CAPA Study Abroad IRM Interview: Nora Larkin

Jul 15, 2013 10:15:06 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Photo: Nora under the St. Louis Arch

Meet Nora Larkin, one of CAPA International Education's newest Institutional Relations Managers who joined the organization in January this year. It seems things are going pretty swimmingly. In our interview below, Nora tells us about her US region that stretches through quite a few Eastern states as well as her own study abroad experiences - on three different occasions! She also lets us in on a special photography tip and shares a song she would add to her study abroad playlist. We're trying to shoot a video of her singing along, but no luck so far!

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself: Which university did you attend? Did you study abroad? If so, where and when? How long have you worked with CAPA?
NORA LARKIN: I went to the University of New Hampshire (go UNH hockey!) in Durham, NH, which is also where I grew up. I studied abroad for two semesters in college: in Salzburg, Austria and in Heidelberg, Germany. After UNH, I moved to Chicago, IL, which was what I like to call my Global City experience, and started working in the field of international education.

It is my experience, however, that you can only help others go abroad for so long before you want to try your hand at it again, too. So in 2010, I accepted a position as an English Language Teaching Assistant through the Fulbright Commission at a high school in Salzburg, Austria. During this time, I also volunteered with University of Redlands students on their semester abroad in Salzburg. Upon returning to Boston, I learned about CAPA International Education and was fortunate enough to come on board in January 2013.

CW: What are the boundaries of your region and some of the universities you work with on a regular basis?
NL: I work with NAFSA Region 6 (Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio) and Region 8 (Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia). CAPA has over 40 affiliate schools in these regions, which keep me very busy! I enjoy working with a diversity of schools in these states, from the small privates like Ursinus College and Hood College to the large publics such as Virginia Commonwealth University and Indiana University. Some schools take me out into the beautiful countryside like Western Kentucky University, while others, such as Chatham University in Pittsburgh, I can get to by public transportation.

Photo: Nora visits Pittsburgh

CW: As a CAPA representative, what do you see as the organization's best selling point?
NL: When I was first learned about CAPA, I was impressed by the extent to which CAPA had so thoroughly thought through its mission and identity as an organization, and what that means for the student experience. From the pre-departure to the re-entry process, CAPA students truly engage in study abroad programs that are personalized to their own academic and personal interests, and in the global cities in which they live through internships and activities on the MyEducation calendar. I think it’s so important that students are given the tools to take ownership over their experiences, and I feel a sense of this as a CAPA employee as well.

CW: Tell us a bit about your own study abroad experience.
NL: I studied abroad as a second-semester freshman in Salzburg, Austria, and then again as a second-semester junior in Heidelberg, Germany. Having grown up in a small town, I found that the experience of being foreign and anonymity of an urban environment, while challenging, was also quite liberating, and allowed me to think about my own identity outside of the usual social and cultural boundaries. CAPA’s focus on personalized learning inherently recognizes the value of diversity, and has the tools and staff in place to help students navigate their environment, whatever their background or however they choose to identify themselves. Of course, my study abroad experience certainly had an impact on my career as well!

Photo: Nora at the Philadelphia Independence Hall

CW: What would be your personal choice as a CAPA study abroad destination and why?
I wrote my senior thesis on Turkish-German immigrants in Germany, so I’ve always wanted to go to Turkey and learn more about the country’s fascinating history and complex relationship to Europe. I like how Bilgi University and CAPA course tracks bring into focus the city’s cultural, historical, and political themes from the local (The Global City), regional (Europe), and international (Globalization) levels.

However, when I was in London in January, I was so inspired by the global city and thriving theatre scene, which has recently been captured in the new CAPA London theatre space, The Street. I think I would spend a spring semester in Istanbul and then the summer in London!

CW: Best food you've tasted while abroad in a CAPA city? Where were you and what was it?
NL: I think many CAPA London students would agree with me that it doesn’t get much better than the Brick Lane tour and curry dinner!

Photo: Nora visits Washington DC

CW: Do you have any advice for study abroad alumni who are struggling with the returning home phase of their journey?
NL: My coping mechanism seems to be going abroad again! Other than that, I've found that becoming involved in international activities on campus kept my study abroad experience relevant, even after my semester abroad was over, and maintained my desire to want to pursue an internationally-focused career. On campus, returned study abroad students can volunteer with the study abroad office, attend a conference for returned study abroad students, become a CAPA ambassador, connect with the international student community, or take classes with an international focus. After graduation, there are many ways to return abroad outside of the more competitive grants and scholarships, including teaching English through foreign government programs or pursuing a degree abroad.

CW: What song would you put on your study abroad playlist?
NL: Maybe this is more of a guilty pleasure, but I found This Girl is on Fire to be a particularly good pump up song when I’m on the road! Just don’t ask me to sing it. Seriously.

Photo: Nora visits Bloomington, Indiana - in bloom!

CW: What has been your favorite discovery as an IRM on the road?
NL: I have had so much fun this past spring exploring new parts of the US and meeting people at CAPA’s partner institutions in these locations. I’ve had some excellent meals in Pittsburgh (Sienna), Philadelphia (Tria), Richmond (Edo’s Squid), and DC (Zaytinya). And it was such a treat to experience sunny, 80 degree weather in Kentucky and southern Indiana in April. I’m looking forward to continuing these adventures on the road for CAPA this Fall!

CW: Do you have any photography tips for students studying abroad?
NL: Although I enjoy it, I’m an amateur photographer at best. When my brother came to visit me in Salzburg, he brought a new camera and we went on a nighttime photo shoot of the city. One thing I learned from this adventure was that if you need a tripod you can always use your partner’s head (just hold real still!).

Thanks Nora!

Topics: Interviews