The London Program at Susquehanna University (S.U.) is a semester long “study abroad” program for business students. The program is somewhat unique since the students all live and attend classes together, rather than being “on their own” as is true of many student exchange programs. The program is about twenty five years old now, and although it has changed a bit over the years (improved, I think), it remains a combination of academic and real world work experience, and short trips throughout Europe. S.U. is physically rather isolated in rural Pennsylvania (Amish country in fact) and our students are both small town locals and from the large coastal cities like New York and Philadelphia.
For the last ten years or so, the university has required travel abroad for all students to graduate, but these are usually short trips of a few weeks, not months and often involve some work in a not for profit organization rather than a business.
The last time I was here, instead of having internships, the students worked as a group on an intense consulting project involving research and presentations to executives of European companies looking to enter the UK or US markets. This year they all have two day a week internships mostly with UK based startups – each student is with a different company. This means the students experience work related stress all semester instead of a few weeks midterm (insert evil laughter here).
Most parts of the “welcome to London” events during the student’s first weekend here are worked out, with only small changes year to year: The main events are
- First there is a dinner and a pint at an traditional English pub the evening after their redeye flight in, including some comments directed at people who are not old enough to drink legally in the US but are legal here. Basically just common sense, pointing out that this is a drinking culture, but you don’t have to drink. If you don’t drink, don’t make a big deal out of it and embarrass your host; if you do drink, don’t get drunk and embarrass yourself. More about pubs here
- On Saturday an introduction to the underground train system called the “tube”, (not the subway, In Britain, you walk in a subway and ride a train in the underground) passing out their travel passes with a week’s credit on them and instructions on how to buy more , and try to get their phones working in the UK., followed by a trial trip via the tube to a museum and/or an afternoon “High Tea” and wandering in an upscale shopping district. The idea is just to go somewhere and return successfully on the tube when traffic is light. Riding it for the very first time on a morning when it is crammed cheek to jowl with commuters is just cruel. More on getting around London here:
- Always on a Sunday there is a crash course bus tour of the major tourist attractions (on Sunday the traffic in the old city financial district called “the square mile” is light enough to permit driving slowly and stopping often) More about the bus tour and “The City” here
- On Monday there is an orientation by the housing and classroom provider covering security and rules of the buildings , doing laundry, buying food and other necessities, getting around London by bus and by train, and filling out paperwork like time sheets for their internships, their visas, and their travel forms. It’s all a bit daunting, but the students seem to deal with it well enough.