Answering her “mobile” in an almost-British accent Pepperdine alumna Anna McDermott apologized for the background noise as she bustled through noisy traffic to the Tube station. This is not a typical day in the life of a Pepperdine graduate and McDermott does not have an ordinary story.
McDermott a Ventura Calif. native who majored in political science spent the 2007-2008 school year abroad with Pepperdine. But unlike her fellow classmates she never made the group flight home as scheduled.
“I heard about an internship in the House of Lords in Parliament so I ended up skipping my flight home with everyone else McDermott said. I stuck around in London and couch hopped for about three months.”
Instead of interning through Pepperdine McDermott received a visa through the less-pricey BUNAC program which allows current students or recent graduates to intern in Britain.
McDermott loved her internship so much she returned the following summer; when she graduated in 2009 London seemed the only natural destination for her post-grad life.
So what’s a girl to do when she has found a non-paid but amazing internship at Parliament and is so “skint” on cash that she cannot afford to rent a flat? Couch surf of course. McDermott has spent 14 months doing just that.
McDermott says she has mostly stayed with friends from Holy Trinity Brompton Church where she is an active member.
“I’m so exhausted from being homeless and living off pennies but I could easily go home take the easy alternative and live with my folks McDermott said.
Although her situation can be challenging at times, McDermott says it is well worth it. Her internship has given her the chance to live out her passions.
Today I got a call from a friend I made in Parliament who got me into ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ a weekly [event] that they do McDermott said. It was for the next general election.”
In a city that is continuing to grow and change she says she enjoys its unpredictability and constant surprises.
But McDermott isn’t the only student who returned to London after spending time abroad as a Pepperdine student.
Benita Goosby and Rachel Onojafe both studied in the London program during the 2005-2006 school year. They both returned to do the summer internship program in 2007 and moved to London after graduation in 2008. The two Pepperdine grads share a flat. They each chose to pursue what is considered to be the U.K.’s equivalent to graduate school— postgraduate study— at the University of Westminster. The master’s program at most universities in the U.K. is only a year-long program as opposed to what is normally a two-year program in the United States.
At “Uni” Westminster Goosby recently received her master’s in communication design while Onojafe received her master’s in marketing communications.
“I always wanted to get an advanced degree and I thought this was my chance to live abroad Goosby said. The easiest way to live abroad is not by getting a job there it’s definitely by going to school because they just welcome students with open arms here.”
Goosby and Onojafe said their time abroad with Pepperdine helped secure an easy transition since they already knew the rhythm of the city.
“The only things we really had to worry about were opening a bank account and finding a place to live Onojafe said.
They cited one of their favorite parts of the city as being the exciting art scene, which provides endless opportunities. Most of the museums offer free admission and are home to some of the best-known art in the world.
One thing that we like to do on Fridays is go to the National Gallery Goosby said. It’s such an exciting city. There’s so much going on here; you could never be bored.”
Another one of the many Pepperdine grads who has done postgraduate studies in London is Rachel Garrett who graduated in 2007 with a degree in advertising.
After spending two summers in London (2005 and 2006) she decided to pursue a master’s in management at Imperial College. Students who have studied in London know Imperial because of its close proximity to the Pepperdine house.
Garrett who recently graduated with her master’s degree said one of the highlights of attending Imperial was the expanse of friendships she made with people from all over the world.
“It’s so international Garrett said. It really opens your perspective on other people’s view of America and our politics. Overall it’s a great experience because it challenges you.”
Garrett says living abroad is not for everyone but asserts that studying abroad gives students a good gauge for how they would fare in the city.
“Some people get really homesick. I [also] know some people who think that taking the Tube is so annoying Garrett said. Obviously you probably shouldn’t be abroad if things like that bother you. [But] if you’re a person that has studied abroad and loved it then most likely you’re going to love going to school here.”
Garrett who met her English boyfriend at Imperial plans to stay in the city for a few more years at least. After that her plans are less clear but if she decides to stay in England she says she is considering moving to a smaller city like Oxford.
London continues to draw Pepperdine students back after graduation. Junior Elizabeth Neville and Sam Smerconish are part of a small group of students who studied abroad in London during the 2008-2009 school year and who plan on returning after graduation. Both participated in the Pepperdine Internship program the summer following their year abroad. The two aspiring chefs have high hopes of attending culinary school in London after graduation.
So what is it about London that lures students back year after year?
“The thing about London is that it’s haunted in the most beautiful way not in a spooky way Neville said. I just don’t feel like America is alive in the same way just because [the country is] so young.”
Another benefit of living in London is its world-renowned public transportation system. For Neville who does not have a car on campus it is a dream come true.
“You can access everything at your fingertips. Unlike [Malibu] where there’s no Tube and you can’t just walk Neville said.
As for McDermott, she finally settled down from her 13-month-long couch surfing adventure into a house in Putney. She will finally be working as a paid intern and has plans to attend graduate school at Kings College London next fall, where she will likely be studying international security.
Needless to say, she has no plans of leaving London any time soon.
My heart is here she said. It feels like home because I’ve spent so much of my adult life here.”