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An Internship in London

Internships in London with the Mountbatten Internship Programme

The Tower Bridge at night in London
The Tower Bridge at night in London.

In August 2007 I moved to London to participate in the Mountbatten Internship Programme, a 12-month work-study scheme for recent American college graduates. The Programme is just one of the many options that you have likely considered while researching opportunities to work, live, and study in London or abroad. If, like me, you are interested in gaining a year of full-time substantive international business experience in a dynamic European city, then the Mountbatten Internship Programme may be right for you. 

The Programme offers interns the following benefits:

  • One-year experience working, studying and living in London
  • Placement in a large internationally known company
  • Seminars that culminate in a Certificate or MBA in International Business Practice
  • Monthly stipend to meet living expenses
  • Free furnished housing

The typical intern is a recent college graduate. However, there are a few, like myself, that have 1−5 years of professional work experience. Candidates with previous professional experience are more competitive in finding work placements and securing a work permit.

Working in London

While on the Programme you will work under a Training and Work Experience Scheme (TWES) visa. The visa is sponsored by the Mountbatten Institute and will be valid for 12 months. Furthermore, the Programme will place you in a company before you arrive in London.

Depending upon your expectations, your job could be hit or miss. Some interns enjoy lots of responsibility and build exciting new skills; others get stuck with data entry and administrative tasks. However, both types of jobs have their pros and cons. I, for instance, was fortunate enough to land a dynamic position that offered great exposure to credit lending and banking. However, my position frequently required long hours and high levels of stress. Interns with more pedestrian positions may miss out on building professional skills, but they generally worked from nine to five, endure less stress, and have more flexible work schedules around which to schedule trips abroad. Regardless of the rigor of your position, you will be working for a respected company. Most interns work for large financial service providers, such as Deutsche Bank, UBS, or RBS. Other employers include large law firms and tech support companies. To be certain, working for any of these companies will add gravitas to your résumé.

Finally, one of the perks of working in the U.K. is that you will likely receive 25 paid vacation days in addition to federal holidays. This is twice as much time off than you can expect as an entry-level employee in the U.S. It also provides ample opportunity to explore London, the U.K., and Europe.

Living in London

The Programme provides interns with free housing and a monthly stipend. The stipend, currently £615 a month (about $1,150), is more than enough to ensure that you are well fed (assuming you shop for groceries and do not always eat out) and that you can pay for public transportation. You will also have enough surplus cash to visit city attractions (although most museums are free), and explore London’s famous pubs. If you want to travel every weekend to continental Europe, as many interns do, then you will need to bring along some savings or a credit card.

The Programme accommodations are in great locations. You will likely be living in up-market areas that are traditionally out of reach for Londoners your age. You will, however, be sharing a room with a fellow intern. At most, your housing will be a 45-minute commute to work. It may seem far to you, but your English coworkers are likely commuting an hour to get in to work, so consider yourself lucky.

While in London, you are entitled access to the UK’s British National Health Service (NHS).

Studying in London

The Programme has a compulsory academic component which culminates in either a Certificate or a MBA in International Business Practice. Certificate students study with tutors hired by the Mountbatten Institute and complete two specialized study modules (Managing Teams and Managing Information) from Cambridge International Examinations. There are no additional fees or tuition expenses to enroll in the Certificate program. The MBA program is given in conjunction with American International College (see the Programme website for details and fees). Seminars for both academic programs are held in London on weekends and evenings. There are additional weekend trips outside the city in locations such as Dorset, Cambridge, Bath, and Stonehenge.

The academic component of the Programme is what you make it: the more you put in the more you will get out. The curriculum is designed to encourage interns to examine the departments and companies they work in. You will write development proposals for improving internal structures and systems at your work place. You will also participate in a group project in which you write and present a business plan. Students complete these activities with a varying degree of diligence and success. My recommendation is to complete the assignments early, if even hastily, so that you stress less and can enjoy your time in the pubs, museums, and traveling abroad.

Applying

The London Programme application is similar to a college application: personal essays, résumé, transcripts, recommendation letters, etc. There is an application fee of $100 and, if accepted, a program participation fee of $3900.  If your application is successful, you will be invited to interview in-person. Most interviews are held in New York City, although mid-west and west coast applicants may interview elsewhere. If you make it through the interview stage, your profile will be circulated to London-based companies. If an employer is interested in your profile, they will request a telephone interview. Once offered a position, you will have to apply for a work visa (an online process). A word of caution: do not buy your plane ticket until you have been offered a position and your work visa has been approved.

My advice for the application process is that you should focus your efforts on promoting your professional experience and technical skills. Do not waste time describing your summer job waiting tables at Applebee’s. The menial and mundane office work you did as a work-study student will look better on your résumé than your YMCA lifeguarding. When I was applying the Programme I contacted an intern who gave me the following advice. “The one thing you absolutely need to do is rationalize why you want this. Make sure your personal statement really reflects how this internship fits into your career goals so they know you’re not just applying because you want to live in London. If there's a disconnect, it'll be hard for them to justify selecting you for an interview.”

Finally, be prepared to take the first position that is offered to you; you may not get another offer. This can be a tough pill to swallow. You will be committing blindly to 12-month contract, to an unknown job in a country that you likely have never visited. This decision should not be made lightly. If you make the wrong decision and leave halfway through your contract, you will be leaving your U.K. coworkers short-handed and overburdened. Ultimately, your reasons for declining or accepting a position are very personal. Make sure you make the right decision for the right reason.

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