Words by Olivia Schneider from Stonehill College. Olivia studied abroad in London with CAPA International Education during Fall semester 2013. Below she talks about the internships she completed at Castlehaven Community Association as part of her program.
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London, Day 2: I hear the sound of crunching fabric − Oh, what am I doing here? I tug the left sleeve of my jacket free from the relentless Underground doors and let out half a sigh of relief, half a laugh. I am so lost. Yes, at this moment I know where I’m going; I’m on my way to the ol' CAPA center for day one of orientation, but I am mentally lost.
While I still find myself looking up and suddenly realizing that I have no idea of my whereabouts, I have learned to ride the wave. And even better, I have found refuge at my internship site: Castlehaven Community Association.
The people at Castlehaven have enhanced my internship experience enormously. Every week I see my mom in Amy and Lillian, my aunts in Phillippa, Rosa, and Jennifer; if I had brothers I’m sure I’d see them in Julian, Clinton, and Darren; I see my goofy cousin in the other Darran (with an 'a'), and my grandmother in Anita, except that Anita jams to reggae and is just way too cool for me or my grandma. And I’ll give myself children for the sake of completing my Castlehaven family- the Youth Project kids.
My supervisor is Amy. I cannot put my admiration for her into words. Amy and I are connected, we just are; we buy the same lunch unknowingly and that has to mean something. On my birthday, just days after the finale of Breaking Bad, I walked into the Kids Klothes shop that she has transformed this fall, and we discuss our eternal gratitude for the writers’ decision preserve Jesse’s life, Walt’s successful escape from prison via death and how he killed everybody, but we still like him a little (maybe)... Then she slyly disappears and returns with this chocolate cake and a card with notes from the staff, and says ‘I hope you like chocolate.’ Do I ever.
Amy is not the only exceptional mentor I have had at Castlehaven. Phillippa is the Youth Services Manager and as I wrote in my personal blog during the early weeks of my time here, “Phillippa, supervisor of all things ages 12-19 at Castlehaven, makes the world go round and life go on.” She is so wonderful and I don't how I would have progressed here without the influence of her unconditional energy and passion for humor and life.
Phillippa recently took me to ZenithOptimedia, one of Castlehaven’s partners. In October some Youth Project kids performed at a Zenith event and raised £17,200 to go right back into music, and amazing trips to amusement parks and theatres, among other venues. It was clear how much the kids admire her when they spoke and thanked her in front of Zenith’s staff.
Here's a video showing Castlehaven and ZenithOptimedia's amazing partnership:
But Phillippa, like many others I have met here, does speak incredibly fast. I thought London would be fairly easy; but props to Londoners, because living here is hard. There is the English language, thank goodness. But before we all get too comfortable, the speed is different, and then the context is different, not to mention this whole new wave called culture.
The evidence: In the middle of October, I sat in the Haven Cafe kitchen waiting for Amy to arrive. Rosa, a project assistant manager, walks in and just like The Parent Trap- ‘Oh! You gave me a fright!’ The part when Hal/Annie’s true identity is discovered by saying this peculiar arrangement of words, anyone?! ‘I gave you a fright...?’ replied Chessie. ‘You scared me; I didn’t know you were like, like in here.’ Despite the addition of the word ‘like,’ your life as a Californian is busted, Anne; no turning back now. That was a delightful surprise to hear Rosa innocently express those words. Peppermint and pipe tobacco? A childhood classic.
Early in the term I sat in on a few recording session at the Youth Project with Darren, the music studio technician. There, I learned some slang. I'd say to Darren "That's good!" / "I like that!" and he just said "Cheers." I sat puzzled, awkward for a moment not knowing how to respond to a “cheers,” that I thought must have been out of context. But I soon figured out that he meant “thanks,” by “cheers” and didn't bother discussing the cultural differences.
Late in October I started meeting with the other Darran, Social Enterprise Business Development, aka the coolest Irish guy I know-and this isn't on purpose that I say this right after, but I do think he might be the only Irish person I know. Nevertheless, he tries to reject the fact the he is cool, though with one exception: A while back, he caught a glimpse of me eating a banana and gave me an "uh gross..." type reaction as he explained that he can't eat bananas and that they make him vomit. That is not cool.
I resisted revealing to him that I've eaten seven bananas in one day, weary that on that uncomfortably warm day one's stomach might be particularly weaker, and I feared that he would vomit in front of me at the thought of that experience. He also tries to scare me at least once a week and is usually successful.
With a week left in the term as I write this, here I find myself, once again disrupted from my rhythm. Castlehaven, a place that is a comfort, a place that has become home − time has ripped it from my fingertips. As I prepare to depart this journey of a city, I want to ask the tube: “Do you want to keep some of my jacket? I get to stay a bit longer if you do!!! Please say yes.”
Thanks London, and thanks Castlehaven, for letting me get lost within you.
See also the story of Vicelys Gonzalez, another CAPA alumna who interned with Castlehaven Community Association.