The London Advantage from a Latino Perspective

By Andrea Lara Cid (MIFFT2024) and Natalia Gaviria (MIFFT2024)

I will never forget what the taxi driver told me upon arriving in London: ‘The good thing about London is that London is for everyone’ – ‘I just hope there is a place in London for me too,’ I thought. – Andrea Lara Cid, MIFFT2024

After more than six months into the Masters in Finance (MIF) programme, we have gained clarity on the main advantages of being Latin American in a city as multicultural as London. Highlighting our main struggles and added value, here are the four main advantages we have perceived as Latin students abroad in London.

Advantage #1: A Financial Hub

We both knew from the beginning that London was the dream destination for anyone looking to delve into the world of finance. We expected a city full of opportunities and dynamics quite different from those we experienced in our home countries. And we weren’t wrong; in London, we realized that finance is a vast world with a multitude of sub-sectors, and we’ve met professionals working in financial sectors we had never even heard of.

The prospect is exhilarating. The potential for discovering challenging and rewarding roles seems limitless, and people are more than willing to open up about their personal backgrounds and share their experiences. However, it also involves recognizing what sets us apart. It is crucial to identify our strengths and, more importantly, to determine what truly motivates us – where our passion lies. That is our superpower and, ultimately, what will make us stand out from the crowd.

For us, living in a city with diverse career opportunities meant discovering our aspirations and setting our sights on future achievements. With opportunities spanning various fields, it is paramount to focus on what captivates and inspires us the most.

Advantage #2: Our Cultural Value is Appreciated

In a city full of foreigners, Latinos won’t pass unnoticed. Latinos are known for being friendly, expressive, and yes, loud. While not everyone may immediately grasp our sense of humor, many relish our company. Our reputation precedes us; we’re renowned for our wit and freedom of expression, and our authenticity resonates across cultures.

Amid other more conservative or reserved cultures, we bring joy and laughter to social gatherings, and we infuse our study groups with creativity and active participation. We’re constantly nudging others to join us on the dance floor, encouraging them to let loose and have a fun time. This is much appreciated by our international friends.

Advantage #3: Embracing Language Barriers

A conversation with a friend changed everything for me. He told me: ‘ Sure, occasionally you make some grammatical mistakes while presenting, but your hand gestures, your posture in front of an audience, and the passion you convey while speaking are remarkable. I couldn’t care less about a minor error; all I see is a girl full of confidence in front of a classroom.’ – Natalia Gaviria, MIFFT2024

Language insecurities are more widespread than we think. Many Latinos feel that their English proficiency falls short because casual English conversations aren’t prevalent in our countries. What’s more, we’ve internalized the narrative that having an accent is undesirable, leading us to strive to conceal it. In our countries, English proficiency is frequently linked with socioeconomic status. Consequently, unless our English is flawless, we lack confidence in speaking it and feel constantly judged by others.

While the journey has not been easy, one eventually learns that doing our best to communicate with others is good enough. We’re not supposed to lack an accent, we’re allowed to make grammar mistakes often and ask others to speak slower, and every day is a new opportunity to keep expanding our vocabulary.

Not comparing ourselves to others is also critical. For many of us, this is our first experience abroad, while others might have studied abroad during high school or college or worked outside their hometown for a while. Therefore, remembering that each person has their path is key; progress is progress even when we feel we’re improving at a “slow pace”.

Advantage #4: New Ways of Entertainment

Latinos spend a lot of time with their families and friends, usually enjoying tasty food and good music. In contrast, Europeans have a much stronger sports culture, particularly around winter sports. Aside from a few countries, Latin America is not a region with much snow, and certainly, Mexico and Colombia don’t stand out for their diverse seasons. So, joining the LBS Snow Trek was not only a new experience but also a challenging one.

We were both learning how to ski amid these European and Canadian experts. It was scary, embarrassing, and exciting at the same time. Of course, we struggled to master the slopes and overcome our fears. But we were fortunate that our non-Latino friends were incredibly empathetic with us, they gave us plenty of tips and waited patiently for us.

On top of that, during the Snow Trek, we realized that each culture can contribute something to the international buffet. For instance, Latinos may not have snow, but we have reggaeton, which is just as good. The beauty of international experiences lies in their ability to help us appreciate the richness of diversity.

Upon reflection, the taxi driver had a point: London is for everyone willing enough to show openness, curiosity, and tolerance toward other cultures’. – Andrea Lara Cid, MIFFT2024

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