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Life in London: Adventures of an IEA Intern 

Picture of Nicholas Tan

Nicholas Tan

2023 Mannkal Scholar

Walking to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on my first day of work and passing historical buildings like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Palace of Westminster, I couldn’t but feel incredibly excited to begin my time in London.

Having recovered from the jetlag of a 17-hour flight from Perth, I hit the ground running and was tasked on reviewing a paper on anti-competitive market distortions, which provided an empirical analysis and methodology on ways to reduce global trade inefficiencies. Alongside similar research projects covering topics from the European energy sector to food reformulation strategy, I’ve had the opportunity to sharpen my knowledge of free market mechanisms and have gained a greater understanding of the ‘order in the chaos’ that emerges from the actions of individual agents.

I’ve also been lucky to work with an amazing cohort of eight other interns from all over the world, who have each brought a unique perspective on controversial topics that frequently pop up during our chats in the office. As a workplace that prides itself on being a “safe place for people, not for ideas”, I have grown adept at being able to support my position on a range of ideas and feel more comfortable with being challenged and challenging others on their beliefs.

Nicholas with the IEA intern crew

As part of the internship, we’ve also had regular seminars from researchers and staff members at the IEA, covering topics like the Rise of Socialism (Kristian Niemietz), the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Daniel Freeman) and Liberalism, Conservatism and Radicalism (Stephen Davies). These seminars have been very informative in opening my eyes to the depth and breadth of knowledge that is required as an economist to understand global economic issues, and encouraged me to continue to stay on top of topical international affairs and social debates. Sam Cruickshank, a past Mannkal scholar and now my manager, has also been great in arranging social activities for us to explore London. One of the highlights has been a night tour and pub crawl around the Soho area to learn about its famous patrons like the No. 1 Executioner in England, Albert Pierrepoint, and George Orwell, the famous dystopian author of 1984.

I’ve enjoyed working in an organisation like the IEA as it has enabled me to work across a variety of different departments. Apart from the research work I’ve completed, I’ve also worked closely with the education team in devising a new educational platform, and with the operations department, where I assisted in running events like book clubs, Food for Thought seminars and panel nights. The diversity of work available allowed me to have a ‘taster’ of everything that the IEA does, and has culminated in my appointment as Head Intern, where I am responsible for managing the other interns.

Living in London has been an experience in itself. A month in, I’m finally feeling comfortable with the city and the constant busyness of living in a place with five5 times the population of Perth. Its proximity to a plethora of amazing destinations has also been an advantage – I’ve used the weekends to make trips to Copenhagen, Oxford, and Brighton, to name a few.

As I enter the final weeks of my time at the IEA, I’m looking forward to participating in a moderated debate, finishing up my editorial piece for the 1828 blog (watch this space!) and continuing to expand my skillset through tackling whatever challenges come my way.

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