Hunter spent Spring semester studying abroad in Sydney with CAPA International Education and completed an internship with a financial firm called Driftwood Capital. Below, he talks about his background and how his mindset about international travel changed while he was abroad. He talks about the challenges he faced in Australia, how he funded his time abroad and a valuable contribution he made to his internship site.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
HUNTER SHULL: My name is Hunter Shull and I am a senior at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, majoring in Business and Economics. This past Spring (2014), I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia. I play football for Ursinus and am also a part of the Investment Club. Some of my other hobbies include going to the beach (which I was able to do a lot of in Sydney), spending time with friends and after studying abroad, my new found hobby is traveling.
Photo: Sydney Harbour by Brian Caldwell
CW: Describe your background for us. Had you traveled before? What made you want to study abroad? What was the reaction from your friends and family when you decided to study abroad?
HS: I come from a family with loving parents with two brothers and recently have added two stepsisters to my family. I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and also went to college in the suburbs as well. I felt as if I was very sheltered and I wanted to get out of my bubble and explore the world. Besides visiting my grandparents in Orlando, I had never traveled before so I felt like I had to do it big and go to the other side of the world.
Ever since I was in early elementary school when my teacher told me she went to Australia, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. When I was a freshman in college, my roommate Jake and I both talked about our interest in going to Australia and decided studying abroad there was a great option. I felt in order to get the full experience of visiting Australia, I would need significant time that I would not have later in life when I had a full time job and a lot more responsibilities.
When I first brought it up to my friends and parents that I was going to study abroad in Australia, it was kind of like an "OK sure" kind of thing where they really didn't think I would go through with it. Both of my parents get anxious on planes so it was weird for them to think that their son would want to go across the world. As the time till I left started to get closer, my friends and parents were all excited for me to go and essentially lived through my experiences since I was the only one of my friends (besides my roommate) to study abroad.
CW: What were your thoughts when you were sitting on the plane to your host city? And what about the plane ride home?
HS: Our plane ride to Australia was through Europe, so we knew it would be even longer than the normal route of LAX to Sydney. Nevertheless, I was unbelievably excited on my flight. I flew an amazing airline (Emirates) and it made the experience even better. I had a million thoughts going through my head, but I knew I was about to have a life changing experience. After my study abroad trip ended, I spent a week in Thailand, which was an amazing adventure. After being in Bangkok for three days, I was ready to go home. I was excited to get back home to see my friends and family. I was nervous that it would be weird seeing my friends again or that I wouldn't have anything to talk about other than my experiences, but when I got home, it was like I never left.
Photo: Sydney Harbour by Taro Taylor
CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country? Most rewarding moment?
HS: Since I have never been to the West Coast, Sydney to me seemed much like what I pictured California to be like. My biggest challenge while in Sydney was trying to stay on a budget. There were so many activities to do and places to see in Sydney and it was a real challenge to say no to a lot of them. Everyone in our program had their own agenda and someone was always doing something that sounded awesome, but there was only a limited amount of activities I could do on my budget so I had to prioritize what meant the most to me.
As for the most rewarding moment, that had to be when I visited the Great Barrier Reef. It was a moment for me that was like "how many people can say that they have been to the Great Barrier Reef?" The best part was that the Reef exceeded my expectations and was something I will never forget. A close second was the night a bunch of us from our program spent a night on the beach. It was the moment where I kept thinking, "I can't believe I'm living here right now."
CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Sydney"? What was special about them?
HS: I didn't find a "secret spot" or anything like that where no one else knew about it, but there were a lot of places that I felt meant a lot to me during my time in Sydney. I loved the area where we lived. The Meriton was the perfect place to live and everything around it was perfect. I enjoy working out and staying in shape, and the gym, pool and sauna that we had access to was a big part of my time there. On the short walk to the gym, there was a little "park" where a lot of people walked and played with their dogs. We also used it as a place to have a football or frisbee catch. Whenever I walked by, I always had a comforting feeling about that place.
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?
HS: My internship was at Driftwood Capital, a financial firm located in Sydney's CBD (Central Business District). CAPA partners us up with smaller companies so we can really get to know our coworkers, which I thought was great. Driftwood is basically a group of venture capitalists who invest in growth stage companies looking to expand their business or need help obtaining capital. While at Driftwood I was doing a lot of competitor research, industry analysis and doing due diligence on the firms with which we were looking to work. For example, if we were looking at a company that dealt with solar energy, I would look at who else in Australia does this kind of work, what their company size was, the laws surrounding solar energy, etc. The experience was unforgettable and my coworkers never treated me as just an intern. They appreciated the work I did and made the transition to living in Australia much easier. For the future, it helped me really get a feel for the finance industry and it also looks great on my resume. Having international experience is a huge plus and I believe that is the best part of the CAPA program.
Photo: Newtown, Sydney by JAM Project
CW: Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site and how it has impacted the operation of the workplace.
HS: Within the first two weeks of my internship, we were about to close on a deal with a fairly large client. Our boss decided to bring another intern and I into a staff meeting to talk about the company and it was decided that the other intern and I would design a presentation for the company to show them how we could help them. We worked really hard on it and even though they ended up changing some things around, I still felt like I helped Driftwood and they appreciated my work. Because we are not being paid and we are only interns, some days can be slow at an internship, but when you have something important to work on and you do a good job, it is an extremely rewarding feeling.
CW: The majority of students who study abroad tend to be female. Was this true on your program? From a male point of view, what was most important for you when choosing a program?
HS: Yes, I would say 2/3 of the students in our program were female. When choosing a program, obviously the first thing I looked at was location. Once I decided on Sydney, I was thinking I would do an exchange program at a university. However, CAPA presented the best program for two reasons: First, as stated before, the internship experience was extremely valuable. Second, CAPA runs on an American school schedule and not an Australian schedule, so I was abroad for about the exact same time my spring semester at school was going on. This was great because I was able to come home and find a summer job, as opposed to exchange students who were operating on an Australian schedule and would not be home till mid to late summer. Also, with the money that was available to me, three months was the perfect amount of time.
Photo: Sydney at dusk by Sacha Fernandez
CW: How did you fund your time abroad?
HS: Money was a big worry for me before I left and also while I was in Australia. I am terrible at budgeting, so it took a major effort for me to spend less than usual. For Ursinus students studying with CAPA, we pay our normal tuition for school and have to pay for the flight and living expenses. I take out student loans every year, so paying tuition was no different. However, the flight and living expenses were a different story. When looking for a flight, I looked every day from July to November so I could find the best deal possible. Most people paid around $2,000 for a flight, so I was happy that I found a good deal even though the flight took longer than normal. I had money saved up that I was going to use later in life, but I decided that this was really important to me and so I took some of that money and used it for my trip. I do not regret doing it for a second and will not regret it in the future because studying abroad was a life changing experience. Also, my parents were supportive of me going as well. They are not rich by any means, but knew how important this was for me, so they helped me out when they could.
CW: What changes did you see in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
HS: I have become much more independent since I came back from Australia. I always thought I couldn't survive without my friends and I thought that I was going to have major FOMO while I was abroad, but that wasn't the case at all. I also realized I am extremely malleable and can adapt to any situation.
One thing I am proud of is that before I left, I couldn't cook anything besides heating something up in the microwave. Since eating out in Australia was really expensive, I had to cook all my meals. I was able to become pretty decent at cooking and now I enjoy it.
The abroad experience taught me a ton about myself and the world. One saying that I have heard all my life but really hit home then was, "Don't judge a book by its cover." There were so many things I did in Australia and Thailand that I would never have done before I went abroad. I always thought I would spend my entire life where I live now because that is all I know. Now that I have seen just a little sliver of the world, I want to see it all and even live abroad within the next couple of years.