Photo: Jen by Tower Bridge, London
Meet Jen Pitts who developed her love of international travel while taking off for Germany during a thunderstorm! She's one of CAPA International Education's IRMs who works with universities who partner with CAPA on faculty-led programs. Below, Jen shares her guilty pleasure while traveling, shares a bit of photography advice (which was her major at college) for study abroad students and tells her favorite thing about CAPA!
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JEN PITTS: I am a born and bred New Englander. I grew up in Central Maine in the small town of Pittston – ironic that my now married name is Pitts! The idea of international travel in my community was, and remains, a foreign concept and something I never even considered. While at Ithaca College I decided on a whim to join a faculty-led photography program to Florence, Italy. My very first time in an airport, much less on an airplane, was for my flight from New York to Frankfurt, Germany. The plane took off in a middle of a thunderstorm, and while my neighboring passenger was freaking out, I was thinking that this was pretty cool and I was off on an adventure! I was hooked on international travel from that moment. Shortly after graduation I lived in Sydney, Australia for six months and then came back to the states to work for CIEE, where I traveled extensively throughout Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia (I have been to Bulgaria more times than I can count)! My journey brought me to CAPA International Education in 2008, where I have been working in Institutional Relations since.
CW: What are the boundaries of your region and some of the universities you work with on a regular basis?
JP: My current “region” is vast and includes New England, the Mid-Atlantic, The Southeast and Southwest. And, we can’t forget to add Kansas into the mix! I work with universities who partner with CAPA on faculty-led programs, so have been working with several schools who have partnered with CAPA for several years. To name a few, the University of Kansas, University of Pittsburgh, and Marshall University are some, as well as Riverside Community College in California, which I believe is one of CAPA’s oldest partnering universities.
CW: What's your guilty pleasure while traveling?
JP: During my travels as an IRM (or at any travels for that matter) I would have to say food is my guilty pleasure. The more local, the better. Southern cooking and barbeque in my region always has me salivating – this coming from the girl who dabbles in vegetarian from time to time.
CW: Do you have any photography tips for students studying abroad?
JP: Great question! My degree from Ithaca College was in photography and while I don’t use it professionally, I do enjoy taking shots during my travels. I’m an early bird, so my recommendation is getting out into the city as it wakes up. I love the light first thing in the morning, which always makes for some gorgeous shots. The pace is slower in the early hours and allows for more time to focus on the moment – the people, textures, colors.
CW: What would be your personal choice as a CAPA study abroad destination and why?
JP: I think my answer to this question is different now than it would have been in college, but I would have to say Istanbul. Such a fascinating history – much of its history shaped because of geographical location and the changing of Empires. I would love to study and learn more about how religions, migration patterns, and people have shaped the city into what it is today. Not to mention I have a weakness for Mediterranean/Turkish food (please note question above). I have been to Istanbul before for business, but I was there literally for only 30 hours with much of that time spent in a hotel. The quick flashes I saw through the cab windows only made me crave to go back.
CW: Best food you've tasted while abroad in a CAPA city? Where were you and what was it?
JP: I’m continuing with the food theme here. So much to choose from! But, I think I’d have to say sushi in Sydney.
CW: Where will you be traveling next?
JP: I will be heading to Pittsburgh, PA for a week in November. CAPA partners with the University of Pittsburgh on a number of faculty-led programs and I am looking forward to meeting the faculty and professionals I work with. Additionally, the NAFSA Region VIII conference is being held in Pittsburgh that week, so I plan to attend the conference as well and connect with a number of my partners in the region. Finally, CAPA is excited to host our first Advisors Workshop the day before the conference, where we have invited a number of study abroad advisors in Region VIII to learn more about CAPA and to offer them professional development opportunities. It will be a busy week!
CW: As a CAPA representative, what is the organization's best selling point?
JP: Honestly, there is a lot about CAPA to be proud of – from pre-departure services to health & safety. However, when I am meeting with faculty and study abroad administrators the piece I am always highlighting is CAPA’s experiential learning opportunities. I think the fact that a faculty member can build a program with CAPA and include internships, service-learning, and co-curricular activities designed by CAPA is really unique. I love that CAPA can help universities enrich existing programs and their students’ experience abroad – it really creates a true partnership.