Interview: CAPA Record of Achievement Recipient Elizabeth Adewale

Dec 6, 2013 9:15:43 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Elizabeth made the most of her time studying abroad in London, earning a Record of Achievement award this semester. She will return to the States with a wealth of new experiences behind her, some of which she talks about below. She also talks about the changes she has seen in herself over the past few months and a connection she made with Nigerian poet Inua Ellams who came to speak at CAPA.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ELIZABETH ADEWALE: My name is Elizabeth Adewale, a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am studying abroad in London. I’m an English and Psychology major, Afro-American Studies minor. I love the cinema! Watching movies is a hobby for me. I also enjoy cleaning, reading, and writing; when I can, I love to act. Purple is my favorite color, and I am a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio.

CW: Which MyEducation event has been most memorable for you and why? How has your participation in this event changed your understanding of the city?
EA: The most memorable MyEducation event for me was the Innua Ellams performance. At first I wasn’t going to go, but I decided to because, first of all, I love poetry and I just enjoy it when authors read their works! There’s something so fantastic about it; it gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to read my work in front of an audience that appreciates it. Secondly, he is Nigerian! Like Mr. Ellams, I am Nigerian as well. I moved to America when I was very young. I was immersed into this new culture, tradition and world. Ever since I’ve been in America, which is home to me, I rarely hear anything good about Nigeria or Nigerians for that matter. So, it was really refreshing to have met a real life successful Nigerian! After his reading, I was able to chat with him and told him just how encouraging it is know that Nigerians can be successful. He’s a role model to me now, and I will certainly let my friends and family members know about him!

My participation in the event has certainly expanded my interest in the city. Ellams talked about how he started the midnight run, and I hope to be a participant in the one coming up in December. I only have a couple of weeks left in London and I will love to discover some parts of London that I haven’t yet. Ever since the event, I now have the full awareness that London doesn’t sleep! I have been going to places that are not close to my residential area, and simply getting lost in the city. It’s definitely refreshing!

CW: What were your first impressions of your host city? How have these changed over the course of the semester?
EA: Before coming to London, I had a feeling of attachment to it—not just London, but the UK as a whole. This is partly because the British colonized Nigeria—and I felt as if I will feel at home. This is true! I love London and I do feel comfortable and at home. My first impression was awe! I have always wanted to come to London, and when I finally arrived, I was just crying and screaming because it was a dream come true for me. Everything from the people, to the fashion, to the food fascinated me! And the accent! I love the accent. If anything, the accent only heightened my amazement with London. I kept saying I love it here! I want to live here for the rest of my life! I don’t want to leave!

But, after being here for a few months, I must say that I don’t see myself living in London for the rest of my life anymore. I still don’t want to leave, but I can’t live here forever because I think I would start to hate it. As much as I love London, I find that it is a very fast-paced environment, and I need calmness in my life. I don’t want to live a hectic life. Another thing is that there isn’t a lot of space in London; I just need my space. I hate feeling blocked in, and I have felt that a few times in my time here. I still love the accent, and I feel like if I stay here for too long, my fascinated might turn into annoyance; I just don’t want that.

At the end of the day, though, my heart will always long for London. That’s just a fact!

CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
EA: I am a really shy person; I’m that person who will stay quiet in a big crowd of people—but once I get to know someone I open up to them. As much as I was really excited to come to London, I knew that I might have trouble making friends and whatnot. So, one of the things I told myself was to break out of my shell; to try to make new friends. So far, thankfully, I have accomplished that. With that being said, I have learned that I have a lot more confidence than I thought I had. I have also learned that I am open to new ideas; I’m more flexible than I thought I was. It’s not a bad thing at all to be spontaneous, or go out of your comfort zone once in a while. I used to be kind of scared of the world around me—the environment and circumstances—but being here has kind of alleviated that fear. It’s okay to have reservations, but fear will only hinder new experiences and memories to be made. Also, I have learned that the world is beautiful! It’s waiting to be explored.

This is a picture of one of the beauties I’ve discovered around me! Kensington Gardens.

CW: How do you imagine that your experience abroad will change the way you approach your environment back home? How do you think it will change the way you approach your studies?
EA: I think this experience will certainly move me to explore and know more about my environment back home. My love for London, and the fact that I am here temporarily, really pushed to want to learn about this great, beautiful city! When I return home, I think my love for America is general will certainly be re-affirmed! I will make it a mission to learn about where I live, be it Boston, Amherst, or Lynn; I will start with Massachusetts and just begin an incredible journey of learning and falling in love with home!

In regards to my studies, I think this experience will help to focus more. What I mean is that I have had to really work to increase my attention span. Being in classes for more than three hours requires a lot of focus, and I appreciate the fact that I have experienced this. At first I was getting aggravated that I couldn't keep myself interested in class. Now I believe I can. Classes back home are not as long so I think I will be able to focus and ultimately learn more in classes.

CW: When you think of London, what first comes to mind when you hear the following:
Sight: Oxford Street at night. Red.
Sound: American music.
Smell: Cigarettes.
Taste: Fish and chips.
Texture: Roughly smooth.

CW: Tell us a bit about your internship that you completed while studying abroad, your duties and accomplishments. How will this experience help you in your future career?
EA: I intern at Hornsey School for Girls. My duties and responsibilities are to go classes with students and explain, clarify, and provide support for them. That is the basic explanation of what I do at my internship. As for accomplishments, I believe that if the students learn, then I have accomplished something there—it’s about the students, not about me at all. If they accomplish their targeted levels, then I think I have accomplished something as well.

I truly appreciate my experience at this internship. It was supposed to be a psychology internship, to help me decide what it is I want to do as a career. Now I can say that I want to be a counselor. One of my responsibilities is to hold one-to-one sessions with the students. This gives them an opportunity to off-load anything that is on their minds. I found that I enjoyed and grew more while doing that particular aspect of my job. When I applied to the internship program, I honestly didn't really know what it is I wanted to do with my life, but this experience has made me decide that I want to be a Counselor, specializing in Marriage Counseling—this is to work more on the preventative side of parenting, so that children do not grow up in sub par family environments.

CW: How do you imagine your internship experience will have impacted the way you think, study, work and/or live when you return home?
EA: As great as my internship is, I have had to learn and grow personally, unwillingly. I work with students who have some behavioral issues, which affects their learning and adjustment to their academics. So, I had to not only be assertive and professional, but empathetic as well. Now, I have learned that I need to be sympathetic when talking with people; especially when dealing with children. At the same time, I need to be able to keep their minds focused and make sure they learn what they need to. Also, I think this internship experience will help shape my focus in my studies. Now I will do more research beyond what is required in my classes. I will treat the children around me with more care. I believe every day is an opportunity to grow, and I am willing to learn from children! They are so innocent and knowledgeable, and we sometimes forget that they know so much more than we can imagine. Perhaps one of the biggest changes I have seen in myself since this internship is doing my best and leaving the rest. I am an over achiever, and I used to have this feeling that my own definition of progress and result is what matters. Now I really just look at the things from the perspective of whoever I’m taking to, or trying to help; so if they think they are making progress, that is all that matters. I do my best; as long as I put my best into helping them, then I am content. I really appreciate this! I won’t change it at all.

CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country? Most rewarding moment?
EA: The biggest challenge I have had is taking care of myself, in terms of buying groceries, working out my own finances, topping-up my phone—which is paying phone bills. It has been difficult, but I have accepted the fact that it is part of growing up and becoming a woman. I don’t particularly like it, but I do appreciate it. In retrospect, I think it has been rewarding growing up; I would say that is the most rewarding thing for me. I am growing spiritually, personally, intellectually, academically, socially. This experience overall has been great and I won’t change it for anything!

CW: Tell us a story of a memorable interaction you’ve had with a local and why it left an impression on you.
EA: I have met a lot of people here, and I appreciate that. One memorable encounter was when I went to Engage, an event held every Wednesday night, hosted by the Hillsong London church. After my first month of living here, I noticed that Londoners do not really talk to each other—I was not expecting that. So, I went to one of the Engage nights and I guess I was not expecting anyone to talk to me. But this guy was just so forward and we struck up a conversation. When he noticed my accent, he started telling me all he knew about America and Boston, which was not much. The reason that was memorable for me was because he broke the stereotype I had come to associate with the Brits. I found that he was from London—he loves London and doesn’t want to leave. It’s nice to know that. He also recommended places for me to go: London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, etc—I have been to these places, which makes me proud of myself. His love for his city definitely made me appreciate the city more.

Thanks Elizabeth!

Topics: London, England