Meet Brittany, who comes from the small town of Oswego, NY, and found herself in London for Fall 2013 semester with a huge global city at her fingertips. One of her majors being creative writing, Brittany sought to explore her surroundings with all of her senses, as you'll read in her answers below. The extra effort she put in while abroad paid off as she was one of the Record of Achievement award recipients this past semester. Read on to find out about a memorable few hours she spent dancing with a busker, what she learned from her internship at Captive Minds and which book inspired her to choose London as her study abroad destination.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
BRITTANY SPERINO-HORSFORD: My name is Brittany Sperino-Horsford and I studied abroad for Fall 2013 in London. I go to SUNY Oswego where I double major in creative writing and public relations. My favorite hobbies are reading and writing (obviously), but I also really enjoy photography. I’ve taken photos of local music events in my hometown of Oswego, NY, and for family and friends. I also really enjoy history, so living in London has been a treat with all of them museums to visit!
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?
BS-H: I really loved the visit to Highgate Cemetery. So many of the places I’ve visited in London were fast-paced and metropolitan. It was really nice to just have a quiet stroll through Waterlow Park to Highgate Cemetery. It was a peaceful, grey and rainy afternoon. Everything I thought London would be. Cemeteries are sad places for obvious reasons, but in Highgate the tombstones are as unique as the individuals they commemorate. It’s a part of London I never would have discovered on my own.
CW: Give three examples of ways in which you’ve been able to tie the knowledge you’ve gained in your CAPA classes into the way you understand your host city.
BS-H: Firstly, I’ve learned a lot about the British workplace from my Learning Through Internships class. Discussing the culture of the UK workplace in class helped me understand the dynamic at my own internship site and build relationships with my colleagues. Secondly, my Writing the City class helped me see the city through all of my senses. Writing is a sensory art. It’s descriptive by showing and not telling. You give your reader something to experience. In order to write about London, I really had to get to know it. How it tastes, looks, smells, feels and sounds. Thirdly, all of my classes have incorporated field trips. They really put you IN London and help you experience it in every way. My classes have contributed to my confidence to navigate this city on my own and make the most of it!
CW: Tell us a story of a memorable interaction you’ve had with a local and why it left an impression on you.
BS-H: One night I was exiting the tube with a few of my flat mates, there was a busker (musical street performer) playing guitar right outside Camden Town station. We stood there, danced and sang with him for a good two hours. It was an experience I’ve never had at home. It was so nice to make a connection with a stranger through an artistic craft, even if it was only for a little while.
CW: What were your first impressions of your host city? How have these changed over the course of the semester?
BS-H: At first, I was extremely intimidated by its size. I come from a small town that’s rather straightforward to navigate. Not to mention the street signs being on the buildings and not the street corner through me off. I thought I would always be getting lost and have absolutely no sense of direction. That's completely changed. The tube is so easy to understand and so are the buses. I’m never afraid of getting lost now that I’ve come to know this city. Also, I always thought London would be very English, and while there are obviously tons of English people here, London is a global city. You can walk down the street, hear five different languages and not one person will have an English accent. It’s amazing how much culture there is here.
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?
BS-H: I’ve become so much more confident in my work thanks to my internship. It’s allowed me so many amazing professional opportunities. I also feel more confident personally. My willingness to take risks and not shy away from opportunity has increased. I have a better sense of direction! I’m more independent and overall I feel a lot more capable. I’ve also come to appreciate home. But if anything, this experience has just made me thirsty for experiencing more of the world!
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?
BS-H: Over the years I became blind to my hometown. I had been there for so long that I stopped being observant. In London, I’m constantly looking, listening in and hoping to discover new things. There’s always something to see because I seek it out. I want to take that observant nature back with me. That way I can truly appreciate Oswego. In my studies, I love how London has been incorporated into every aspect of my papers and projects. It’d be great to do more in my classes at home that incorporate and help my community.
CW: Briefly describe a community project or group with which you have been involved and the neighborhood of the city in which you have been working?
BS-H: At my internship, Captive Minds, we work with a charity called Walking With the Wounded. It’s been a great experience, pitching to journalists about recovering veterans who have completely changed their lives. I’ve been able to play a small part in great people getting their stories out there to help others. That’s a fantastic feeling.
CW: When you think of your host city, what first comes to mind when you hear the following:
Sight: Lights! Studying in London in Fall means you get to experience London at Christmas and that means lots of lights!
Sound: “Mind the gap.”
Smell: A delightful combination of food from all over the world in Borough Market, Camden Market and any market in London for that matter!
Taste: Digestives dipped in English Breakfast tea.
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?
BS-H: My internship is at a public relations and marketing company called Captive Minds. As part of the Captive Minds team, my title is public relations and marketing assistant. I’ve pitched to journalists to gain coverage for various clients. I’ve put together coverage reports. I’ve also helped on the Captive Health project, which consisted of gathering and organizing information for a phone app for the NHS. Interning at Captive Minds has given me such a valuable experience. Before I had only known public relations in the classroom. Interning at Captive Minds means experiencing public relations in all its glory, which consists of the entire emotional spectrum from the stress to make deadlines to the rewarding feeling of seeing all hard work come together at an event. This experience will stay with me for a lifetime and what I’ve learned there I will carry on to my next internship.
CW: Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site and how it has impacted the operation of the workplace.
BS-H: I pitched an event on Remembrance Day for one of our clients who raise money for the Royal Marines Foundation. The amount press coverage was massive and they were extremely pleased. They even sent an email expressing their appreciation. It was great to know I was a large part of that success.
CW: How do you imagine your internship experience will have impacted the way you think, study, work and/or live when you return home?
BS-H: It’s definitely made me more flexible and less easy to worry. Sometimes assignments come all at once. Just breathe. Prioritize and do one thing at a time, you’ll get through it. Also, I’ve learned to never be afraid to ask for help or for someone to clarify direction.
CW: Describe an area of the city that surprised you and tell us what it was about it that you didn’t expect. How did this change your perceptions of the city as a whole?
BS-H: Leake Street Tunnel! It’s an authorized graffiti area and it’s ever-changing as artists continue to spray paint over old work to create new masterpieces. It’s an incredibly vibrant place that I wouldn’t have ever known about if it wasn’t for the MyEducation Southbank Walking Tour. It really shows London is a place that fosters creativity, even in forms thought of as deviant. Street art is huge here and well appreciated. The artists are incredibly talented. It blows my mind to walk along the street in places like Shoreditch and see the creativity of London etched onto buildings.
CW: Tell us about a book or film that inspired you to study abroad. How did what you watched or read compare to the actual experience of living and studying abroad?
BS-H: Harry Potter is definitely the reason I chose London. While we don’t use wands or potions, this experience is nothing short of magical. Also, I’ve been to King’s Cross Platform 9 ¾ twice, and it’s still just as fun every time.
CW: Give us an example of an activity you pursued outside of CAPA that gave you a better understanding of the material you learned in one or more of your classes.
BS-H: Writing short stories has been an endeavor of mine here. One of them featured the infamous Kray Twins of East London. Writing a story featuring the 1960s English gangsters meant doing a little outside research, but it was really the tour we took in our Writing the City class that inspired me to write it in the first place.