Interview: CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Kiaya Heise

Dec 8, 2014 8:25:04 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Kiaya Heise_in Oxford UK

Kiaya is in Sydney finishing up her third study abroad program and her second with CAPA (she also studied abroad with CAPA London). With the full support of her family back home, she's seized the opportunity to explore the world in combination with her studies at UC Davis. Below, Kiaya talks about the differences and similarities in the workplace between her internships in London and Sydney, a place where she's been able to carve out a space for herself in a Sydney community and the changes she's seen in herself since she started traveling.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
KIAYA HEISE: I’m an English major from UC Davis finishing up a study abroad and internship program in Sydney, Australia. Prior to this, I completed another 10-week program with CAPA in London and a 4-week program with UC Davis in Oxford, England. I love writing, dancing, video-making and, of course, travelling. My career goal is to become a published children’s author.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Kiaya Heise - Church in Kennington

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?
KH: Before college, I’d travelled to Mexico and Spain, but the longest I’d ever been away from my family…or cat…was 10 days, so I was absolutely terrified of my first 4-week trip to Oxford. However, when I found the opportunity to study the works of my literary heroes in England, I knew it was something I had to do and I’m glad my mom and grandparents wouldn’t let me back out of it.

After Oxford, I was considering doing a quarter program abroad in my last year of college, but the only reason I wouldn’t do it sooner was because I had my heart set on doing an upper division creative writing program that would have required a two quarter commitment. Then, when I didn’t get in during my junior year, I realized there was nothing stopping me from going abroad that coming spring. That same afternoon, I checked the study abroad website and saw that the spring application deadline had just been extended to the following week.

I texted my mom at work and she was immediately on board, but I was torn between London in the spring and Sydney in the fall. After weighing location, internship opportunities, and the classes being offered, my mom’s response was: do both. My grandma was immediately supportive of the decision. Much to my surprise, and that of additional family and friends, I was enrolled in the London program before my final exam the next morning and enrolled in the Sydney program before I’d left for London.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Kiaya Heise in Stonehenge

CW: Where are some of the places you've carved out as "Your Sydney" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that are most meaningful for you? What is special about them?
KH: Hillsong church is a big part of my Syndey experience because it’s the place where I’ve been able to connect with Australians and other international students on a casual, down-to-earth level. It’s a church, yes, but it’s also a community and they’re very welcoming. Since I started travelling so much, I’ve been pretty removed from my community back home and I needed that bit of familiarity. By going there, I’ve met some really great people I would have never met otherwise. I’ve visited a church at least once on each of my study abroad programs, including Hillsong London, and I would encourage anyone who goes to a church normally to do the same abroad.

I would also have to say a $2 Hungry Jack’s cappuccino on the morning ferry to Manly for my internship is the best thing in the world.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Kiaya Heise - Kangaroo

CW: Tell us a bit about your internship that you are completing in Sydney, your duties and accomplishments. How will this experience help you in your future career?
KH: This time around, I’m interning at Edge Custom Media and working on various pages for an inflight magazine. I’ve had the privilege of compiling events for a calendar, e-interviewing artists and musicians for entertainment pages and writing short articles to be published in the magazine. I’ve gained invaluable experience writing for a publication as well as contacting individuals and media teams for content to use in the magazine. Being able to say I’m published, even uncredited, is a huge plus for me as a writer for any field.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Kiaya Heise_Opera House Twilight

CW: Where did you intern when you were studying abroad in London? Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site and how it has impacted the operation of the workplace.
KH: In London, I interned for an independent publishing company called Can of Worms Ltd. My duties included editing/proofreading manuscripts and writing posts for social media as well as making a catalog of previously published works to send to distributors and some research and data entry. I’m a hopeless doodler, so I also drew all of the people in my workplace over the course of my time there. Two drawings ended up on the wall and on my supervisor’s desk so I would have to say that little bit of silliness is my lasting contribution to that site.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Kiaya Heise - Pullens Yards (CoW site)Photo: Pullins Yard where Can of Worms was located

CW: How did your internship experience in Sydney compare to that in London? How are the work cultures different in the two cities? And how are both different from back home?
KH: My internship site in London was its own experience. I loved everything about that place from the way the wood floors sounded beneath my feet to the threat of ending up plastered against the door if I went down the stairs too fast. There were only three other people in the workplace, all much older than me, as well as another CAPA intern on some days. In Sydney, I’ve been interning in a lot larger workplace with significantly more people and the building is right across the street from the beach, which is amazing. Both cultures are pretty similar in that sense that there’s a pub culture, tea culture and everyone’s pretty friendly. In the office, everyone always asks each other if they want a “cuppa” if they’re getting up to get one for themselves, which I haven’t seen back home.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Kiaya Heise_Big Ben in London

CW: Tell us about a memorable interaction you had with a local in Sydney. How about London?
KH: I once had a couple of Sydneysiders ask me to explain the significance of a pumpkin spice latte. I flat out died of laughter. I actually don’t go to Starbucks very often so I made an educated guess.

In London, I decided to peruse Camden Town’s trendy thrift stores. I love hats, so I looked through the hat selection when the owner and I started having a conversation. She had family in California and knew my neck of the woods so we shared stories about our first times leaving home and what it’s like to want to kiss the ground on return. I bought a hat from her and it’s since become one of my favorites. It’s probably the classiest hat I own. [Side note: That’s actually the hat I’m wearing in the picture from Oxford at the top of this interview!]

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Kiaya Heise - Cockatoo

CW: As a study abroad student, you are representing Americans abroad. Are you conscious of your behavior in relation to the stereotypes of Americans that exist? Have you experienced any of these stereotypes first hand? Has living abroad changed any stereotypes that existed in your own mind about your host culture(s)?
KH: I am very conscious of how I might be viewed as an American. College-age Americans have a reputation for being a little crazy, which is a stereotype I have definitely seen in action, but I have also seen college students from other nationalities do the exact same thing. Americans are pretty loud given that’s just how we are, but when you can’t sleep because the Italians are singing/shouting in the courtyard at 1 AM, suddenly that stereotype falls short.

Another stereotype I’ve heard is that Americans are ignorant about the world around them. I’ve seen some who are, but more of those who aren’t. I’ve only been jokingly defined by these stereotypes or Americans will joke about them amongst ourselves so I don’t put much weight on them.

As far my ideas about people from other countries, I found the stereotypes about the cold, proper, tidy Brit to be inaccurate. Most people are pretty friendly. Some are a bit reserved, but a trip to the pub will generally remedy that pretty quick. I was actually surprised to be told that Americans are the tidy ones. I already knew Australians weren’t all like Crocodile Dundee, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect. They will definitely take any chance to chant “Aussie-Aussie-Aussie! Oi-oi-oi!” and sing “Waltzing Matilda” as a group of rowdy senior Aussies showed me on a coach in New Zealand.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Kiaya Heise - London Eye

CW: How did you fund your time abroad?
KH: Funding was a combination of grants, scholarships, and loans from my home university and financial support from my mom and grandparents. Without that, there is no way I could do what I’m doing now. As a family, we’ve been finding ways to save money where we can and I also live at home and commute to school so I haven’t had to pay extra for housing, etc.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Kiaya Heise - Sunset Swing Sydney

CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you started traveling on study abroad programs? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
KH: I’m not the same person I was before I started studying abroad. One thing I’ve realized is that some journeys have to be taken alone if I’m ever to stand on my own two feet. Over the course of my three programs, I’ve been thrown out of my comfort zone and right into the deep end. I’ve learned not to let anything hold me back and to just go for it, whatever “it” may be. I’ve grown accustomed to doing things alone, especially flying, and I even travelled in New Zealand alone. I’m less afraid of the world around me and while I’m still shy, I am more confident and comfortable meeting new people or navigating a foreign environment.

Thanks Kiaya!

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Topics: CAPA Alumni, Sydney, Australia