CAPA International Education alumna Ashley Steinberg from New York spent her Spring 2012 semester studying abroad in London. While she was there, she won a Record of Achievement Award from CAPA for her engagement with the local community. Below, she describes making friends with London's Jewish community as one of the highlights of her experience and tells us about her biggest challenges and what she learned about herself while abroad.
CAPA World: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
Ashley Steinberg: My name is Ashley Steinberg. I grew up in Bronx, New York, right outside the city. I am a Communications major and English minor at SUNY at Albany. I went to London with CAPA International Education in Spring 2012.
CW: Why did you decide to study abroad and why specifically London?
AS: I have always wanted to travel the world and I heard that London is close to many major countries and one can travel easily and with less money than she can from America to many places I wanted to see. I am also a big fan of British culture and do not speak many other languages, so London seemed like the best option for me.
CW: Tell us about your first impressions of London and any that changed by the time you went home. What surprised you most about your host country?
AS: London surprised me. I expected it to be similar to America in the way people acted and the day-to-day activities. I soon found that taking the tube was much simpler than taking the subway in NYC. It was a lot easier to read and accommodated those who had more trouble. Also, the people of London were much more receptive to and accepting of us as American travelers. While I did not expect outright rudeness, I also did not expect the warm welcome and general amusement that we feel towards them to be directed towards us. I also felt quite safe there. Aside from the time it took to adjust to cars driving on the other side of the road, it did not take long to become comfortable with my surroundings. The only problem I ran into was the money conversion and figuring out how much I was spending in American dollars versus British pounds.
CW: Did you complete an internship while you were abroad? If not, tell us about your favorite way to spend your free time in London.
AS: I did not complete an internship because I did not have the extra money to spend on a Visa and also I wanted the time to explore London or travel if I so chose. On my free days, I would either do work for classes, or if I could find a companion, take advantage of the many activities London had to offer. I would often wander and take the tube to random stations to explore the towns to which they took me. I would also see many events advertised to which I would gladly travel for a new experience. CAPA offered many tours and visiting speakers to fill our free time as well.
CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country? Most rewarding moment?
AS: Like I said, the biggest challenge was the money. Once I figured that out, it was much easier. Making travel plans is difficult until you meet people with whom you can plan trips. In addition, the tubes stop at midnight and navigating the night buses can be hard.
The most rewarding moment was when I connected to other Jewish people in London. I truly felt welcome in their circle and met many people with whom I would not have had the opportunity to interact had I not gone the extra step in reaching out to a Rabbi at Imperial College (the college with which CAPA is affiliated).
CW: Tell us about one interaction with the local community that stood out for you.
AS: As I mentioned, I reached out to the Jewish community at Imperial college. I went on a trip with them the weekend of my birthday to a campground in Wales where I hiked up a beautiful trail, visited a club in Cardiff, went ATV (four-wheel) bike riding and played golf. It was a weekend of camaraderie and fun, and while it was not something I would normally do, it is something I will remember forever.
CW: Talk a bit about CAPA academics. What were your favorite classes and why? Did you participate in any MyEducation events?
AS: I loved all of my classes. One class, "Writing the City", was my favorite because writing is one of my favorite hobbies. We would often take class trips to discover different neighborhoods and would be given quirky tasks in finding hidden places of importance to our teacher or British culture in general. In addition to writing about these trips, we would be given prompts to write creative stories inspired by what we have seen. It was an incredible, albeit different, experience.
CW: What have you been up to since you returned to the US? Do you feel that your experience with CAPA will contribute to your success in starting your career?
AS: I returned to finish my senior year at Albany. I am currently beginning to search for jobs in NYC and California. I think CAPA will help give me an edge because it shows independence, open-mindedness and the ability to make and stick to a decision. In addition, I won a Record of Achivement award at CAPA for community engagement that can now be displayed on my resume.
CW: What advice would you offer other students currently on a study abroad program or considering one?
AS: I would tell anyone considering the program to stop considering and start applying as soon as possible! It is a wonderful program with so many hidden benefits. The application process is long but in the end it is worth it. You will make so many friends, see so many new things and be given so many opportunities that you would not receive from another program.
CW: What did your study abroad experience teach you about yourself and those around you?
AS: My study abroad experience taught me that although I am meant to live in NYC, I am independent enough to travel and see the world. I know that I have an adventurous side and that I can step out of my comfort zone, away from my friends, and still succeed and thrive.