I recently landed back in the UK after my three week work exchange programme placement in Akron, Ohio. My initial reasons for picking Akron revolved around becoming familiar with the Data Management Platform (DMP) and seeing clients and useful contacts in the area. I had no thoughts or expectations on what Akron would actually be like. Some might say that this was naïve…I like to think I was just being adventurous. I did a little research after realising that I was going on the trip, Wikipedia informing me that it was the home of Goodyear, Chrissie Hynde and LeBron James but other than that I had no idea what to expect. Let the adventure begin, I thought!
I don’t know quite what I was expecting in terms of climate, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for it being so warm and sunny. My first week in the office went by in a flash of sunburn and salad. I had some great ‘Icebreaker’ sessions and learning lunches with the team, then spent my first weekend seeing the sights of Akron and going for an 11 mile run around the tow path in the valley. Not only was it hot in Akron but I also quickly came to find out how hilly it was!
During the trip I experienced many American Firsts. I tried my first s’more, drove (a golf cart) for the first time, watched my first ‘football’ game and went to a proper American ‘mall’. I also got to go and see The Black Keys in their home concert in Cleveland, which made the trip for me on its own.
In reference to the driving being a first – I’m not a driver. I’ve never even had a driving lesson, so driving a golf cart felt like a big deal. Not being a driver turned out to be quite an issue living in Akron, as the town is quite spread out and everyone drives. Within the first couple of days of me arriving, the team had organised a Taxi service to drive me to and from the office from my hotel. This worked out OK for a while, but as the week went on the driver got later and later to his allotted pick up time, he also started to get lost on the way to the office, which was confusing to me as I thought he was a local. Needless to say, the taxi man lost our business and the lovely office team took it in turns to drop me off and pick me up from then on. Note to self – if going to somewhere in the US that doesn’t have public transport – learn to drive!
One of the keys things I took away from my trip was the relationships I was able to build with the team. I could not have felt more welcome from day one in the office, everyone was so friendly and generous and that was a constant during my whole stay. I felt like Princess Kate Middleton at times, and not just because everyone kept asking me if I see much of Price William or Harry, living in London (I look nothing like her by the way).
I really enjoyed getting to know all of the teams at the office. One of the key opportunities I had to do this was at cross fit training, which happens at the office three times a week. It’s a scheme started by Brian a couple of years back and it has had a big impact of many members of the team, not just in terms of bringing the teams together socially (and getting a bit of friendly competition going on) but in changing people’s entire lifestyles. I’m actually really going to miss those cross fit sessions, as well as my daily chats to Melody about music on the journey to and from the office and my weekends with Bryce, Elizabeth (and their amazing dog Mowgley) swimming and drinking homemade margaritas.
Thank you so much to everyone that made my trip happen, you all made my experience very special and I’m eternally grateful. To anyone thinking of applying for the exchange programme – I cannot recommend it enough, and if you’re thinking of coming to the London office, I can promise you that we’ll show you all the best things that England has to offer, we might miss out on the taxis though, as they’re even worse in London!