GoAbroad Interview

Joe Dwyer - Assistant Director, London Internship Program

Joe Dwyer - Assistant Director, London Internship Program

Joe joined the London Center of Arcadia University in 2013 and currently serve as the Assistant Director of the London Internship Program. An American from Oak Park, Illinois who has lived, studied, and worked in the UK since 1992, he holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree from Regent’s College, London. Joe lives in Kent with his wife and two children.

What drew you to work for Arcadia University in London?

I’ve worked with international internships in London since 1995 with a few different organisations. What I’ve particularly admired and found unique about Arcadia’s London Internship Program is how immersive it is for students. While providing a strong community in its London Center along with excellent staff support, Arcadia has interns get out into their placements at an early stage, working for three days per week for 10 of their 14 weeks on the semester program. Additionally, semester interns have the option of taking up to two classes with one of our UK partner institutions in London, which gets them into the classroom alongside other UK and international students.

This programme really provides exceptional intercultural opportunities with the chance to interact in both the UK workplace and classroom, but still with plenty of support and community through the Arcadia London Center.

Visitors at Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent
With the Arcadia Green Club at Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent

What advice do you have for students who are considering interning abroad in London?

Undertaking an academic-based internship in London is challenging, with the combination of classes and working, as well as living and commuting in a huge, multi-cultural, historic city with much to explore. So, it is busy but exciting, of course, and as with most challenges, it can really provide deep rewards, both professionally and personally.

My advice for anyone interning here is try to balance your time well with studies from the outset. Also, as there’s so much to absorb during one’s time here, students often seem surprised to find how quickly a semester goes by. I encourage students to pause occasionally, take stock of what a unique experience this is - something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Why is London a beneficial place for international internships?

An internship in London is the kind of experience that will leap off of your resume. I think that it immediately sets you apart, by demonstrating initiative, resourcefulness, and a global perspective. And this city is, of course, an international hub for business, commerce, media communications, politics, and public policy, as well as all manner of arts and culture, so an extended period of time here in an internship can provide a great perspective on whatever field you’re interested in. London is also, at once, modern and multicultural, yet mixed with an ancient history that is a part of the roots of Western civilisation, so it’s a wonderful and fascinating place to work and study.

Joe Dwyer at Camber Sands
At Camber Sands near Rye, East Sussex

What are the most popular types of internship placements in London?

Students on Arcadia’s London Internship Programme undertake placements in a wide range of fields, such as business, finance, marketing, advertising, PR, journalism, film and TV, law, politics, and arts. But, while these areas are typical of most placement requests, we’re not limited to these; if a student has an unusual field of interest, we will be happy to look for that (recent examples include working with a photographer, and another with an interior designer).

Among the most popular fields over the past couple of years are business, film and TV, and politics - particularly our placements in the UK Parliament, where students work with the small staff of a Member of Parliament (MP), which is a fantastic experience for those interested in politics, public policy, law, and even business.

Another popular internship is criminal or civil law. In this area, we regularly see students getting a lot of variation in what they do - some days clerking in a courtroom, others perhaps out meeting with clients, and maybe other days in the firm doing research or administration. All in all, there are just so many great opportunities across all of the placement fields we work with.

How can students make the most out of their time in London?

Everyone has different ways of approaching their experience abroad. Some students seem to do everything at one hundred miles per hour, with just so much to see and do over here, and others like to pace themselves a little more and try to soak things in a bit. Both approaches are fine, of course, particularly with a semester programme of 14 weeks and summers of eight weeks, so there is time. But as I said, programmes like this tend to be very busy, so it does help to be aware of that from an early stage and make sure you do a little time-budgeting. Knowing you’ve got your coursework covered will make the time you spend exploring a lot more enjoyable.

Man with a bike standing by a canal in Amsterdam
Cycling in Amsterdam

What can students do during their internship to impress employers that will lead to future networking contacts and jobs? 

I’ve spoken to many British internship providers over the years and one of the things they’re impressed by is the sense of drive and motivation they find in internship students, so I think that is one thing. But I also hear from them about how important it is to be adaptable, positive, and proactive in the placement. Life in the workplace (as with life generally!) can be unpredictable, with projects and plans sometimes changing or being delayed. So, we talk to students a lot about how important it is to be adaptable and stay positive in those circumstances, and learn to be able to think on one’s feet about other things you can do or in what other ways you can help; those are ingredients for success in any internship or work environment, really, whether at home or abroad. I think having that kind of good attitude is really the foundation of success and impressing employers.

What skills do students gain, personally and professionally, while interning abroad in London?

It can vary from field to field, of course. A student in film or TV might gain experience on a set, or maybe with post-production software, such as AVID or Final Cut Pro. Someone in advertising might gain experience working in account handling or working with creatives on a client pitch. An arts student in a commercial gallery may assist an artist in displaying their work or help to promote an exhibition or event. Someone working in financial services may be doing research on clean-tech investment or other financial sectors or working in accounting. There are so many possibilities.

While the specifics can vary, as a part of their coursework on the program, all Arcadia interns undertake an academic research project related to their internship and are assigned an individual academic supervisor - selected based on their field of expertise - who meets with them regularly throughout the term to provide guidance. In this way, the internship course aims to look at individual challenges and opportunities that students identify in the placement and bring these together with related academic research. This individual focus really helps students on the program in developing a personal narrative regarding their experience.

Regardless of what field they work in, I think it is a tremendously broadening endeavor. And I hear from a lot of former interns that this becomes more apparent when they begin jobs or other internships back home - just how much more confident and resourceful they’ve become with the experience of having done a programme like this abroad.

It can really be a transformative experience that provides an opportunity to learn about oneself as much as another culture.
Arcadia University Green Club at Knole House, Sevenoaks, Kent
With the Arcadia Green Club at Knole House, Sevenoaks, Kent

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your role as an assistant director?

I really enjoy my job and feel quite honored to be a small part of an experience that our students will remember for the rest of their lives. It’s very special to see them arrive each term wide-eyed, experiencing London for the first time. It’s fun to be a part of that, and very rewarding to hear about their experiences here and what it means to them. I feel really lucky to witness that on a regular basis.

Are there any up and coming projects that you’re excited about?

Yes! We’re in the process here of putting together a new and regular feed of video content of students discussing all aspects of their experience on the program, including internships, academics, the Arcadia Center, and life in London. That’s exciting for us as I know that, while prospective students like to talk to me and other Arcadia staff members about our programs, there’s really no substitute for hearing about it directly from other students who’ve been on the program in their own words. Look out for that on our website soon!