After a semester abroad in London with CAPA International Education, Donald Tripp is happy to be reunited with his family in Phoenix, Arizona. He's looking forward to his next trip to London though and has carried away many fond memories and life lessons from his study abroad experience. Read on to find out what surprised him most about his host city, his most rewarding moment and a link at the end to a series of vlogs Donald kept during his time abroad.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
DONALD TRIPP: My name is Donald Tripp, and I go to Arizona State University. I am an English major with a newly declared History minor, focusing on British Literature and History. I was born in a little town called Socorro, New Mexico, but have lived in Phoenix most of my life.
CW: Where and when did you study abroad with CAPA International Education?
DT: I studied in London in the Fall 2012 semester.
CW: Why did you decide to study abroad and why specifically London?
DT: I've always wanted to travel, and a few years ago I got the opportunity to travel to Europe with my sister. I got a taste for London, which I already knew I would love, and made it clear to myself that I would be coming back as a student and spending as much time there as I could.
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 city?
DT: First impressions… well, I'd been once before, but I realized quickly that my mental map of the city was totally wrong. I spent a good deal of time getting out and just walking in the city, seeing things and talking to people. I think that was what surprised me most - the people. London has a reputation as a Global City, but I never realized just what that meant. I could talk to anyone from anywhere, at any time on the streets of London.
CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host city? Most rewarding moment?
DT: I think the biggest challenge I faced was just the fear of being lost in the city. Phoenix is big, but not compact enough (and way too hot!) to walk anywhere, so relying on public transportation and walking in London was a big change for me. The Tube wasn't difficult once you got the hang of it and picked up on the unspoken rules, like standing on the right of the escalators. The most rewarding moment, I think, was when I needed to get to the British Museum from CAPA for a class and I didn't need to look at a map; I just knew where to change and to what to do. It was at that point that I realized I'd mastered the Tube and come that much closer to being a Londoner.
CW: Did you have a chance to interact with the local community? If so, tell us about one interaction that stood out for you.
DT: Every day you interact with Londoners! The first major milestone on my interaction list would probably be giving directions. The second week I was there, after I'd gotten used to the Tube a bit and figured out where things roughly were, I was walking to CAPA and was approached by a family of British people. They weren't from London, but asked me for directions to the nearest Tube station and then how to get to Notting Hill Gate. I pointed them in the direction they needed and showed them on the Tube map how to get there, where to change, and which platform they would need to be on. Numerous other people throughout the semester asked for directions, but the first time it happened I was pretty proud of myself.
CW: Talk a bit about CAPA academics. What were your favorite classes and why? Did you participate in any MyEducation events?
DT: I think my favorite class I took was either Shakespeare in London or 20th Century British Fiction. Alicia, my Shakespeare Professor, was funny and always had an actor or actress coming in to talk to us or to lead workshops. We had to see a lot of plays through this class too, and I got the chance to see Timon of Athens, which isn't preformed widely anymore, for extra credit. Mary was my Lit professor, and that class quickly became like a giant book club. We read some amazing novels and talked about them in depth, which was always good fun because Mary can be very blunt with her descriptions of people. I went to a lot of the ME events, as many as I could fit into my schedule. I really enjoyed the boat cruise down the Thames and tour of Greenwich, as well as the bike tour in Hyde Park. Curry night was fantastic too; you can't beat a Brick Lane curry!
CW: What have you been up to since you returned to the US? Do you feel that your experience with CAPA contributed or will contribute to your success in starting your career?
DT: I've been trying to acclimate back to Phoenix! It's nothing like London, and it's taken a bit to get back into the groove of things. I've been going to classes normally again. I think CAPA definitely contributed to my future, because I have the experience of being in a foreign place and having to adapt my lifestyle and habits to fit with a new place.
CW: What advice would you offer other students currently on a study abroad program or considering one?
DT: Manage your money wisely. The exchange rate is terrible, and it's easy to say yes to spending £10 on something, only to realize you actually spend $17 on it. I'd also say make the most of it, because it flies by and before you know it, you're back in the States wondering if it was all just some amazing dream!
CW: What did your study abroad experience teach you about yourself and those around you?
DT: I think it taught me that living away from family is definitely difficult, but not impossible. It showed me how important relationships with people are, both your flatmates and your family back home. Maintaining a balance of new and old isn't always easy, but once you get that figured out, you're golden!
Donald kept a series of vlogs during his time with CAPA International Education. Have a look at his YouTube channel! For a taster, here's the video of Donald's last day in London: