Interview: CAPA Sydney Study Abroad Alumna Laura Felix

May 22, 2014 9:20:16 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Laura studied abroad with CAPA International Education during Spring semester 2013. She called Sydney her home while she interned with a PR company called Max Australia and learned about her new environment, history and humor though classes like Australian Cinema and Intercultural Communications. She's been able to translate some of her skills from her internship to her new job where she's now helping other students pursue travel experiences like the one that has left such an impact on her own life. Read on for stories of studying abroad in Sydney and how a semester in Australia has helped Laura find her place in the "real world" in many different ways.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
LAURA FELIX: I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia in the spring of 2013 with CAPA International Education. It was my last semester as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I majored in communications and recently got a job at Road Scholar, a non-profit organization that sets up educational trips for seniors all throughout the United States and 150 countries around the world. I am very excited to be pursuing a career where I can translate the enjoyment of traveling and help others create wonderful experiences like I had while in Australia.

Photo: Camel riding in Port Stephen's

CW: Tell us a bit about Max Australia where you completed your internship while studying abroad in Sydney.
LF: Max Australia is a public relations agency that focuses on technology clients. Max Australia is responsible for their client’s communication outreach, which ranges from press releases to events to social media and much more. The company is very small, with only about eight people, but the work they get done is tremendous. I was very impressed by how hardworking my colleagues at Max Australia were and how they were always determined to provide the best work for their clients. Although everyone worked very hard, the office made sure to find time to have a little fun, which included Friday afternoon drinks and holiday treats.

Photo: Up close with a sleepy koala

CW: What was your internship interview like? Do you have any recommendations for other students preparing for an internship interview?
LF: I was quite nervous for my internship interview because I had very limited experience with public relations. Before my interview, I made sure to read about the company, prepare thoughtful questions and think of questions that they might be asking me. When I got there, I was welcomed right away with warm smiles. I sat down with two colleagues. We discussed my background and I found out more information about Max Australia. It lasted for about thirty minutes and it went very well. For other students preparing for an internship interview, I would recommend researching the company and ask questions to show that you have taken the time and interest to learn more about them and what they do. I believe when I asked a few specific questions about Max Australia, the interviewers were impressed.

Photo: Posing with Aboriginals

CW: What was your role at Max Australia?
LF: My role at Max Australia was to help research and gather information that clients could use for the promotion of their services and products. The research I did was mostly done using Google and it ranged across a vary of topics. For example, I had to find music schools in Australia that Pandora could collaborate with to promote their product. I was also responsible for updating weekly monitor reports for certain clients such as McAfee and BlackBerry. This meant I needed to keep track of whenever our clients were mentioned in any online article. This internship was a great opportunity to improve my research skills, which has become very useful in my work at Road Scholar.

Photo: Surf camp

CW: Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site and how it has impacted the operation of the workplace. What did it teach you about yourself and/or your future career?
LF: I was given the task to completely reorganize our magazine bookcase, which was as high as the ceiling and as long as the wall. My colleagues would need to go through numerous types of magazines to monitor their clients in articles and research the latest news in the technology industry. It took a few weeks to alphabetize the magazines, put the magazines in chronological order and label each slot that would make it easy to find the desired magazine. I learned for my future career that colleagues appreciate when you take the time to help organize and improve a system that will help everyone work more efficiently. It also taught me that being organized is crucial to getting a job done successfully and helps avoid errors that could impact others.

Photo: At Tropfest

CW: How did / will your internship influence your future career?
LF: My internship experience at Max Australia has helped me in a lot of ways for my career at Road Scholar and for other careers I will hold in the future. I learned effective methods of researching information using the Internet, I identified how to communicate clearly and professionally using email and I improved on my writing skills when helping to write pieces for our clients. My internship also helped me determine that my dream career is not with Public Relations, which helped me when I entered the “real world”, but I also learned certain aspects of a career I do want to have, such as working with clients, help plan events and conduct research using various methods.

Photo: Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

CW: What was your favorite class during your semester in Sydney? Why?
LF: My favorite class in Sydney was definitely Australian cinema where we were able to watch Australian-made movies. For each class, we watched movies that influenced the Australian culture, demonstrated important historical events in Australia and made an impact on Australian cinema. This was a fun and interesting way to learn more about Australia and I learned more about Australia through this class than I thought I would which I really appreciated.

Photo: Loch Ard Gorge

CW: Give three examples of ways in which you were able to tie the knowledge you’ve gained in your CAPA classes into the way you understand your host city.
LF: One of the reasons I was able gain so much knowledge about Australia and the country's culture is because of the CAPA classes that I took. In my intercultural communication class, we discussed the stolen generation, which is when Aboriginal children were taken from their homes to be raised by white foster families or institutions, and the impact this has had on Australia even to this day. In my Learning Through Internships class, I learned why Australia’s work culture is different from the United States and how it is effective for their country. This will help me in my future career because I now understand that work cultures vary greatly between countries and it is important to understand these differences, especially when working with people or clients from another country. Lastly, in my Australian cinema class, I learned how Australian humor is much different and portrayed contrarily in films compared to the humor in the United States. This helped me understand the culture of my host city a lot more when speaking with locals.

Photo: Laura with her mom and brother on their visit to Sydney

CW: Which MyEducation event was most memorable for you and why? How did your participation in this event change your understanding of the city?
LF: My favorite MyEducation event was Tropfest, which is the largest short-film festival in the world. It was held at Sydney’s Centennial Park. There were thousands of people sitting in chairs, lying down on blankets, sharing drinks and snacks while watching well-made short films. It was a very relaxing and fun atmosphere where strangers were interacting with each other over their love of the movies. It did not change my understanding of the city; instead it strengthened my view that Sydney is a very relaxing city and people truly appreciate the arts in their country.

Photo: Making feathered friends

CW: Tell us a story of a memorable interaction you had with a local and why it left an impression on you.
LF: My commute to work and classes was always something that I truly enjoyed because it gave me the opportunity to take the train and see the Opera House from the Sydney Bridge every day. I would always stare at the beautiful sight and be in awe. One time when I was looking at the Opera House from the train, a local sitting next to me said, “Isn’t that a nice view” and I said, “It is, I have seen it almost every day for the past month and I still cannot stop looking at it in awe." The gentleman replied, “I have been doing this commute for the past seven years and I am still in awe looking at it." Australia is such a beautiful country and I loved how the Australians appreciate the beauty and sights of their country.

Thanks Laura!

Topics: Interviews, Sydney, Australia