Lindsay optimized her study abroad experience with CAPA International Education in Sydney during Spring 2012 by interacting with the local community and making Australian friends as well as enjoying CAPA's MyEducation events that allowed her to discover some of the city's hidden gems. With an internship at a homeless community center, Lindsay also saw the other side of life in Sydney and was also able to travel to Thailand for another adventure while abroad. After an unforgettable semester, she strongly encourages everyone to study abroad.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
LINDSAY LAW: I grew up in Orange County, California, but now live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I am currently a Psychology Major at UMass Amherst and I studied abroad in Sydney in Spring 2012.
CW: Why did you decide to study abroad and why specifically Sydney?
LL: I have always known that I wanted to go to Australia, I just didn't know when. As soon as I found out that I could not only study abroad there but have an internship as well, I was sold. I had heard about the beautiful weather and beaches, happy people, and positive vibe. I was not disappointed.
CW: Tell us about your first impressions of Sydney and any that changed by the time you went home. What surprised you most about your host country?
LL: I had no idea what to expect before I arrived in Sydney! I knew what the Opera House looked like from afar based on good old Google images, but that’s about it. I didn't expect it to be so big and definitely didn't expect it to be so clean. What surprised me the most about Australia was how different it was from America. I had heard that it was very Americanized and pictured a clone of New York City, but found that the two couldn't have been more different. Sydney was quaint, even with its size, and will always have my heart.
CW: Did you complete an internship while you were abroad?
LL: My internship was one of my favorite parts of being in Sydney. I got placed with the Salvation Army at a homeless community center in the heart of the city called Streetlevel. I had the opportunity to work with many of the homeless community members in Sydney, which gave me a completely different perspective of the city. I learned about the welfare system in Australia and really got a chance to compare it to the welfare system here in America. My internship really pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but it ended up being one of the most influential experiences of my life.
CW: were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country? Most rewarding moment?
LL: The biggest challenge I faced in adapting to my host country was getting used to the prices. The minimum wage is about four times what it is here in America, so naturally the prices were shocking at first. I adjusted, but definitely had to test my budgeting skills. Another big challenge was learning to navigate the city, especially because I didn't have much experience with public transportation. Once I found my way around, though, I was able to explore without getting completely lost. The most rewarding aspect of my experience while studying abroad was proving to myself that I could travel on my own. Most of the other students in my program hadn't traveled alone either, so we worked together to see as much as we could.
CW: Did you have a chance to interact with the local community? If so, tell us about one interaction that stood out for you.
LL: I was lucky enough to have many interactions with the local community. My internship helped me explore the underprivileged community, but I also had the chance to spend time with locals in my everyday Sydney life. I promised myself that I would come home with Australian friends, so I made a point to meet as many as possible during my time there. I met Australians my age at coffee shops, beaches, and social gatherings. I found that many of the Americans in my CAPA group didn't reach out to the locals, and left wishing that they did. I definitely didn't feel that way. I now have friends in Australia who I could stay with if I went back to visit, and who could stay with me if they ever travel here to the states. I think that in order to completely immerse yourself into the culture of another country, you definitely have to build relationships with the locals.
CW: Talk a bit about CAPA academics. What were your favorite classes and why? Did you participate in any MyEducation events?
LL: The CAPA academics weren't anything to worry about. The professors made sure that we were successful and were very fair because they understood that we were traveling and exploring a new place. My favorite class was Australian Cinema because it gave me a chance to learn about Australian films which I otherwise wouldn't have. Our class got to visit a huge movie studio in Sydney which was really interesting. I participated in a few of the MyEducation events, and found that they brought me to places that I would consider “hidden gems”. The staff did a great job finding interesting places for us to go.
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?
LL: After I returned to the US, the first thing that I did was slept. I got the least amount of sleep that I have ever gotten while I was in Sydney, which I definitely do not regret. I then spent my summer working at a day camp, and then found myself back at UMass for my senior year. I became a Student Ambassador for CAPA and now spend a lot of time trying to encourage students to study abroad! My experience with CAPA changed my life forever, both personally and professionally, and will be something that I never forget. It will definitely contribute to the success of my career (whatever that might be) because I am a stronger person after my experience in Sydney.
CW: What advice would you offer other students currently on a study abroad program or considering one?
LL: The advice that I will give to students who are considering studying abroad is simple: DO IT! Whenever I meet students who are hesitant to study abroad, I ask them if they have ever met someone who didn't like their experience. The answer is always no. For those who have already decided to study abroad I will first say congratulations, you are about to embark on an unforgettable journey. Take chances, step outside of your comfort zone, and do things that you never pictured yourself doing. You will become a better version of yourself and will see life in a new way.
CW: What did your study abroad experience teach you about yourself and those around you?
LL: My study abroad experience taught me that I can do anything. The fact that I was able to travel alone not only throughout Australia, but also throughout Thailand on my own proved to me that I am braver than I thought. It also brought out my thirst for life, and made me want to travel the world!