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As an International Studies student on the accelerated Drexel Law track, I have gotten a lot of questions from prospective students and classmates about how to study abroad—and what a “day in my life” entails while in London. I chose to study in this amazing city for the London Internship program, where I am placed in Parliament.
Here’s a bit of insight into what you can do abroad:
Starting my day early in the morning to pray (Muslims pray five times a day). Usually I would go back to sleep, but since it has been rainy in London the past few weeks in the afternoon, I have been running in the mornings. By 7:20 a.m., I am out the door. I try to run in a new area every day because it’s a nice way to discover London. So far I have run up to the Islington/Holloway area (home of the beloved Arsenal football team’s Emirates stadium), Holborn (home to the Arcadia London Center), and Hoxton (a trendy area filled with new restaurants). Today, I am running in Shoreditch! Shoreditch is known for its hip restaurants, thrift stores, and Brick Lane, which is famous for great international food and shopping.
Back and energized for the day! I quickly get ready. Today is a full work day at my placement in Parliament.
I have work from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Since it is rush hour on the Tube, I have to leave around 9:50 a.m. to get to work. But before I go, I make breakfast, which I do religiously since I believe it is the most important meal of the day and reminds me of my daily breakfast back home with my family. I pack a salad for lunch and walk to Old Street Station to take the tube, which is about six minutes away.
I am slightly late to work. I was supposed to be in the office by 10:30 a.m., but there is a large climate change protest outside of Parliament so it is hard to get to the front door. Eventually, I give up trying to enter the front and use the back way. I scan in with my security pass and FINALLY get to the office.
Barely 20 minutes after I reached the office after the hectic morning, my supervisor told me we had to go to the campaign hub in Wembley Park.
From Westminster it is about a 65-minute journey. With the possibility of a general election in Britain, we have to be prepared to go into full campaign mode. Here in the U.K., if the general election is called, everyone in office will have to campaign again to hold their seat even if their five-year term is not complete. So that means my member of Parliament (MP) will have to campaign in her constituency, and our whole staff will have to go door-knocking, phone-banking, and everything under the sun to get our MP elected again.
The office is located on Ealing Road, also known as “Little India.” The minute I stepped onto the street, I felt like I was in India, from the smell, the clothing stores, to the different temples and mosques around. My boss promised we would get Indian food for lunch, so I guess I will eat my salad for dinner.
We do some campaign work for a while, but around 1:30 p.m. I go next door to pray at the mosque, which is also next to a Hindu temple. Best thing about London is the diversity of faiths and ethnicities all in one city.
Time for lunch! The smell of samosas is in the air. We walk less than one minute away to this small store with fresh, vegetarian Indian food. My boss got us some samosas, potato biryani, jalebi (a very sweet dessert), and chili paneer (a spicy dish with cheese and some veggies). After lunch, we were ready to do some more work.
My boss and I were called back into the office. We were not expecting to return to Parliament today, but I guess we have to go on an hour train ride back! We quickly gather our things and walk through the rain to get to the train station.
We are back in Parliament, and more protests are outside. While I am working, I can hear protesters chanting for environmental action. I do a bit of casework that was left over from the surgery in the past week and contact Labour Party members. “Surgery” in the U.K. is a medical and political term. As politicians here like to say, holding a “surgery” is inviting the constituency to come and open up about their struggles with health care, housing, immigration, social welfare, and many other issues. The job of the MP is to do everything possible to help them—to “cut open” the problems of their areas and “take the bad out” in society.
I was supposed to leave by 5:30 p.m. today, but we were so busy that I wasn’t able to leave on time. I love my job anyway, so I was not in a rush to leave the office. Honestly, it just means that I may be able to avoid the rush on the Tube back home.
I am finally on my way out, but before I go, I have to stop by Westminster Hall to pray. In this building, they have a prayer room for all faiths. Before starting my job in Parliament I was worried about being able to find an area to pray, but I was so happy that there is a multi-faith space. It really shows how the U.K. has evolved from the past, and I cannot believe that I am praying in a building that is older than the United States. After, I quickly call my mom while she is at work and head to the Tube station. Absolutely crowded. I had to wait for two trains to pass because they were too full. A 30-minute journey back home is going to turn into an hour.
I managed to get on the Tube and transfer to the Northern line, but now I am stuck trying to get out of Old Street station. I have never seen so many people crowded into one area in my life. This picture I took does not even show the half of it. People poured out on the streets of the tube entrance at Old Street Station. All I want to do is to get out of this station.
I finally get back home. I have 30 minutes to eat dinner because at 8 p.m., I have a Facetime call with my internship adviser on the research paper I am writing, which is due by the end of the semester. I intend to write about the British surgery process and how constituents receive help if they are in need. In the United States, we do not have anything similar to surgery, so it interests me how involved the MPs are with their constituents versus congressmen in the U.S.
After the call with my adviser, I do my homework, prepare for tomorrow, and catch up with some of my flatmates. With such busy schedules, it is hard to get together with friends, but we manage to make five to 10 minutes to meet up.
I really should be sleeping, but I am Facetiming with my family. My family is extremely close-knit, so it is hard to be away from them. I make sure every night we have a long debrief about our days and catch up with each other. One month in, I am still trying to adjust taking classes and working. Today was a full work day, but tomorrow is classes and then work right after.
I finally head to bed. This day was absolutely hectic, but any day in London is crazy. I love working in Parliament and have gotten to do such amazing work. I do not have to go to class tomorrow until 10 a.m., so I should be able to get a good six hours of sleep. Every day, I am falling more in love with the city. Hoping to get some rest to prepare for the day tomorrow!