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Brexit: Please don’t Leave

Whether you are for or against the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union, you must at least be aware of the consequences, the good and the bad, of such a sudden decision.  And unless you were living in the UK, as I was from January to April, you may not have heard too much about the “Brexit” situation, otherwise known as the decision as to whether or not “Britain” should “exit” the European Union.  The potential benefits and far-reaching implications, however, are not isolated to Britain but could impact the entire European Union (EU) and moreover the larger global community of trading partners and investors, including the United States.

First, I should start with some background on the decision: the UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a referendum will be held this coming Thursday on June 23rd to decide whether or not the UK will remain a part of the European Union.  A referendum is essentially a vote where everyone can cast a “Yes” or “No” answer to a question, with a simple majority declared the winner.  The European Union is, quite simplistically, “an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries” that began after World War Two and strives to form an “ever more closer union” between its member states.  The reason a referendum is being held in the first place is because many politicians and citizens have been calling for a new vote on whether or not to stay in the union, arguing that Britain is being held back economically and philosophically by the rules and laws to which it is bound by being a member state, including environmental, transportation, and consumer rights laws.  The individuals and parties who want to stay in the union essentially argue that EU membership gives Britain many distinct advantages – access to more labor and capital, a better trading platform (the common market), status among other developed nations – that outweigh any disadvantages in retaining membership.  The vote is fairly split, with no clear winner guaranteed (Hunt “The Uk’s EU referendum”).  If this seems complicated now, just understand that leaving the EU would result in hundreds of other issues having to be examined, from the UK’s involvement in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States to the minute details of the protection of endangered species of bats in the UK under the EU’s endangered species laws.

Moreover, the exact results of leaving the EU would be effected by what kind of relationship the UK would have after the separation, and there are different types of relationships that could be established.  For example, the UK could adopt a Norwegian model, in which the UK would still be involved in the European Economic Area, or the UK could structure its relationship along the lines of Switzerland, which means a series of bilateral accords governing access to specific sectors of the common market or a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) (“BREXIT: The Impact on the UK and the EU”).  However, no matter which type of relationship the UK decides on, there could be serious implications for individuals, businesses, and countries across the globe.

For individuals, one item that should have significant impact is the falling of the British pound to other currencies around the world.  The pound has fallen around 5% against the dollar so far this year, hitting the lowest level in more than 6 years, and falling against the Euro by about 12% since November (Imbert “‘Brexit’ Could Deal”).  This means rising prices for the goods and services that UK residents purchase both at home and abroad, which could become far worse if the Brexit were to actually follow through.  Consumer’s also currently benefit from the lack of trade barriers with EU countries, and the risk that consumers could lose this benefit may be spooking forex markets, an ominous sign of what may be to come considering how much trade the UK conducts with the EU (see Appendix 1) (Dhingra, “Should We Stay or Should We Go Now?”).  Moreover, the 5.5 million Brits abroad could lose a lot of the benefits currently afforded to them including National Health Service insurance and pensions, a serious issue to UK citizens that live, work, or study abroad for one reason or another (McVeigh “Brexit Anxiety Stalks”).  Another source of potential risk for the average UK citizen would be in the form of future jobs, however there is mixed evidence about the true impact that a Brexit would have on jobs.  “Leave” campaigners have seemingly debunked the myth that 3-4 million jobs would be lost if Britain left by pointing to a recent paper by the Institute for Economic Affairs which makes the conclusion that “‘Jobs are associated with trade, not membership of a political union…’”  Meanwhile, “remain” campaigners argue that while current jobs are less at risk for disappearance, future jobs are the ones that are truly at risk, particularly in the foreign-owned car industry and financial services industry.  These sectors rely heavily on the UK’s membership in the EU, especially the 2.1 million people in the UK’s financial services industry, which has a special dependence on EU Internal Market legislation combined with UK financial regulations.  Loss of the former would create an “untried, unknown and unpredictable alternative” which companies would not want to invest future capital and talent into until a proven status quo is in place (“UK and the EU”).  Individuals would arguably be in a weaker position, both domestically and internationally, with regard to the detrimental effects that a separate United Kingdom were to have.

Businesses do not fare much better, and the findings on this are much less contested than the factors affecting individuals.  For one thing, businesses would suffer from the decrease in foreign direct investment that would surely occur from a split from the EU because, as the London School of Economics explains, “Part of the attraction of the UK for foreign companies is as an export platform to the rest of the EU, so if the UK is outside the trading bloc, this position is likely to be threatened” (Dhingra, “Should We Stay or Should We Go Now?”).  Maybe more significantly, EU states are some of the biggest contributors to UK FDI, contributing just over 46% of total inward UK FDI in 2013 and which the UK uses to secure the most FDI projects and jobs with that money of all EU countries (see Appendix 2) (“BREXIT: The Impact on the UK and the EU”)  And not much has changed since then, with the most recent statistics from 2014 showing that the UK received the most inward flow of FDI of all EU countries at 28% or about $35 billion.  (“UKTI Inward Investment Report 2014 to 2015”)  Another red flag for “leave” advocates would be the surveys of company executives about Brexit, which are resoundingly negative: 66% of British firms say that Brexit would negatively impact FDI in the UK, 29% say that a Brexit would impact whether their company would continue to invest in the UK and 36% say that the UK’s international competitiveness would be negatively impacted (“BREXIT: The Impact on the UK and the EU”).  As such, companies are already devising contingency plans for what to do, including moving production or staffing accordingly out of the UK to remain competitive with the larger EU (‘Brexit’ Prep: Are Corporations and Investors Ready?).  Businesses are doing what they can to prepare for a British falling out with its EU counter-parts, and the results can’t be good for the UK on the whole.

Finally, Britain doesn’t stand on good ground when it comes to the impact that the Brexit will have on not only the country’s own economy and political landscape, but also in connection with other countries that do business with the UK.  There would be some benefits, arguably very important ones, when it comes to Britain leaving the EU, including a savings of about £20 billion a year in dues to the EU parliament and greater control over a variety of regulations and laws, which all EU member states must follow, ranging from environmental protection to welfare funding.  But not only could these regulations and laws be renegotiated without Britain having to leave the EU, as they have already done and could continue to do in the future, but that £20 billion doesn’t include the allocation that Britain gets from the EU and the rebate which Margret Thatcher negotiated for Britain in 1984, which reduces the real contribution to about two-thirds the original sum (“In, Out, Find a Fib to Shout”).  The economics of Britain leaving the EU could be discussed at length, which effectively stem from the disappearance of one of the biggest players from the “single market” and which economists from the London School of Economics have quantified as an overall -3.09% loss to the general welfare of the UK economy (Dhingra, “Should We Stay or Should We Go Now?”).  Furthermore, there are more dire implications of the UK leaving the EU: political pressure.  Chief politicians and economists like Italian finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan predict that a Brexit would open the floodgates to other countries that would want to leave the union, including France and several eastern-European countries, which have already seen anti-European sentiment growing since waves of conservative members have been swept into their legislatures (Wintour “Brexit would damage EU and UK”).  Nobody wants both a Brexit and a “Frexit”, which would serve to effectively disable and ultimately end the political and economic union that has lasted for over 4 decades.  Saving Britain might be the only way to save the European Union.

Individuals, businesses and countries are poised to lose much from a Brexit.  What little benefits the UK would gain from its independence would be wiped away by the struggle of competing and negotiating on its own, away from the relative security of the EU.  The costs of simply negotiating new FTA’s with other countries would diminish any cost savings the UK were to gain from not having to pay the EU its dues.  As the June 23rd is close at hand, UK citizens will have a simple choice to make, as long as the facts are carefully examined and that British citizens believe they are better together, which this author believes they are.

Works Cited

‘Brexit’ Prep: Are Corporations and Investors Ready? Perf. Iain Reid and Stephanie Flanders. Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 7 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-04-07/-brexit-prep-are-corporations-and-investors-ready>.

“BREXIT: The Impact on the UK and the EU.” (2015): n. pag. Global Counsel. Global Counsel, June 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.global-counsel.co.uk/system/files/publications/Global_Counsel_Impact_of_Brexit_June_2015.pdf>.

Dhingra, Swati, Gianmarco Ottaviano, and Thomas Sampson. “Should We Stay or Should We Go Now? The Economic Consequences of Leaving the EU.” Centre for Economic Performance (2015): n. pag. LSE. London School of Economics, Mar. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/EA022.pdf>.

Hunt, Brian Wheeler & Alex. “The UK’s EU Referendum: All You Need to Know.” BBC News. BBC, 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887>.

Imbert, Fred. “‘Brexit’ Could Deal Major Economic, Political Blow to EU.” CNBC. CNBC LLC., 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/01/brexit-could-deal-major-economic-political-blow-to-eu.html>.

“In, Out, Find a Fib to Shout.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 05 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21693943-voters-want-facts-about-britain-and-european-unionbut-these-are-elusive-out-find-fib>.

McVeigh, Tracy. “Brexit Anxiety Stalks the Costa Del Sol: ‘If We Quit Europe, Brits Won’t Buy Here'” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 05 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/mar/05/brexit-costa-del-sol-spain-eu-referendum>.

“UK and the EU: Better off out or In?” BBC News. BBC, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32793642>.

“UKTI Inward Investment Report 2014 to 2015.” GOV.UK. Crown, 17 June 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ukti-inward-investment-report-2014-to-2015/ukti-inward-investment-report-2014-to-2015-online-viewing>.

Wintour, Patrick, and Rajeev Syal. “Brexit Would Damage EU and UK ‘politically and Economically'” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 06 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/mar/06/brexit-damage-eu-uk-politically-economically-italian-minister-padoan>.

Reflecting on London, Looking Toward the Future

My last day in London was pretty bizarre.  I photographed the President of the United States at work, I had one of the most extravagant milkshakes of my life (topped with a face-sized cookie and a blow-torched marshmallow), and I said goodbye to some really amazing coworkers and friends.  I guess now that I’m typing it all out, it doesn’t sound so “bizarre”.  I mean it wasn’t as if I went to the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” in Piccadilly Circus?

No, I think the strangeness of the day came from the realization that it was that specific day, April 22nd 2016 that ended my study abroad experience.  I never would have believed that my last day in London would consist of being the POTUS photographer, consuming my weight in ice cream and milk, and saying goodbye to people I didn’t even know 4 months ago.  It was a weird feeling, but please don’t think I’m getting emotional.  While I loved every minute of my time in London, I knew it eventually had to come to an end.  Every one of us who studied abroad had to wake up to reality at some point.

Besides, I have so much to be grateful for from this experience. I grew professionally from my internship and personally from my coworkers at Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel.  The sites I’ve seen, performances I’ve watched, and the food I’ve tasted all contributed to my study abroad adventure.  I visited beautiful countries and developed a few British mannerisms.  Finally, the friends that I’ve made and the memories we made together all translate into one of the best experiences of my life and I plan on using all of them, the good and the bad, to find further success in the future.

So no, I don’t “miss” London.  I think I’ve gotten everything out of my time there that I possibly could.  I also do not consider myself a “Londoner” and no one who studies abroad in London for 3 months ever should; in reality we know much less about the global financial center with 10 million people than most of us would care to admit.  But I’m not concerned with what’s in the past.  I’m looking forward.

I have honed two very important concepts while abroad that I plan to capitalize on during the rest of my time in university: passion and confidence.  I have rediscovered and affirmed my passion for hospitality; that is the industry that I will enter and I will do everything in my power to prepare myself for a career in hospitality.  With regards to confidence, I’ve never been more confident in my abilities and my goals since studying abroad.  I now know what I want and I will not be afraid to do what it takes to go out and take it for myself.  Both of these ideas have empowered me to pursue big dreams back in the states, and I will not be backing down until I achieve success.

Stay tuned for more developments from my site, as I try to refocus and reorganize my brand.

Symbols are Connections; Connections are Symbols

I have been obsessed with the hospitality I have received from my friends and my colleagues over the past few months.  Everyone has been so welcoming and inviting and I am greatly appreciative of the kindness they have shown me.  However, I am now starting to consider the inherent meaning behind such connections to friends and colleagues, including one particular example at my internship the other day.

 

The griffin.  A symbol of majesty, power, and of course the JW Marriott Hotel brand.  I was finally given my griffin pin, which all employees wear to signify their unity and kinship to the organization.  It marks a type of union, an unspoken word of affinity.  As employees, we only need see the beautiful silver griffin on our fellow colleagues’ lapels to distinguish guests from fellow workers and to understand the connection that our pin represents.  Our griffins are also symbols of the amount of work that each and every JW Marriott employee does, day in and day out, for the benefit of our guests.  Our elite brand of hotel has a unique symbol because we are a unique group of employees; there are very few brands that can compete with the JW Marriott in terms of the quality of service that our employees offer.  We therefore wear a symbol of that higher caliber, and it means the world to us.

 

I was very grateful to receive my griffin, but there are more metaphorical symbols of friendship, connection, and empathy that I am also thankful for in and out of my professional life.  For example, the care that my colleagues took to make sure that my family’s trip to visit me here was fun and relaxing, from calling their hotel to securing a friends and family rate for their stay (since they stayed at a Marriott hotel) was far too much.  This symbol of friendship, the fact that my colleagues would go out of their way to help make sure my parents had an excellent stay in London, was so very important to me.  Another example are all the invitations I’ve received to go out and experience London with my friends.  From Windsor Castle to a local music festival, these gestures are symbolic of great friendship and very important to me as well.  These connections are also symbolic of cherished relationships, relationships that can last a lifetime, and by which I am almost overwhelmed with joy.

It is important to take stock of important symbols, whether physical objects or meaningful connections, at certain times in your life. The symbols that hold importance in your life are worth taking account of, and if you do, you may come across more than you bargained for, just as I have.

The Importance of a Work/Life Balance

This past week was our class’ spring break week, which for most people included gallivanting around Europe to exotic and historic destinations, maybe sipping some wine (or downing far worse), taking enough selfies and pictures of random buildings to fill 3 IPhones of storage, and of course contracting foreign diseases and bringing them back to London for me to sample, (thanks).  However, I wasn’t so “lucky” in my spring break plans, for I worked on Saturday of the week before last, in addition to Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at my internship.

 

Now before there are any judgements made, just know that I am in no way bitter about working over last week and that I actually enjoyed working over this time, since I was able to do some more unique tasks like supervising another intern and conducting site visits of other hotels and event spaces.  These are jobs I wouldn’t have had if I were to be found sitting on the beach in Spain or skiing in the Swiss Alps, and the point I’m trying to make is that I wanted to work because that is the balance I was looking for over my spring break.  I still had Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off to enjoy myself and relax from the hustle and bustle of the past 6 weeks, but I didn’t slow down so much that it would have been difficult to get back into the swing of things.  That’s the way a lot of people operate and it’s important to find the work/life balance that fits you.

 

The importance of a work/life balance cannot be understated and there are benefits and detriments of favoring one over the other.  The Mental Health Foundation of the United Kingdom estimates that 3 out of every 10 employees will encounter a mental health issue in any given year due to work-related stress.  At the same time, an article from the Harvard Business Review sets up a good debate between advocates of more “work” and advocates of more “life”, noting that not all employees are the same and some actually “feed off the urgency of the organization” more than others, leading to increased productivity and happiness for those individuals.

 

I don’t want to justify one lifestyle over any other because everyone is different, just as every job and every life lived is different, and prescribing one specific schedule that will work for everyone just isn’t possible.  At this stage in my life, I’m in the mindset that if I’m willing and able to work, and that I can gain something from the experience, then I will take that opportunity and dedicate that time to the job.  While that mindset doesn’t characterize all of my decisions concerning how I use my time (I do like to have fun on occasion), it’s more often than not the framework for how I can accomplish my goals.

 

But overall, I think I have the right work/life balance for a study abroad experience, especially if I include my education into the work side of the balance.  The important thing is for each and every one of us to determine what our own balance is, and fully commit ourselves to honoring that determination.

 

p.s. Just to prove that I did something else besides work last week, the featured picture is taken from the tour of Westminster Abbey I did just last Saturday.  It was astounding.

 

Check out these links for more information on work/life balance (used above in my blog):

 

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/w/work-life-balance

 

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/work-life-is-productivity-in-the-balance

Why We Shouldn’t Complain About Education, No Matter Where We Are

Over the past few weeks, now that I am comfortably settled in to my study abroad experience, I’ve been hearing some relatively negative things about my specific program and the country that we have been studying in (the United Kingdom for those just joining me on this journey).  Some people are complaining about the type of food served, the weather, the size of our accommodations, the internship is too boring, the classes are too hard, where’s the WIFI, etc.  While I admit that at first I was bothered by a few differences between school, work, and life here versus back in the United States (namely the lack of a dryer for my clothes), I’ve mostly adjusted to life here and there are a surprising amount of aspects that I prefer about life in the UK than back in the states (public transportation, the culture that’s freely available, and the fact that people are generally quieter, more polite, and better informed).  So while I believe that most of my fellow students are well adjusted, myself included, others aren’t so much.  Whether that’s due to homesickness or an unwarranted sense of entitlement is not as clear to me, but armed with the full knowledge that you miss your dear kitty Cat Benatar or just hate the fact that people drive on the opposite side of the road from Americans, I want to at least give some context as to how lucky we truly are as students to be studying abroad.

Let’s start with some basic information about who studies abroad.  According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA), less than 2% of students enrolled at an institution of higher education in the U.S. study abroad, representing about 304,000 students in the academic year 2013-2014.  These students gain a variety of cross-cultural skills, including easier communication between cultures and a better understanding of themselves and of their own culture, as disclosed in the Journal of Studies in International Education.  Moreover, a survey published by the Institute for International Education of Students (IIES) found that among the students who studied in their programs from 1950 to 1999 (with updated results in a 2012 survey), “96% have increased self-confidence, 97% feel more mature and 98% understand their own values more clearly.”  As students of study abroad, we are not only among a select few who have this very special opportunity but are also developing the cultural and emotional competencies to face much bigger challenges in the future.

When international internships are thrown into the mix, the results just keep getting better.  The same survey by IIES reported that 70% of students who had internships while abroad reported “ignited interest in a career decision after the experience” while 83% said that the experience “allowed them to acquire skill sets that influenced their career path”.  Furthermore, employers like the fact that students study abroad, to the point where they are actively looking for job candidates with international experience, a feature that is currently lacking in American businesses.  In 2014, a combined report by the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Memphis surveyed 836 different companies of all sizes and determined that 40% missed international business opportunities due to a lack of cross-culturally competent staff.  And these companies are looking for more and more people with both hard and soft skills acquired within an international context, because 95% of consumers live outside of the United States, and that’s the nature of international business today.

So there is plenty to celebrate about getting at least a portion of your education in another country and no matter the details, we as study abroad students in the UK should be grateful for the opportunity, especially considering there are other students studying in much less hospitable countries.  What is most important, however, is that getting a quality education and learning valuable, transferable skills is something that should never be taken for granted, no matter the location, no matter the context, and only heightened by its international nature.

Sources used:

http://www.nafsa.org/explore_international_education/advocacy_and_public_policy/study_abroad/trends_in_u_s__study_abroad/

http://www.transitionsabroad.com/publications/magazine/0403/benefits_study_abroad.shtml

http://www.wm.edu/offices/revescenter/internationalization/papers%20and%20presentations/danielkediafull.pdf

 

Friends can Take You Anywhere

I’ve come to realize the importance of making friends quickly in a place where you knew almost no one before, and the power that making these new friends can bring is amazing.  Friends can turn the worst day of your life into a fun night on the town where your troubles melt away, or your friends can transform into the most reliable confidants with fresh perspectives on any issue that comes to mind.  Good friends are impartial in their sincere advice, “hearty in their approbation and lavish in their praise”, as Dale Carnegie said.  As often as I try to surround myself by good friends, I also try to be a good friend because friendship is a two way street.  In the case of a new environment, friends can make all the difference between a positive and negative experience, and a little hospitality can most definitely bring out the positive.

I have two examples to illustrate this positive attitude to friendship: First, I was in Paris last weekend and while I should have been enjoying my trip, initially I was not.  I was in a completely new city with no one that I knew.  Everyone had already determined his or her friend group and I appeared to be the odd man out.  Walking the streets of Paris alone that first Friday night, I was determined to include myself in one of the groups for the rest of the weekend by being a little more proactive and demonstrating some hospitality on my part.  The next day our class was given a bike tour of the city, and I opened up to one particularly nice group from the University of Missouri.  In my exchanges, I made sure to ask them lots of questions, show them that I genuinely cared about who they were and what they did, and arouse in them an eager want to be my friend in return.  After the bike tour, this particular group invited me on their escapade to the Eiffel Tower, The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triumphe, and we all took some pretty awesome pictures together while getting to know each other.  These new friends showed me the simplest form of hospitality (acceptance and inclusion), to which I was incredibly thankful for, and because of that my entire trip was made so much better.

Friends don’t just reside in pure social situations; they also arise from one’s job.  I’ve been at my internship for several weeks now and while I was absolutely loving everything I was doing, I was also worried that I wasn’t connected with my colleagues beyond the pleasantries of day-to-day conversation.  I could tell that they knew I was working hard and that they appreciated the quality of the work I produced, but for some reason I wasn’t sure they fully accepted me as part of the team.  That was until last Thursday, when my colleagues invited me to a social get together with the London Sales Office, a separate Marriott office that handles smaller bookings to all the Marriott hotels in London.  It was an extremely fun night with delicious food (including some of the best cheesecake I’ve ever had, seriously), champagne, tours of the hotel, and an atmosphere away from my desk in which to talk with my colleagues as more than just an associate.  I really felt like one of the team members that night and I went into work the next day knowing that as much as I care about my colleagues, I know they care about me just as much if not more.

These types of relationships, ones rooted in acceptance, inclusion, and appreciation, mean more to me than any number of physical gifts I could get from the same people.  It has been said that one of the deepest human desires is to feel important and I have to agree; I feel very important when I’m surrounded by so many amazing friends, and each one I make adds to that feeling of importance.  So consider that when you are ever feeling unimportant; make the effort to surround yourself with a few of your friends and you’ll be right as rain in no time.

 

The Great Room

My London Internship

Living in London as I have been doing for the past week and a half might be one challenge but working in this enormous city is something else entirely!  I began my first day of work on Friday at Grosvenor House – A JW Marriott Hotel as a sales and marketing intern and going into the experience I had no idea what the day would hold for me or how my colleagues would treat me.  Fortunately, my first day was made tremendously easier by the fact that I am working in industry where friendliness and hospitality means good business, and I was welcomed into the team with open arms.  My initial introduction to the entire team was actually during the morning “stand-up” meeting where staff achievements, goals, and events are announced and celebrated for all to see.  It was a moving first impression, having no knowledge of who these people are or what they do, and yet standing next to them as they revealed the hundreds of rooms they’ve booked for a specific event or exchanged ideas on how to remember a guest’s name.  I instantly felt like one of the team, a feeling that organizations seldom impart so quickly and seamlessly into new employees but which this team managed to do in 15 minutes.

After the morning stand-up, I was introduced to various members of the staff to find out what they did and also why they love working for Marriott.  The coolest thing about this was meeting people from all over the world including Italy, Spain, Australia, and the Netherlands, who all have an appreciation for hotels and, more importantly, Marriott as their company of choice.  Each team member took the time to meticulously explain what he or she did and how it relates to the overall goals and vision of both Grosvenor House and of Marriott International.  It was incredibly interesting to see how many different roles and processes there are in a sales department for a luxury hotel, and how each one contributes to keeping the hotel as busy as possible throughout the year.

Moreover, I was also taken on a tour of the property, which included a look at the historic Great Room–Europe’s oldest and largest ballroom.  Lucky for me it was being decorated for an event that night and it looked absolutely breath-taking!  The Great Room, which originally operated as an indoor ice-skating rink, can hold a maximum of 2,000 people and is adorned with 8 crystal chandeliers.  Many important people have dined and danced at Grosvenor House, and the hotel is famous for a number of events including the Royal Catalonian Ball.

Finally, I was given a coffee table book on the history of the hotel and wow does Grosvenor House have a history!  Constructed in 1929, this hotel managed to stay open through the Great Depression and World War II, has gone under hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations, and continues to hold over the top banquets and fundraisers for some of the biggest corporations, non-profits, and celebrities in the world.

I am in awe of the fact that I will be working in a 5-star hotel as storied as Grosvenor House and I cannot wait to grow personally and professionally from this experience.  As my role in the hotel begins to take shape, I am looking forward to contributing to the history of an already historic luxury hotel.

 

London: The Truly Global City

Today was my first day of classes in the city of London.  While I only had one class so far, International Economics, there was so much jammed into that one three-hour period that it both inspired and bored me, an interesting combination of excitement and misery that I suspect will become the norm.  The section of today’s course that inspired me, however, was the realization that London is maybe the first city I have been to that is globally connected.  Now you could argue that New York City or Philadelphia, locations that I’ve been to many times, are equally dynamic and worldly.  I would counter with the fact that I have never lived in either of those cities for more than a week tops and that I was only ever a tourist in either place.  Here in London, I am living, working, and playing for over three months in a city of 8.5 million people, where three hundred different languages are spoken and which is the number one financial center in the world.  So while New York and Philly were great places to visit, the multi-cultural atmosphere and the gravity of what I do with my time here are so much more important than it was in America.

Which brings us back to the section of my International Economics course that spoke to me today.  Our professor showed us a video of Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund and quite possibly the most important woman in the world, giving a speech entitled “A New Multilateralism for the 21st Century” in February of 2014 in which she addressed a number of important economic and cultural issues.  While the speech was given in London almost two years ago, the shocking statistics and heartfelt messages are still relevant, if not more shocking and heartfelt, today.  I realized that I will have the opportunity to experience and learn about some of the topics that Ms. Lagarde touched on, including income inequality, gender inequity, climate change, and international trade, not just through the class itself but also because I am living in the epicenter of a cultural and economic epicenter where these discussions are still on going, where action is being taken, and where the results are free and clear for everyone to see.  More than ever, London is taking a commanding presence on the world stage, with the most foreign direct investment projects of all cities in the world and strong growth among all sections of its economy.  There are important changes being implemented and issues being argued here that will affect the whole country like raising the minimum wage to the American equivalent of twelve dollars an hour and the eventual referendum to split from the European Union.  I’ll see the impact directly in a city as multi-lateral and highly diverse as London is, and I’m so excited to learn about its role on the world stage.

If you have some time to spare, you can watch Christine Lagarde’s intellectually inspiring speech here: Christine Lagarde: A New Multilateralism in the 21st Century.

Hospitality: It’s a Give and Take

My second day in London started off very differently than back in the states, including getting lost on the Tube (the English subway) while heading to class and trying to memorize the names of a dozen new people.  There is something, however, that was very much the same today as it is back in the United States and as I suspect it is around the world.  That something is the language of hospitality.  No matter where you are in the world, if you approach your fellow man with general warmth and sincerity, with the goal of helping him or seeing that his needs are taken care of, you will be received gladly and even rewarded.

I witnessed the language being spoken today around lunch time when some friends and I entered a local Italian restaurant after class, but not at first.  Our server was a solemn young girl who would’t speak to us and the restaurants owners, an older couple who seemed of Italian descent, were fiddling around with what seemed like a printer in the room next to us.  While I was thrown off by the lack of cheerful service that I’ve come to know and love in the U.S., I’ve learned that the English aren’t very emotional people in public and I suppose I mistook that for a deficit in genuine hospitable service.  Nevertheless I tried to have a good time with my friends at least until the the older woman of the couple came over to our table, asking if any of us had any experience with technology or computers.  She explained that her husband was trying to get the new fax machine they had just bought to work but it just kept making strange noises.  Being minimally technology-oriented but maximally service-oriented and clearly seeing the woman’s distress, I volunteered to assist her and her husband.  As soon as I stood up to help, the air in the room changed from one of isolation to one of cheer.  The couple were very friendly to us then on (the fax machine was an easy fix, I just turned on “automatic answer” button and it seemed to work fine), complementing how helpful and knowledgeable we all were and giving us all free sodas to drink.  I even got a small word of appreciation from the now genial young girl.  It’s amazing how a little friendly service can pay dividends like that, and although it might be unorthodox for the customer to initiate the service transaction in this way, our experience at the restaurant was better for it.  We left the restaurant very satisfied and promising to come back and patronize their store again.

The lesson here is clear: hospitality is a universal language.  When you give some, you receive some in return.