From Students to Employees: What It’s Like Being a Harlaxton Student Development Intern

Pictured left to right: Meg Melbourne, Nolan Miles and Ashley Manka

Coming to Harlaxton College as a student is a rare and wonderful opportunity. Coming to Harlaxton twice is unheard of. However, for the current Harlaxton College Student Development Office interns, it’s a reality. Three former students, myself included, dreamed of the opportunity to step foot and immerse themselves yet again in the world that is Harlaxton. Weekend trips to Paris and Barcelona, living life in a grand Manor, and enjoying the English culture are experiences that many would say are irresistible. And while us interns soak up the little time we have left at the Manor, we quickly realized that being a student and being an intern are very different experiences.

“It’s so different in so many ways,” said Meg Melbourne, current student activities intern. “After arriving it took me awhile to mentally let go of my semester as a student — to let go of the expectation of seeing my friends around the Manor, but, it’s helped me embrace this semester in an entirely new and positive way.”

One of the biggest things that we have learned serving as the Spring 2017 interns is that we are part of a core team that helps shape the Harlaxton experience for the current students. It’s both a terrifying and thrilling thing — To aid in the development of what will be one of the best semesters of the student’s lives.

“There wasn’t a moment as a Harlaxton student that I didn’t remember the interns being involved,” said Ashley Manka, student activities intern. “I loved the idea of getting to enrich the experience of future Harlaxton students. There was something alluring about the idea of never having a single day be like the day before — It was blatantly obvious that this internship required not only flexibility, but demanded variability.”

Don’t be fooled by our enthusiasm, however. Living in a beautiful Manor in the English countryside is no walk in the park. To be honest, it’s a time-consuming and stressful job. Thirty-five-hour work weeks don’t exist — It’s more like 60 hours a week. We live where we work, so we’re never “out of the office.” With only a four-person student development team, we all have to handle emergencies and responsibilities that we are unfamiliar with. We live life without any expectation of what tomorrow looks like.

“It can be hard having ‘no’ days off,” said Meg. “We have some, but we’re always with students and coworkers for evening and weekend events. Sometimes you just want to sleep in on a Friday or take time to go into town alone on the weekends”

Despite the uncertainty of our job, the constant change in plans and randomly assigned tasks, none of us would change the experience we’ve had serving as the Harlaxton Spring 2017 interns. We have created bonds with the students, the employees and the building itself. We have invested the past six months of our life to a place that once gave us a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Yet, here we are having another one.

“Something I believe to be true of any place is, ‘the people make the place,’” said Ashley. “From day one I have met nothing but the nicest and most genuinely caring individuals at Harlaxton. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the hard work and continued kindness the staff have shown me and many others.”

So the question remains: Which Harlaxton experience was better? When we were students or while we are interns? For Meg and Ashley, they both say it’s hard to tell because they are very different experiences. And I would have to agree. However, as a student I didn’t know what to expect coming to Harlaxton. As an intern coming back I was prepared for another brief, life-changing experience. I was fully aware to soak up every moment with the students, every task of my job and every nook and cranny of the Manor. So as our time at Harlaxton comes to a final close, fully knowing we will never live here again, I am grateful for having taken advantage of my Harlaxton 2.0 experience by absorbing every second of my time in our “forever home.

— NM

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a grand Manor, nestled on a hill overlooking a small, charming village. A majestic building whose stones blended into the English landscape surrounding her, the Manor was breathtaking to any guest who walked through the large, double wooden doors. Lush gardens, oversized state rooms, elegant suites and sophisticated architecture defined the Manor as “perfectly grand.”

And that she was.

Just like every fairytale has heroes, prince charmings, magical characters and plot twists, so does the tale of Harlaxton Manor. If walls could talk we would discover the many secrets absorbed by the nearly 200 year old structure — a structure that thousands would describe as “home.” From grumpy Manor guards and servants, to hobbits and artists who wander the corridors of the estate, the Manor has an elaborate story to tell.

An elaborate story that changes every six months.

The Harlaxton College Spring 2017 semester is a fairytale like no other. Just like the past students have a unique story tailored to their time abroad, so does the class that just departed. And while one rarely lives the Harlaxton fairytale twice, I am fortunate to have two Harlaxton Manor stories.

And I have to admit that my Harlaxton 2.0 fairytale was better than my first.

I told myself not to get emotionally invested in the lives of the Spring 2017 students when I arrived on January 1 as the new media coordinator. There wasn’t really an excuse for me to build relationships and connect with the students. My job required me to live behind a camera, distancing myself from the conversations of those around me in an effort to solely document their Harlaxton fairytale. But here we are, at the conclusion of the Spring 2017 semester and I find myself struggling with the now empty Manor. The floors creak, the silence is deafening and the anticipation of running into students around each corner is never satisfied.

The Spring 2017 semester was one that I found full of laughs, tears, drama and stress. A conglomerate of emotions that would make the old Nolan scream. But with the many laughs, tears and drama shared among the Spring 2017 students, comes opportunities for personal growth, bonding and developments of dear relationships. So while the students saw me as the sassy, sarcastic media intern, I saw them as marvelous individuals who taught me many things throughout the last four months. Individuals that I grew to care deeply about, despite the sarcastic and un-invested façade I often displayed.

Shout out to the students for teaching me things about myself that I didn’t think to discover at the Manor. I was challenged as their residence assistant, I was enlightened by their independence and courage, and I grew to be protective of their vulnerability to the world. I ended up caring about them to the point that I almost hated it. Hindsight is 20/20 and now that the students are gone I wish I had the opportunity to get to know each of them even more. But at Harlaxton we have a way of never saying goodbye because we all know we will reunite in the future. So I end by thanking the class of Spring 2017 for enriching my Harlaxton 2.0 fairytale and look forward to seeing you again to continue our newly found friendships.

And they all lived happily ever after.

—NM

I can’t handle any more tea time.

Back in the states when someone asked me to join them for “tea” it usually meant martini’s after a long day at work. In England apparently it’s not the same. When asked to take a “tea break” it actually means real, legit English tea. (Who would’ve thought?)

Of course, my American and millennial mind didn’t truly expect “tea time” to consist of drinking cocktails like what I’m used to back home (much to my dismay.) I was anticipating the routine, casual breaks to sip on tea while engaging in sophisticated conversation with my colleagues.

It turns out tea time isn’t like that in England, either. *Sigh*

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a British Red Cross first aid training course as part of my new job working in student development. As someone who cringes, gags and cowers at the site of blood and gore I was looking forward to three days in my own personal hell. Wasting no time, the first day consisted of learning CPR and using a defibrillator (Low-key “defib” trigger happy and looking forward to the chance to use it to save a life.) The first day also consisted of four thirty-minute tea breaks.

Four. 4. F-O-U-R.

*Insert Nolan’s impatience here*

While I’m all for a good restful break after a cardio workout (AKA CPR practice), my main objective was to end the day as quickly as possible with the hope I wouldn’t vomit before the course was complete. All I could think about was the fact my colleagues and I left at 4 p.m. when the course could’ve easily ended at 2 p.m. That’s an extra two hours I could’ve blogged. Or napped.

Now that it’s over, hindsight is 20/20. Despite being on the verge of telling the instructor and my peers to drink their tea quicker, I’m glad I didn’t. Here’s why: When someone is preparing to move to another country like I have they’re typically warned about the cultural differences between countries. “Never shake their hands, kiss them once on each cheek instead,” or “always take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home, otherwise it’s insulting,” or “to Americans, time is money, while some other cultures ignore punctuality for the sake of ‘living in the moment.’”

Despite being the “Mother Country” of the US, I’m rediscovering the many cultural differences between the English and Americans. It can be easy for one to become comfortable in a new country after so long, but that’s no reason to forget about respecting the lifestyles who share this world with you (Trump, please take note.) And while the celebration of tea time is only a minor cultural difference, my encounter with it at first aid training is symbolic of the fact international residents may be exposed to cultural differences at any moment. Being exposed to these differences, however, are the greatest “traveling lessons.”

That’s not to say that you must feel obligated to partake in cultural traditions that are different from your own. By immersing myself into conversations with locals in another country, I have an opportunity to learn about other cultures while also teaching them of my own traditions and beliefs. A win-win situation, really. The key, however, is to respect each other’s traditions, beliefs and differences. Even if it’s as minor as an extended tea break.

Don’t worry, though. As a caffeine addict I am always looking forward to a good coffee break, which is a respectful substitute for tea in England. So while I can’t handle anymore tea, may my coffee cup runneth over. Or my martini glass.

—NM