Interview: CAPA London Study Abroad Alumna Abriel O'Donnell

Aug 6, 2014 10:00:13 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Abriel studied abroad with CAPA International Education during Spring semester 2014. London was her home for four months, during which time she completed classes and an internship. Below, she talks about discovering old London around Blackfriars, her realization that studying abroad isn't an exclusive experience, but an opportunity everyone can have, and the ways in which she saw herself change over the course of the semester.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ABRIEL O'DONNELL: My name is Abriel O’Donnell. I am currently a senior at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo. I am majoring in Pre-pharmacy Biology with a minor in International Business. While attending school fulltime, I work at Walgreens Pharmacy as a senior compounding technician. I keep pretty busy, so I use my free time to hang out with my sister, my family and our puppies, Maddie and Neeson.

I really enjoy traveling and my sister and I plan a trip every summer. So far I have travelled to London, Brussels, Paris, Puerto Vallarta and Chihuahua, Mexico. Some of my favorite things we have done while on vacation include repelling down waterfalls; zip lining through mountains, and taking river boat cruises.

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?
AO: I attended the Victorian amputation MyEducation event in January. It was a very interesting display of how doctors and surgeons used to work in Victorian London. The tools were quite gruesome. One thing I found to be very interesting were all the herbs and old prescriptions that were displayed throughout the museum. I took a Medicinal Botany class last semester and we had talked about them all. It was very interesting to get more details about how these were used and to actually see them in that context.

CW: Tell us a story of a memorable interaction you've had with a local and why it left an impression on you.
AO: I love the way Londoners interact with one another. While I have witnessed a few aggressive interactions, I am quite surprised at how well the city works as a unit. London’s population is so large and you are always around people. Usually, shoulder to shoulder or face to face on buses, the tube and trains. But people manage to keep to themselves and not be bothered by the little things. They overlook loud talkers, being shoved or stepped on, almost as though they understand it’s a part of life and not personal. They dust it off and keep going.

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?
AO: I was a pretty independent person when I came to London, and I believe that I have remained this way. But in London, independence took on another form. I felt very free to move about and travel in London at all times. I could go anywhere at any time and I felt safe and free to roam. I loved having access to all of London from any point in London. However, it does take a while to get anywhere and I think this has brought a change in my thinking.

At home, driving across town used to feel long and complicated. Or a forty minute drive to another town seemed long, but now I feel like it’s not that bad at all. I hope that when I return home I can maintain this thought process and take advantage of my ability to travel further in shorter amounts of time and enjoy it!

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?
AO: I think that this experience will definitely change the way I study at home. My internship especially has helped to change my approach to studying. During classes, it's so easy to get overwhelmed with details that I don’t see the full picture. Interning at King’s College has definitely helped me to see bigger pictures and taught me how to study so that I see all the information together, to connect the dots to have an understanding of the material.

CW: When you think of your host city, what first comes to mind when you hear the following:
Sight: Tall, old buildings towering over narrow, clean streets lined with flowering cherry blossom trees.
Sound: Sirens. Lots of sirens.
Smell: Cold air, sometimes fresh after the rain.
Taste: Street foods like falafels and hummus and chips!
Texture: Hard, concrete blocks underfoot.

CW: How do you imagine your internship experience will have impacted the way you think, study, work and/or live back home?
AO: I really enjoyed my time in London and it's very different returning home. I have learned a lot about myself and grown a lot in my independence. I have learned to be my own person, to respect my thoughts, decisions and my choices. When living in familiar places with familiar people, it’s easy to get lazy and let others rule you or sway you. I like the independence that I have gained and I am excited to take it home and live my life as I want to, not just as others think I should. I still respect and love the familiar people in my life, I have just learned to love and respect myself just as much.

CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country? Most rewarding moment?
AO: I have been very lucky in that adapting to London wasn't very difficult. There are several differences, but the similarities outweigh them. One thing I have learned about myself during my stay is that I think I can do just about anything or go just about anywhere for at least a month without being homesick.

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?
AO: I remember that as a child I saw ‘’Father of the Bride’’ with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. In the movie, their daughter has just returned home from studying abroad in Rome. I remember thinking how awesome and exciting it would be to study abroad and how only rich people must be able to do that. I feel very grateful to have had this experience and realize that this isn't an exclusive experience. It is an opportunity that anyone can have. It takes hard work and dedication, but it can be done.

CW: Give us an example of an activity you pursued outside of CAPA activities that gave you a better understanding of the material you learned in one or more of your classes.
AO: I was able to attend the Society of Apothecaries monthly meeting around the Blackfriars station. I went with my internship supervisor and before our meeting he gave me a tour of the area. It was a beautiful older part of the city and he showed me where the old London used to be; where the docks were and where the Thames used to be. We walked through some of the old narrow streets and visited an old church and graveyard. It was very beautiful and it was interesting to see some of the things my professor spoke about in our "Understanding Modern Britain" class.

Thanks Abriel!

Topics: London, England, CAPA Alumni, Interviews