The first thing that you notice when you take your first steps on the streets of New York is the height of the buildings. It’s quite staggering. The streets are incredibly busy, but I’m from London so I wasn’t as blown away by that. Combined with the architecture however, the initial shock was intense – but I adapted quickly. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the city.
I was based in the New York office, but sometimes I had to go to the Stamford office in Connecticut. If you go from mid-town Manhattan, it’s about a 40 minute train ride. On days when I was working in Connecticut, I had to wake up at 5.30 in the morning to get to work on time. The most annoying part was that it didn’t actually take that long on the train, but all the bussing and waiting around I had to do to get across town held me up so much, adding hugely to my commuting time. I’d spend four hours per day travelling, which was gruelling to say the least! It was much better when I was working in New York, as I could get the 8.20am ferry across the Hudson River and be in the office before nine.
My department within the bank was more laid-back than some of the other departments, but we all worked hard. If we were busy, it was manic. But if we weren’t I was sometimes allowed to go home early. I was very fortunate with my manager – she was amazing. She wasn’t the sort of person that made me feel like I had to pretend that I was working when we both knew there wasn’t a lot going on. I could also have proper discussions with her which was lovely because I’d never had a boss like that before.
The way that people dressed really varied between departments. I was in a “middle office” role so-to-speak, meaning that I had to meet with external stakeholders from time to time, so the dress code was “business dress”. I wore tailored trousers or a skirt with a shirt most of the time, but it wasn’t so formal that I always had to have my top button done up. Some of the other departments were allowed to dress more casually if they weren’t meeting with clients – ours was more strict in that sense.
I was pleasantly surprised about how multicultural the office was. Most people were American, but there were lots of people from other countries there as well, so I wasn’t the only one without an American accent. I often went for lunch with my colleagues – especially on Fridays. I’d normally eat with the other interns, as we were all split onto other departments so lunch was a good opportunity to get to know each other. There was a canteen at the office but we’d often go out into Manhattan to eat. There were quite a few Chinese places around which were good - and there was a British pub nearby too, where we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. They made a big deal out of St. Patrick’s Day in the US, which I didn’t expect. Everyone was walking around the city wearing green!