A new group of students had arrived in London a few days earlier and, as part of their welcome week and three-day orientation, they shared a few words to describe the mix of emotions flooding their thoughts.
The words—all of them valid and very normal—came as no surprise to London Internships Placement Manager Katie Lander. “One of my favorite activities is for students to complete our three-word exercise,” she shared. “We ask them to pick three words to describe how they are feeling. We’ll look over these then see how we can help them settle some of these feelings. In their Global Internship Workshop class, they reflect on these words again and share three new words on how they are feeling at the end of their internship that helps them consider what has taken place during their time abroad.”
The orientation process covers a lot of ground: student services, academics, internships, safety and both a bus tour of the city and a walking tour of the local area near the students’ accommodation. “The tour really helped me get my bearings and feel more at ease knowing that everything I needed was just steps outside my door,” student Katrina shared. “The sessions contained loads of important information and answered questions that I didn’t know I had.”
Students are able to explore their new neighborhoods with their flatmates under the guidance of a knowledgeable member of CAPA staff and then gather at the CAPA center for more formal sessions.
Welcome Week at CAPA.
“CAPA does a great job doing a comprehensive orientation and really giving students all of the information they need to succeed in London,” Associate Director of Academic Affairs Ruchama Johnston-Bloom said. “For academic orientation in particular, we get students up to speed on our virtual learning environment CANVAS as well as introduce them to all of our policies, library, and learning resources and My Global City activities. We also get them excited about exploring the city for field studies and about our Student Learning and Development Outcomes. So even orientation is a learning experience for them.”
CAPA Orientation: Academics
The academic session also gives students an introduction to Globally Networked Learning and lets them know which classes will be collaborating with their CAPA colleagues overseas this semester. Students also learn about upcoming awards and grants they can apply to receive.
CAPA Orientation: Session on internships.
The internship session gives students an overview of London’s work culture, how to calculate working hours, and insight into the size and locations of the organizations they will be working with throughout the semester.
Recently, the Global Internship Workshop faculty have become involved so students are able to meet several of the people who will be supporting them throughout their internship experience. “I really like how CAPA doesn’t fall into the ‘set and forget’ mindset of internships and I think orientation expresses that,” Internships Coordinator Andrew Rose said. “The theme of it is constant support throughout the program, with students being constantly encouraged to utilize everything CAPA has to offer.”
Talking to the students about work culture in their global city.
While some of the information that is crucial for students to understand during the orientation process can be inevitably dry (visa requirements, anyone?), Andrew and other staff members who lead the sessions inject them with lightheartedness, humor, and plenty of snacks to keep a jet lagged audience engaged.
“To talk to what CAPA does at orientation that stands out, from an organizational point of view, it is an almost military precision in processes that means there isn’t a scrap of information that is lost to the students,” Andrew said. “More importantly though, I think it’s CAPA's focus on putting the huge amount of information the students need to absorb in the first few days into a format that resonates with them.”
CAPA tailors the orientation using formats that resonate with students such as guessing games and British humor.
Students are challenged with guessing games—shown important British faces to name or percentages and facts to match up. For example, only 3% of American students intern abroad! Many students guessed much higher.
Andrew also shares some tips on socializing in the British workplace, the type of humor students will encounter at their placements, what to expect in terms of diversity, and how to stay up to date on political topics that are often brought up in conversation, especially with American visitors.
Our CAPA staff tend aim to deliver the necessary information in the sessions and inject lightheartedness to keep the students engaged.
Students who are interning with children or vulnerable adults are required to fill in a special form, so there is an extra short session in which a member of CAPA staff guides them through this step by step. Another brief session identifies students who have not completed CAPA’s Guardian App set up which keeps them safe and accounted for during their time with CAPA.
We invite a local police officer to give a safety talk for our students.
The police safety talks are another great example of sharing information in a format that resonates with students. A local police officer is invited in to impart some incredibly important advice to London newcomers as well as ease any anxiety they have about living in an enormous city. To ensure students are listening, there’s plenty of dry English sarcasm thrown in, a few awe-inducing historical facts, jokes that have students snickering in their seats, and a few well-intentioned jabs at American culture. The information is absorbed, anxieties are quelled, and the police officer becomes a friendly, approachable face on the streets.
These posters around CAPA display helpful information about activities and excursions provided by the program.
Welcome week comes to a close with everyone’s favorite: a traditional, authentic British experience—a cream tea with scones, clotted cream and jam—that leaves everyone feeling a bit more settled in, comfortable with each other and ready to spend the weekend exploring and tackle week one head on.