Emily McGeary is one of CAPA's Official Bloggers for Fall 2014, sharing her study abroad story in weekly CAPA World posts. An Arizona State University student, she is studying abroad in London this term.
In this week's post, Emily interviews fellow CAPA London student Janel Forsythe.
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This week I decided to interview a fellow CAPA student, Janel Forsythe! Janel is double majoring in sociology and media studies at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. She is on the CAPA Student Council here in London and is also a homestay student.
EMILY MCGEARY: What prompted you to study abroad in London and what led you to the CAPA program?
JANEL FORSYTHE: Studying abroad was an opportunity that I had been interested in since high school. When I was volunteering at the Salvation Army, one of the camp counselors had an extensive background in international travel, and I would always talk with her about the experiences she had in places like Europe, Latin America, and other parts of the world.
Growing up with Jamaican parents, Britain was very important to our lives because they were born and raised right after the island was declared independent from British rule. However, cultural staples like the Royal Family were popular topics of conversation among my relatives. Even in America, Britain was quite important regarding pop culture - especially in regards to the Harry Potter series which I liked along with the Spice Girls when I was younger.
As I got more into my academic studies, I wanted to go to England in particular because I had always heard about London being very diverse. I wanted to understand the social dynamics of this very metropolitan city that was grappling with issues like immigration and multiculturalism at a time when a lot of people from Western nations - often former colonies - were coming to reside in these places.
CAPA was the perfect because not only would I be taking classes in my majors, but there were weekly trips around the city and American students like myself would be receiving a lot of attention and support during our stay in a completely different country. At first I thought of dropping out of the program because it was very expensive, but I thought of close friends who told me about their awesome experience studying abroad in places like London, Barcelona, and other parts of the world. It's a decision I'm glad I decided to take on now.
EM: You opted to be a homestay student. What has that experience been like for you?
JF: I am very glad that I chose to live in a homestay. I was actually going to stay in a flat until a former CAPA student at my college recommended that I live with a family. The best part about being in a homestay is the fact that my host parents are true Londoners. They have lived together for a long time in the city, and they actually have a very international background themselves. My host mother is Russian while my host father's family originally came from Cyprus. The first week I arrived at their house, we met a friend of theirs who was Malaysian.
Since the CAPA program is focused on American students who do spend much time together, it can be difficult to connect with locals, but living in a homestay has provided me with the opposite experience. Another positive about the homsetay is that they make us dinner each night and we have our own rooms. The only complaint I have about the homestay is that it is an hour away from the CAPA building - or three hours away if there's a Tube strike. This can be challenging if one wants to get more involved with nightlife in Central London with CAPA friends closer to the hub of all this action. However, I would still choose the homestay if I were to do this program all over again. I love it!
EM: What is the biggest challenge or change you’ve worked through during your time in London?
JF: Not having my car has been difficult since I have to rely on public transportation to get almost everywhere.
Not having foods like Red Lobster, large American pizzas, and even soul food have been tough at times since what I eat here is radically different from what I eat at home.
Not being able to attend some cool poetry events I know are being hosted back at home. I have met some talented poets, artists, and writers in the Philadelphia area this summer and miss not hearing and seeing their awesome work live at the local theater.
Also, I think about my mother and father everyday since I'm their only child and don't see them all the time. This has been rough, but they are very proud of the leap I took to come here and think it's one of the bravest things I've done.
EM: You’re a senior and about to graduate from college. What are your future plans and how has study abroad helped to shape those plans?
JF: I am actually in the process of applying to graduate schools in the United Kingdom. I have always wanted to attend a higher educational institution where I could meet people from all over the world and gain a more international perspective on social issues that I spend a lot of time reading and studying about both in and out of school.
Participating in CAPA London sealed the deal for me because prior to coming here, I had a more abstract notion of what being in England would be like. As soon as I came to London and adapted to life here, I didn't want to leave then or now and I want to come back. I've been to a few graduate open houses and have talked to a lot of different people both in and out the CAPA center about coming to England as an international student at the graduate level.
I want to learn more about mass media's role in shaping international affairs because I really enjoyed doing comparative study of British and American media in my classes here, along with learning about social life in a place like London. I look forward to coming back and building a closer connection with the Caribbean community in the city along with getting involved with the arts here because there's just so much to do in London.
A few schools in the area have connections with other universities worldwide, so I look forward to probably going to South Africa to study African Media through the London School of Economics' partnership with the University of Cape Town in the future. Other places that I want to visit include: Ghana, Egypt, Latin America, Asia or wherever else life take me.
To be in a position where my dreams to see the world are slowly coming true is just so amazing. I can't wait to devote my life to study, travel, and making a difference to advance the lives of others.
EM: When you’re back in the United States, what do you think you’ll you most miss about London?
JF: I'm going to miss a lot about London. I'll miss having some really cool classes covering life in the States and the UK in art, television, ethics, and sociology. For art class, we traveled to museums every other week which is something I would have never had the chance to do in the U.S. Museums here are generally free, so I took full advantage of this by checking out some cool artifacts on my free time. In addition, a few of my professors have spent years teaching all over the world, so it was an honor to be a student in their classes here. I admire every single one of the teachers I've had this semester and will miss them all dearly.
I'll miss taking the Tube and hearing the lady announcing all the different stops for the Piccadilly Line or the male voice announcing, "Mind the gap!". I was just a ride away from cool sights like Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. Overall, I'll miss the allure of this place. It is radically different from life back at home.
EM: Anything else you’d like to add?
JF: If you ever get an opportunity to either study or check out another part of the world, do it! It will make you a better person and will change your life! Also, take advantage of any opportunities for international travel if you can. I visited six other countries while studying abroad in London and enjoyed every minute. The world is your oyster, so stay safe and enjoy it all!
Thanks Emily and Janel!