SMU-in-London

48 communication students from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts are studying international media, advertising, British cinema and nonprofit communications.

A Scare

It’s Friday the 13th, so we did the only thing appropriate for such an infamous day: we went on the Jack the Ripper walking tour of London. The tour took us around different parts of London in relation to the murders committed by Jack the Ripper.

Although it may seem the walk’s purpose was to bring a scare, which it did, it was actually a great historical telling of 19th-century London. In the tour, I learned that London had and has two police forces: one for the city of London, the original city; and one for the rest of the metropolitan area. The murderer used the invisible line dividing the two forces with knowledge that neither police force could intrude on a case on their territory. Another interesting fact is that hospitals at the time were called “spitals,” the host part didn’t come until later, hence the name Spitalfields Market. The area was important to the tour due to a supposed Jack the Ripper murder there in the middle of day. The details to each murder were very descriptive, which provided the scare.

-Esmeralda

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Ahhhh…Those Golden Arches

How can you tell you’re getting homesick for food? The answer is quite simple: you’ll walk 20 minutes on foot to get to a McDonald’s.

At this point in the trip, I was tired of sandwiches and healthy food and needed something that would remind me of the food I would normally eat in America. Although McDonald’s may not have seemed like the best choice, a Big Mac with those famous fries sounded mighty good at the moment.

I looked up the directions on Mapquest which told me it would take 5 minutes for me to get there. So off I went to get my ??3 heart attack, forgetting the time was estimated for a car ride. Fifteen minutes into the walk, thoughts of turning back prompted by sore feet and dark clouds were quickly discarded by the sign in the distance. Ahhh, those Golden Arches, peeking through the tall double decker buses, stood like the Statue of Liberty announcing the way to food freedom.

After taking a bus back to the office, I sat at my desk, Big Mac and all, ready to bite into a piece of heaven. Unfortunately, the bite tasted more like an imitation of American heavenliness. My walk had been in vain. It wasn’t like the Big Macs back home, but then again, nothing is ever really like home.

-Esmeralda

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How to fight poverty

An update from Casey, a senior from McKinney majoring in CCPA and earning her EC-4 Teaching Certificate who has a summer internship in London with AFFORD (African Foundation For Development).

I spent most of my day at work researching for the case statement on my organization, AFFORD. I am not even halfway through the day, and I already feel compelled to share what I have learned through my research. First and foremost, immigration delivers massive economic gains, which could be used for poverty reduction!

Even though I am researching African issues, I see a direct connection to the immigration debate at home in America. I have always stood firm in my belief that immigrants are not problems – they are people trying to improve their lives and must be treated accordingly with respect and given rights – but today doubly stand strong, in my opinion.

How someone can declare a person illegal and send them to jail for trying to feed their starving family, boggles my mind and continues to be seen in my eyes as a direct breach of universal human rights. Who has the right to say that because I was born in an industrialized country I have the right to feed my family and receive education, but everyone else in the world who might have been born into lesser circumstances are just unfortunate – that is too bad for them! Excuse me, but that is just ridiculous! If people don’t see the absurdity in that logic, then take a look at the research I found today.

Let workers work
A slight relaxation of restrictions on the movement of workers – increasing the proportion of migrants in the workforce of developed countries to 3 percent – would deliver global gains of perhaps $150 billion per year. To me this only makes sense, especially to Americans considering the simple fact that if there are global gains than the rich will always get richer and the poor will just get a little less poor. So for those who are selfish about resources, then they should still support immigration because they do gain – A LOT – and at least the poor are gaining some instead of moving backwards.

Worldwide, 175 million people, or just under 3% of the total population, live outside their country of birth. Thus, all the Americans who say the immigrants are going to take over our country and use up our resources are completely out of line. If you look at the facts it proves that is impossible!

Sending money home
So, how does immigration reduce poverty? The current volume of remittances, that is money sent home by immigrants to their country of origin, is estimated to be $93 billion per year, and with the addition of unrecorded remittances the total amounts to perhaps $300 billion. This compares to global aid by governments and NGOs of $68.5 billion per year. These figures alone are the reason my organization, AFFORD, is into African development and not aid. It is a HUGE opportunity to reduce poverty. If you can find a way to maximize remittances and make sure they are getting to the people who need them, then $300 billion a year could greatly reduce poverty.

Greater awareness on the part of governments and development agencies is necessary. If the potential of remittances is to be maximized, then more research needs to be done to understand remittances and their use in order to increase the flow of remittances and to make them work better for poverty reduction (Which is what my organization does).

Everybody wins
It’s plain and simple, immigration is a win-win situation. Immigrants have the chance to employ their energy and enterprise in pursuit of a better life, and host societies have the opportunity to benefit from an influx of skills. Home societies can benefit from resources remitted by people who have moved away and from the return of migrants, armed with new skills and ideas.

I am completely sold in this strategy to fighting world poverty. Yes, it might make life in America a little different, but hey survival is about diversifying so we can’t have all our eggs grouped together looking the same and thinking the same in one basket. There is no quick fix to poverty reduction, but it is obvious that we cannot turn our backs on immigration as at least part of the solution.

- Casey

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Learning about children’s rights

Right now I’m a volunteer intern at Child Rights Information Network, or CRIN. CRIN works inside the Save the Children building, and basically hosts the organization, which is quite small compared to Save the Children, which is an internationally known child’s rights INGO. CRIN has just 3 members who are paid, and these are the three people who have been supervising me, mentoring me, advising me and guiding me through the last three weeks. They are fantastic people fueled by passion and never daunted by all the dozens of challenges they face each day.

CRIN is a global network that disseminates information about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and child rights amongst NGO’s, United Nations agencies, inter-governmental organization (IGOs), educational institutions, and other child rights experts. The Coordinating Unit is based in London, UK, where I am working now.

The network is supported and receives funding from Save the Children Sweden, Save the Children UK, UNICEF and other large organizations in Europe. CRIN has a membership of more than 1,700 organizations in over 140 countries. About 85 percent of the members are NGOs; and 65 percent are in the Africa, Asia and Latin America. In addition to working with member organizations, CRIN services the information needs of 2500 organizations and individuals who have joined the mailing lists.

The organization revolves around the website, which is updated daily with current events that affect children’s rights all over the world. It is a mecca of information on the CRC and the hundreds of treaties, council hearings and documents that each country has.

The challenge that I have been facing the past two/three weeks is one that I encountered on my first day working here. While researching the organization to help me better understand CRIN, I uncovered some rather troubling information.

CRIN operates around the CRC, the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The basic premise of the Convention is that children (all human beings below the age of 18) are born with fundamental freedoms and the inherent rights of all human beings. Many governments have enacted legislation, created mechanisms and put into place a range of creative measures to ensure the protection and realization of the rights of those under the age of 18. Each government must also report back on children’s rights in their country.

Since its adoption in 1989 after more than 60 years of advocacy, the CRC has been ratified more quickly and by more governments than any other human rights instrument. There are two governments who haven’t ratified the CRC. Somalia….and the U.S. I was shocked to hear this. The CRC has been the subject of heated political opposition in the U.S., mostly coming from conservative religious organizations. These organizations are well funded, well organized, and very vocal. The primary argument made by these opponents is that the CRC threatens parental rights and the American family because it will give children and the state dangerous new rights against parents.

This argument is based on the idea that the CRC will be used by the state against individual parents to take such action as removing their children. The opponents’ premise is that the protections in the CRC will be interpreted as protections for children against parents, or will mandate prosecutions of parents for failing to respect their children’s rights.

From what I understand, the U.S. is basically claiming that whatever laws and treaties it already has is all that it needs. They don’t want the U.N. to intervene and tell them how to run their country. They think whatever they have is superior, and that infuriates me. The CRC is a great document ensuring that children are protected. The excuses used by the U.S., to date, are that the death penalty used to include minors, up until a few years ago. Also the CRC would protect and ban children being used as armed forces, and the U.S. used to enlist boys who were 16 and 17. Now their excuse is that the CRC would let children sue their parents, which is an exaggerated excuse in my opinion. Somalia doesn’t even have a government and that’s the only reason they haven’t ratified it. The U.S. is a self proclaimed leader of the free world, and they can’t even ratify a document that would make it more so.

-Kelly W.

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Jessica: Celebrating the Fourth of July

I celebrated my first Fourth of July away from my parent???s hometown of Frederic, WI, last night, and I have to admit I was a bit homesick. We went to a small American-themed bar in Covent Garden where they played Bruce Springsteen and Lynyrd Skynyrd all night, which was cool, but I missed the celebrations I had grown up loving. Someone set off fireworks in the park next to us, but they couldn???t compete with my uncle???s homemade fireworks display over the lake by his house, or seeing my little cousins playing in the marching band in the local parade. This year was particularly hard not to be home because it is the first Fourth of July since my brother decided to enrol as a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the mixture of not knowing where he is and being so proud of him for serving our country was overwhelming. It also makes hearing the occasional anti-American rant a bit harder.

To be honest I thought everyone would hate us here just because we are American, and I am please to say that this is not the case. However, there are some who hate where our country has taken not only itself but the rest of the world with it, and many are not afraid to share their opinions. While out last night a man approached one of my friends, and upon finding out she was American, burst into a 15 minute rant about how ignorant she was, how disastrous our foreign policy is and how it???s our fault for electing the wrong leaders. While in a way it made me really angry to hear him insult my country, our military, my way of life, ME, just because of some decisions that were made in trying times, I refrained from telling him where his opinions went blatantly against fact and instead decided to find his side of it all intriguing.

Now days there aren???t even many Americans who would side with our administration, and I was far from surprised to find that this man wouldn???t. But to be an American living in day-to-day U.S.A. is to see a certain side of things, even a certain side of other people, and sometimes we forget the world is round and everything can be looked at from some other way. I thought I was worldly before I got here because I read the New York Times and the occasional Foreign Affairs magazine, but text cannot teach me how the average person half way across the world thinks, or the perceptions a man from Westminster can hold of me before he has even seen my face or heard my name. This world is suddenly bigger than it was in my polisci text books, and I know now that I really don???t have anything figured out just because I can tell you the differences between Sunnis and Shiites. I have finally looked beyond the bold print of scholars to the details of an every man???s life, and it???s both humbling and absolutely intriguing.

- Jessica

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What’s an INGO? A message from Kathy LaTour

Since 2000 the Corporate Communications & Public Affairs Division of Meadows School of the Arts has offered students an emphasis in nonprofit management that provided them a theory class and a writing class with an internship.

This summer we have taken that approach global with our class “Communication in the Global Civil Society,” offered as part of the communications in London program. The 17 students who apsplied for this class knew that it would require an internship with an International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) as well as the theory classes on the growth of the Civil Society.

It took calls to more than 45 organizations to find 17 who fit our needs, and on June 25, when they left Regent’s College in the middle of London, they traveled to different parts of the city, where their placement waited. The organizations include human rights groups such as Global Witness, the Secretariat Against the Use of Children as Soldiers, Womankind International, The Greenbelt Movement, the Consortium for Street Children and Healthlink World Wide.

They are also working with the OneWorld network at OneWorld Broadcasting and OneClimate as well as childre’s organizations such as EveryChild and the Childre’s Rights Information Network. And two are working with for-profit organizations that benefit the Civil Society, Geneva Global, which matches donor funds with projects around the world, and Africa Practice, which assists the growth and development of cause-related marketing in Africa.

Almost from the first day the students began talking of how their views of the world have broadened and changed and how they feel that their experiences this summer will change them forever.

Kathy LaTour
Senior Lecturer, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs

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Jessica: I love London

Jessica is a junior from Eagan, Minnesota, with a CCPA and political science double major and a minor in Spanish. The SMU Scholar is participating this summer in the SMU-in-London communications program and interning with the Consortium for Street Children.

I have been in London for a little more than a week and I am already in love. I’ve bought into the accent, the history, the progress, the general bustle of city whole heartedly, and my proudest moments have come from locals commenting on how well I seem to have adjusted in such a short time. My goal is to assimilate to the life around me to the point where, if I don’t open my mouth, people won’t know that I belong an ocean away from here.

I’m interning at a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called the Consortium for Street Children while I’m here. Everyday after breakfast I walk the half mile to the Baker Street Station, run my Oyster card and get on the tube south, transferring once, to a little stop called Brixton where the office is located. This daily routine that seemed so overwhelming before I got here has helped me become more than just a student travelling abroad for a month. My commute makes me mingle in the daily life of busy professionals, and makes me go out on my own to places I would certainly not have visited otherwise.

Brixton itself is full of character, and is much different from the immaculate Regents Park that I leave every morning. It’s not dangerous and never once have I felt unsafe, but the people I encounter are not always the type I would feel comfortable chatting up, and I wouldn’t go there by myself after dark as a young, American blonde girl. It’s a rougher side of town that I doubt many tourists would care to go. To me, though, this is really the best part of my internship. For however briefly, I am living the life of someone I might like to be someday. Just an average, broke 20-something-year-old going to a job I believe passionately about, somewhere in London. The people I work with are amazing as well, and I am lucky to have a desk across from a Houston-native with some really incredible stories from his experiences abroad. Plus he gives me tips on all of the best places to try while I’m here. Very helpful for when my friends and I go out after work for a favourite English activity: happy hour. Perhaps more on that later.

- Jessica

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“The Office”: An update from Candy

Interning in London has been one of the most challenging and exciting experiences I’ve ever had. There are so many differences between how the U.S. and the Brits approach nonprofits. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the approach or mentality towards fundraising. Here in London, there is a greater dependence on money from foundations and the government, whereas back in the U.S. the majority of donations come from individuals.
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There are also a lot of differences in the office culture. One thing that surprised me and many of the other interns is how quiet the offices are. In my office, there is very little conversation throughout the day. Not only are the offices quiet, but everyone in my office eats their lunch right at their desks. As an American or Texan, I’m used to working in kind of loud environments where everyone talks about what’s going on at their desks and everyone goes out for a one-hour lunch to take a break from the office. That’s difficult to get used to here.
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I guess it’s a trade-off because my office mates are having a hard time getting used to me using “y’all” in every other sentence. You can take the Texan out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the Texan. Cheers!
– Candy

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Mystery Food

I don’t know what I ate today or even how to describe it, but I had to eat it because my boss made it. I will make an attempt to paint a picture of what was going into my mouth. It included some kind of green vegetable, perhaps zucchini, tomato, big chunks of white cheese and a million little, tiny yellow balls. I was wondering where the meat was hidden. There was none.

The meal was part of the weekly Wednesday lunch the office has together to discuss current projects. Meals here in London have been a little difficult for me to take in. There are many sandwich shops around London with menus that include wraps and salads. Well, first, I can’t eat sandwiches or wraps comfortably because of my braces (I can’t bite into things, my mouth would be a mess, and it can break my brackets) and salads are just not my thing, but I will survive.

Yesterday, I was invited to a meeting with a radio broadcast journalism professor at City University by the chief exec of the org. Although I had to leave an hour earlier, it was definitely worth it. I learned a lot about pitching ideas and taking criticism from someone. I wish I could have contributed to the pool of ideas but I wasn’t really briefed on the purpose of the meeting. Apparently, Peace Direct wants to launch a radio program profiling the experience of the unsung heroes they support and profile on their other website Insight on Conflict. Since Chris works for BBC Radio, the professor suggested he pitch it to them. From the meeting I realized the passion these people have for their cause. Peace Direct’s major concern is let people know about these peacebuilders and their stories; they don’t really care if Peace Direct gets mentioned at all.

During the meal later, I got to present myself to the team and explain what I would be doing for the next few weeks. After eating the mystery food, I helped a coworker wash dishes. She commented that she had gained weight. I told her she wasn’t fat, to which she responded, “Maybe not by American standards.” I didn’t know whether to take that as an offense or what, but I thought it was funny considering my previous frustration with healthy foods. I didn’t know how to react.

I am slowly getting accustomed to life here in London. The tube is getting easier to understand, and I am learning more about the work ethic. I know I will get to understand much more of this as the days go by.

-Esmeralda

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First Impressions

After hearing the night before that it takes 10 different encounters to change a first impression, I can???t say that I was calm riding the tube to my internship today. I was very nervous and scared about that first impression and the overall impact I would leave on this organization. I was wondering whether they would take me seriously because of my age, so I knew that first impression had to be a really good one.

This summer I would be working for Peace Direct, a London based nonprofit organization supporting grassroots peacebuilding by funding, promoting and learning from local peacebuilders in conflict areas. My supervisor Chris greeted me in the lobby of the building and led me to the office: a large room with about 9 computers and only 3 people in it. He was very much ready for me. He had a packet prepared letting me know about the organization and outlining my ???mission.??? It made me nervous because at the bottom it said that this my chance to make my ???mark??? on Peace Direct. A challenge, but I???m definitely up for it.

After orientation, I was on my own to begin my mission (i.e. computer research). One thing, I did notice was how silent it was in that room. Chris had warned me, but I didn???t know it was going to be that quiet. In my office back home, everyone is always joking around and talkative, rare moments of silence in between. This was really different. I dove into my research for the rest of the afternoon a bit confused on where to start, but glad to be trusted with the project.

During the rest of the time, I spoke with a lady who worked there about the organization, then came up with questions for Chris to answer at the end of the day. Overall it was a very good day: my supervisor seems nice, the rest of the people seem nice, and I actually have something to do. Now all I had to worry about was the ride home.

I was by myself, not that I???ve never been by myself before, but I was by myself in a country overseas in a city that I am not familiar with and in a tube station that I was not comfortable with yet. It was all great though; I made it back safely for dinner and a chat with my professor and the girls. I learned more about independence and saw something different about British culture.
Looking forward to the next few weeks.

-Esmeralda

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