November 18, 2014
Living and Working in The Big Smoke
By: Orlagh Fallon
Hello all, given its my first post I thought it would be fitting to give you a brief introduction into myself before delving into the wonderful life of living and working in London; the good, the bad and the weird.
I'm Orlagh Fallon, an intern on the Accenture Horizon Scheme (the eight month gap-year programme). Starting in September 2014, the past few months have been a whirlwind of new and exciting experiences and I am not going to lie but I have enjoyed every second. Originally from Cheshire, I now live with the girl who posted directly below me, yes Harriet McLean, in a lovely semi-detached Victorian in the leafy suburb of West Dulwich (South London). And, if you are not careful I will start to indulge in what can only be called 'Londeners Chat' in which I embark on discussing my local transport links, the length of my commute and the price of my rent. For anyone who does not live in London this sounds incredibly mundane, unfortunately as sad as it is for anyone within the M25 this is exciting and incredibly interesting.
Next year, I am going to university to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics and whilst in the summer I was holding places to study this, it was unfortunately for entry in September 2014. I was fully committed to my gap year so I had to kindly decline and now I am currently going through the foul UCAS process for the second time.
If, like me, joining Accenture would mean moving to London and, like me, you maybe came from a town that wasn't home to 8 million people, didn't have 300 different languages spoken within it and a claustrophobic underground train was not the way you travelled around, then you too might be anxious or nervous. However, I am going to give you the honest and fullest list of the pros and cons of working and living in one of the world's capitals.
- Accenture support you - As I mentioned I live with Harriet who too works as an intern for Accenture and no we were not childhood friends nor knew each other prior. In fact the first time we spoke, I was sat in a hostel in Budapest and an excited Harriet McLean called me to ask if I would like to rent the other room in the flat her family owns in London. We got in contact over the Accenture Facebook group that they set up 6 months before you join and set up for this exact reason. Therefore you can find a crazy flatmate to live with, which I have definitely achieved, or just chat and get to know the people you will be working with so there are at least a few friendly faces on September 1st. As well as this you are assigned a buddy before you start who you can chat to about whatever you really fancy and they tend to be an intern in your exact situation, just a year before you. Hence, you never really feel like you are being thrown out into the big world of work to fend for yourself but a gradual transition with many people to help and support you.
- Life is never boring - Okay, so at this moment in time I feel shattered beyond belief, not only from the hard work but the fact that I just never stop. If I really wanted to I could be doing some form of activity every single night of the week, at the start I tried to achieve this but just a little bit of advice; please don't. There will be a time when you crash and burn, end up returning home for the weekend so your mother can make you dinner and nurse your poorly head. Whilst yes I probably need to calm down on the social and extra-curricular acitivities, because looking at my bank balance sometimes sends my stomach flipping, however I definitely see this sort of lifestyle as a positive thing. There is always some weird and wonderful thing going on in London that you can get involved in, whether that is playing sport in one of Accenture's clubs e.g. I have spent many Tuesdays on the netball court in Canary Wharf representing my company proudly or spending your weekends ticking off all those tourist activities you are shamefully doing whilst also carrying a London postcode. And if you are a foodie... well then you could be busy 24/7 for your whole eight months. Living and working in London is never boring and the time you spend here seems to fly because you are occupied so much of the time.
- The People - Okay, yes so this is one of Accenture's most overused clichés however the people are really that overwhelmingly great that it is quite difficult not to mention them. Without getting too sentimental, I have met friends in the past 3 months that I will no doubt have for life. There must be something they do in the hiring process which means they seem to get people that just are extremely alike and get on wonderfully. Whilst as an intern you are client based, just as a graduate is, hence the interns are all split up in various different locations around London/ the country so on a day-to-day basis you are not working with any of them which is sad. However, it means the training week, intern events and every Friday night when we go out for drinks are full of fun. Moreover, it’s not just your peers but the people who look after you, your managers and your colleagues are all wonderful. Everyone is incredibly supportive and helpful and since I have been here I have never been treated by anyone as ‘just an intern’, always been valued as a productive and valued member of the team.
- You don't feel like you are missing out - When I made the decision to take a gap year I was really worried that waving goodbye to my friends and packing them off to the various different university locations would be awfully upsetting. The thought that they would be out exploring the world and having all these new experiences was horrible however I couldn't have been more wrong.
- London is a busy place - Yes, unfortunately pushing, shoving and queuing become part of your daily routine. My first few weeks my commute into work took a lot longer than it does now, all because I was being far too polite. Instead of squeezing into any crack or crevasse left on that tube, I'd allow time to pass and wait for the next one. Thankfully my good friend and fellow intern Annie taught me the tricks of the trade, which almost involves crawling under people's legs to ensure that you get onto that tube. Even when the next one is coming in 1 minute time, it’s the principal. However, just never be the person who throws themselves through the closing doors... that's embarrassing.
- You will never actually know the city - You could go out every single night for your whole internship and wouldn't even nearly make a progress on ticking off the hefty list of London bars. That means every weekend you are faced with the hard decision of trying a new place vs going back to place you've been before and loved. Trust me; this is actually quite a painful process. Basically, you need to accept that the only places you will actually know is the area you live in, the place you work (client's office and its local vicinity) and FCS (Fenchurch Street - Accenture's Head Offices). Your local area might even be pushing it, given that Harriet went on a run, got lost and didn't return for 2 hours only a matter of weeks ago.
- The Circle Line will forever confuse you.
- Working hard and long hours is kind of a given at Accenture - It does massively depend on what client you are on, from September to October I was on a media client with a fairly relaxed approach in regards to working hours and therefore would rarely work beyond 5.30pm. Although my current client, a large oil company, expects minimum 6pm finish but usually at least a half an hour to an hour beyond that. The long hours issue tends to be worse for those on out of town projects because generally the people working there from Accenture will be staying in hotels consequently not having families to go home to or social lives that are outside of work so there isn't the same push to get out. However, yet to be on an out of town project I have heard they are incredibly fun and you bond so well with your team that the long hours do not matter because you will most likely have something exciting to do together that evening.
- Living in London and trying to save for travelling is difficult - Like most of the Horizons, I am planning on spending my time after Accenture and before university travelling around South East Asia, London is as expensive as people will tell you and if you are paying out for rent/ bills/ food/ transports and all the various different living costs that arise then there is very little left over at the end of the month to put behind to save. Although, I am sure people could budget MUCH better than I have and once the New Year is here and Christmas presents have been bought then it is Project Save Money for Orlagh.