting. Many stairs, stairways and people. But that’s how it is at an airport. After taking our suitcases and before going to our hotel by tube we had to buy an Oyster card. It took some time to understand the principle of the Oyster card. You can choose between different options like monthly, weekly tickets etc. and you can top up money. The tube system is separated in 6 zones. The more zones your ticket includes the more expensive it is. Living in zone 1 is expensive, but a ticket for zone 1 is cheaper than a ticket for zone 4. Therefore living in zone 4 is cheaper than living in zone 1. The way to our hotel was exhausting because we carried our heavy suitcases and bags and there were a lot of stairs in the tube stations.
Arriving at the tube station South Clapham in Tooting we had problems with finding the street names. We couldn’t find the street names on street signs, but on the exterior walls of the houses on every street corner. The Euro Lodge Clapham Hotel is quite near to the tube station. After checking the rooms some of the group were really unsatisfied and even changed the room later on. The rooms were really small but we only paid little money so I didn’t expect a luxury suite. The breakfast was quite sparse: toast, butter, jam, cereals, milk, orange juice, tea and coffee. But it wasn’t that bad at all. We spent the most time in the common room, where we installed a little internet café with our laptops. We were busy searching for a room to live for 5 months and met our project leader Gerhard and Adrian to join the preparatory programme). After a few days in the hotel the group separated to live in different houses.
Danielas shared student house in Tooting
I moved in Danielas shared student house in Tooting (South London, zone 3). Daniela is German and moved to London about twenty years ago. She doesn’t live with the tenants in the house, so there is a lot of freedom for the tenants. Usually she let the rooms preferred to Telekom trainees from Germany. You can see that there is a higher standard in the house like Germans are used to it.
I chose to stay at Danielas shared student house before I arrived in London. Unfortunately it was too expensive for me to rent one of her rooms for five months. Nobody of the group wanted to share a room so we could share the rent. While I was at Danielas shared student house there were three male trainees from Deutsche Telekom AG from another city. I stayed for one week and I was a little sad leaving, because I felt totally comfortable at that house.
Manishas shared house in Finchley
I moved in Manishas shared house in Finchley (North London, zone 4) by the mid of January. Now I am living there for more than a month. Manisha is Mauritian. I have a nice big room with a bed, bedside cabinet, bookshelf and a wardrobe. The landlady lives with her husband and two children on the ground floor. The other tenants live on the first and second floor. I live with Holly and Veneranda on the first floor. Holly is from Norfolk, Veneranda is from Italy. Jenny lives on the second floor. She is my trainee colleague from Deutsche Telekom AG. We all have single rooms and there is a greek tenant moving in pretty soon on the second floor.
We have two bathrooms and one kitchen to share but we don’t have to share these facilities with the landlady’s family. There is a washing machine, microwave, water kettle but there was no cutlery at all. So we had to buy some stuff or lend from the landlady. Meanwhile she bought a kitchen table and chairs which minimises the issue not having a living room together.
There were and still are several problems with the heating (kicks in and out from time to time). Once there was no hot water when the water tank was finished and there was no gas. From time to time we have to deal with WiFi internet connection problems. There was no light on the second floor once, when one bulb broke, because it is a centralised system of electricity.
The landlady only lets rooms to girls, doesn’t allow male visitors to stay over night. So it’s a girls’ house and every one has to respect each privacy. There are a few advantages and a lot of disadvantages of living in a shared house. So it takes some time to getting used to live in a shared house.
We are the first tenants in the house and I guess the landlady has no experience in being a landlady. She is really nice to us but there are still some things we are not happy to deal with. In spite of that I think that Jenny and me can be really lucky to live in that house.
Manisha is a hospitably person on the one hand but on the other hand she seems to be mean when it comes to plow the tenants’ rents into the house to make it more comfortable for the tenants.
London in general
Be careful concerning road traffic. In London you drive on the left side of the street. Before crossing the street as a pedestrian you should always keep in mind in which direction to watch out first for vehicles. Or just read the instructions on the street saying “Look right” or “Look left”. I think that is really helpful when you’re not used to it, yet.
I recognised, there are only a few people with dogs and only a few pigeons on the streets.
People are really polite, nice and more relaxed. They tolerate each other which is a big deal because London is cross-cultural. I have the impression that the British people are more open with their feelings and honest to each other. I arrived in London six weeks ago and there were only three people being rude to another one. That impresses me a lot. I see many young people and there are only a few seniors. My grandma would get lost in London, because it is so crowded and fast.
I am not sharing the kitchen with a host family so that’s why I cook for myself. Since I am a vegetarian I didn’t try fish & chips or other traditional meals which contains meat. But I’ve tried Halloumi in a pub, which is a Cypress cheese, made out of cows, goats and sheeps milk. There are a lot of restaurants, pubs, food shops where you can get any kind of meal you desire. The Londoners are into Indian food which is totally my liking.
The weather is not so bad as I thought it would be. It is not raining every day. That is a myth. Actually the weather is really similar to the german weather and even nicer. We had sunny days but also cloudy cold days. And it’s still winter, so I am looking forward to spring. Let’s see how is spring in London.
Tubes, Oyster card
The tube system is really crowded and you have to deal with that. Although the system is similar to the tube system I know from Berlin there are more lines, stations, exits, stairs, long stairways and it’s deeper under the ground level.
The transport ticket system is also different. I have an Oyster card for
zone 1-4 because I live in zone 4 and I am trained in zone 1. You scan your Oyster card when entering and leaving a tube station or entering a bus. At the moment I am buying weekly tickets because I am waiting for my student Oyster card to arrive. It will save me 50.00 GBP on monthly tickets compared to the normal tariff. I should have known that before I went to London. I suggest you to care for an Oyster card and especially applying for the student tariff before London.
There are many people in the tubes who take a nap or women applying makeup to their face in the morning. People are not ashamed of showing their feelings and they behave in the tubes as if they were at home.
If you are pregnant you can wear a “Baby on Board” button so people will stand up for you offering you to take a priority seat.
I haven’t taken the time to explore the famous sights of London, yet. I’ve been to some locations (e. g. Piccadilly Circus, Camden) but I will do extensive sightseeing soon. However I am not a typical tourist whenever I travel to other countries. But it would be a pity not to take the chance to do some sightseeing while I am in London.
I am living in zone 4 and having my training in zone 1. I am familiar with the local area in Central London, Tooting and Finchley near my training place and the hotel, houses I used to live in and live. I still have to explore more places of London and surroundings. As the weather is turning better I am looking forward to go sight-seeing.
I totally adore living in London. Being in this city feels so good and there are many exciting things to explore. I like the city, people and I have a good feeling being in London. Although I do think of my family and friends, I don’t miss Berlin, yet.
Keep calm and carry on
This is my new credo since I am in London. You see this adage everywhere: on cups, posters, T-shirts etc. And this is how it is. London is a busy and crowded city. You have to keep calm and carry on. And this is how I also feel dealing with problems in the shared house. You have to have good nerves and be patient with people.
The background to the adage is a political one:
“Keep Calm and Carry On was a propaganda poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the aftermath of widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities. It had only limited distribution with no public display, and thus was little known. The poster was rediscovered in 2000 and has been re-issued by a number of private companies and used as the decorative theme for a range of products.” (Quote from Wikipedia)