Jamie Henson

Land of the free

September 4th, 2014

Well, I’m finally here! Five months ago, I received a piece of news that rendered me both speechless and giddily excited. And then just one week ago, I was very, very tired having just got off an 11 hour flight, but no less enthused. For the past week, San Francisco has been my home, and will be for the next 55 - give or take.

Back before University I remember always wanting to go to the States - Bristol’s year abroad program was part of the reason I chose it (even though I ended up not going in the end). Last year a mate on my course applied for the Silicon Valley Internship Program (SVIP) and I must say I didn’t give it much thought at the time. That was until he got onto the scheme, and then suddenly my indifference elevated to “Shit. I want to do that!“.

So this year I applied, and after months of gruelling interviews, knockout stages and a Google’s-worth of prep I too made it onto the programme, at (as luck would have it) the same company as my fellow ex-Bristolian.

When I got the news I couldn’t quite believe it, I literally couldn’t (and still can’t) think of a better way to progress after University than this - an opportunity to work for a year in Silicon Valley with a startup at the cutting edge of their area. Tech Mecca. Tekker.

I’ve only been to America once before, and while that too was technically on business, I wasn’t able to really live in the same shoes as a resident. I’m not saying that I’m one-of-the-gang in San Francisco just yet, but I’ve already moved away from the tourist mould in that I’ve been about in parts that tourists probably wouldn’t see. And I won’t omit this part either - it hasn’t been easy so far.

Even though jetlag has long stopped being an issue, we (as in me and the other members of the SVIP cohort) have been going to bed routinely before 11 in the week. The days are long, but not because of tedium - but because there’s a hell of a lot to do and because we all have a huge amount to learn. Plus, as California is so massive it takes a good while to get to work. It’s astounding really, I suppose I’ll feel even better soon when I can actually contribute to the company I’m working for!

Another source of difficulty was more emotional than physical. Coming here involved saying a lot of goodbyes, some rather painful, but the emotion was diffused somewhat with the realisation that they wouldn’t be completely disconnected from me, nor me from them. In this day and age it’s actually a challenge to not be able to contact someone!

But for the positives, oh man. The city is very impressive, even at a glance. Regions change so much, and there’s great things to see in each. This is just an intro post - I’ll write more about SF when I feel well-versed enough to actually comment about it. As an indication of the vibe here though, on my first day I stumbled upon a Filipino food festival with a performer singing and ukulele-ing about the difficulties of being in a relationship with a vegetarian. And the moments have rolled in since!

P.S. Despite all the merits, the tea here just isn’t the same. This pains me.