Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Return to the motherland

When I came back from my trip through the UK and Ireland at age 12, I told my mom “I am going to live in London when I grow up.” As I set out to London this time, I wondered if it would hold the same appeal at age 20; and I can say with complete certainty that it did. After living in Copenhagen, which seems almost like a bubble that exists completely outside of reality, being in London felt something like being doused in cold water: shocking and refreshing at the same time. London’s grit and diversity stood in such contrast to Copenhagen that I felt as if I had traveled continents away and the fast pace, hustle and bustle, and big buildings were exhilarating, almost like a shot of adrenaline.

At age 12, I fell in love with London’s culture and history; at age 20 I fell in love with its corporate world. On our bus tour of London, our guide said that the uniform of Londoners is a pinstripe suit, with a briefcase in on hand and a newspaper tucked under one arm, and this couldn’t be truer. Everywhere you see people rushing about; hurrying on and off the Tube; clearly walking with a purpose to get to that next meeting. Because we were in London on a study tour for our News Media in Transition class, we got to see what is behind the walls of glass and steal that house gears of London’s corporate machine.

On day one we went to a TNS World Panel, a company that does market research for some of the world’s largest manufacturers, including Coca Cola and GM. There we learned about how TNS goes about gathering and analyzing data that they use to consult their client companies.
The next day we listened to a presentation about advertising and ethics at London’s only broadsheet newspaper, the Telegraph. After hearing over and over again that “print newspapers are dying,” it was refreshing to hear a perspective on what a powerful newspaper is doing to adapt the digitalizing world. And although what we heard was a bit too rosy and cheery in light of the current economic crisis, it was interesting to see how the Telegraph is reorganizing to accommodate new media and the demand for online content. In fact, we got a tour of their modern new headquarters which reflect the changes that the Telegraph’s making: no long is their newsroom a sea of cubicles full of journalists going about their own business, it is a designed like a wheel, where each spoke is a different branch of the paper with a hub in the middle making each branch easily accessible to the others.

Of course it was interesting to see the innovation going on inside of the Telegraph, but it didn’t change my opinions on journalism as a career path for me, but our final visit to Edelman, a global PR agency, was a different story. This was a company that was taking globalization by the reins and embracing the changes in the world of advertising, marketing, and PR. To say the least, this is a company I would love to work for, and I left the presentation wondering what it would take to get a summer internship there. First of all, when we walked in, it was obvious that Edelman was not stuck in the old ways. The interior was contemporary and artsy, nothing like a traditional office building; the employees were young and fashionable, working away on state of the art computer equipment; there were meeting areas furnished with leather couches and there was even a bar and café where we saw employees working on projects together. In the presentation, we listened to how Edelman is working on making their office a reflection of what they are doing in the PR world by facilitating conversation and exchange. They also talked about how advertising, marketing, and PR are merging and what Edelman is doing to cope with this. I was fascinated.

In contrast to all of this, Oxford was the essence of academia. We left London for Oxford to hear a lecture on journalism in Iran (which turned more into a lecture on Iran and politics) which definitely appealed to the International Studies scholar in me. But even the town emanated a scholarly feeling; its gothic architecture and polo-wearing Oxford boys outdoing any Ivy by a million. And while we got a real taste of British business in London, our British emersion continued with pub food, taxis and a boat ride through Oxford.

All in all, my second British experience was more than I could have asked for, and I will be doing what I can to come back as soon as possible…hopefully as a resident.

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