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Gaining Confidence From Exploring a New Culture

Nov 28, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Elizabeth Carey

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Meet Elizabeth Carey, a business major at Simmons College who studied abroad in Dublin during spring semester 2016. Below, Elizabeth discusses how her heritage led her to choose Ireland, how taking classes with other international students gave her new perspectives on the lecture topics, and how traveling alone made her more confident and comfortable in her own capabilities.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ELIZABETH CAREY: Originally, I am from West Hartford, Connecticut but, I go to school at Simmons College in Boston. As a business major, I decided to study abroad in Ireland because even though I knew that the culture is pretty different from ours, there were also some things I could connect with such as the food and the music. If I actually had time for my hobbies, I would say reading, cooking, and cosplaying are the things I enjoy most.

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CW: Why did you choose the CAPA program and why Dublin specifically?
EC: The big reason why I decided on CAPA was the testimonials from other people. I know that my study abroad director at my college and even my academic advisor both recommended CAPA to me. What really sealed the deal was when I got a real person who was talking with me from the moment I finished the first part of application to the final result. There was a whole list of things we had to get through before my departure and she helped me whenever I had an issue. Dublin had always been a place I wanted to go visit because I wanted to see where my family was from, and it was a good opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. I saw it as one of those places a lot of people talk about but do not go to as often.

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CW: Talk about academics abroad: Which classes did you take in Dublin and how were they different from back home? How did taking classes with other international students affect the way you learned? How were you able to connect your experience of the city itself and your academics?
EC: I took "Consumer Behavior" and "International Business Environment" abroad. I was talking about it with other CAPA students while I was there and, in one of my classes, I was the only American in the entire class. Taking a class with other international students was crazy because you could see the differences between one group of people responding positively to a certain ad, for example, while another group felt negatively toward that same ad. It was cool because as I continued to observe, I got a sense of how other cultures worked just through one demographic.

It was very easy to put down my academic hat and put on my explorer hat as I only had four days out of the week with actual school and internship responsibilities which gave me plenty of time to explore on the long weekends. I think this was better, personally, as I don’t like to mix business with leisure.

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CW: There's a lot to juggle when you study abroad and there's also pressure to see and do everything along the way. What time management tips did you learn while you were abroad that you could share with future study abroad students? 
EC: I learned to go to bed when I knew I was tired. I am a late to bed, early to rise sort of person, but I definitely realized I needed to get full nights' rest. If you know you need a certain amount of sleep, get it! I also learned that you should not go out to eat or meander around town during the work week, although I never really practiced this anyway. Make the time to see those other things when you don’t need to wake up at 7am the next day. Also, don’t be sad when you don’t make it to events other people are going to. You will be better off making sure you are healthy and taking care of yourself before you get sick and have to stay in.

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CW: What was your favorite way to get around the city? Why? Talk a bit about navigating a new place on foot versus using public transportation.
EC: I have always seemed to have a good sense of direction and so I would just walk everywhere I went. I did not see the need to be on a bus unless it was cold or rainy and, shockingly enough, it was never too rainy for me to take the bus. It will always be easier for you if you are outside the public transit when in the city because it makes it a lot easier to be observant of your surroundings. You will find yourself with more confidence if you can make your way back home from anywhere because you have walked it the entire time. I will admit that it does take practice, but getting lost can lead to new adventures you have never experienced before.

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CW: Tell us about some of the best ways to make the most of study abroad when you're on your own. How did you spend your alone time? Did you travel alone too? Any tips for others who'd like to do the same? 
EC: I think being an ambivert really helps you in certain ways. I know when I like my alone time and when I want to hang out. Being this way, sometimes you really don’t want to go out with other people, so you might find yourself traveling alone. My best advice for this is to talk to CAPA staff and have someone in the office (usually Hayley for Dublin) give you some advice about where you are going and what you plan to do. This is not for everyone, let me make that clear. You need to be able to be okay with being on your own. Don’t think about the fact that you are in another country by yourself, but rather you are just on your own for a few days and you will see everyone later. It always sounds scary to travel alone, but if you have the right itinerary then you will be all set.

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CW: One great way to live on a student budget abroad is to cook for yourself. Did you? Where did you buy groceries? What did you cook? Any tips for other students? 
EC: I did cook for myself and I also cooked a bit for the other CAPA students as well. I am a baker, so it was really fun to make cinnamon rolls from scratch and girl scout cookies (caramel delights) from scratch for Susanne who is the lovely CAPA coordinator for Dublin. I think that the best tip I can give is that Google is your friend. Don’t know what to make with ingredients you have on hand? Google it. You want to make latkes but you don’t have the right binder? Google a substitute. I think the majority of the things I made I had never actually made before and just decided to make one day. So, definitely don’t let your (in)experience stop you.

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CW: What do you see yourself doing when you graduate? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
EC: I think after I graduate I would like to work doing something internationally. I was 100% influenced to try and work somewhere in consulting for international products and markets. I loved working at my internship site and learning about new cultures, and I would like to do it again. Before I die, traveling to every continent will be my one true goal.

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CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Dublin" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
EC: My Dublin was not necessarily as prevalent as my fellow study abroad alumn's, but it was pretty special to me. Although we did not go there a lot, my favorite place was called Black Bird back in Rathmines. I loved it because they had a whole entire corner to play board games and fed you snacks. You could be there for hours playing Jenga and no one would get bored.

My other Dublin spot was probably the Iveagh Gardens. This place is right next to St. Stephen’s Green and it is much smaller and quieter. There were days I went there just to meditate and relax when I needed to have some nature in my life.


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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?
EC: I think my confidence level has risen quite a bit. Traveling solo helped me to become confident in how I move through cultures and how I am able to find things on my own. I think the experience as a whole taught me that I am much more of an adult than I realized and that soon I will have to start accepting that - but I will be prepared.

Thanks, Elizabeth!

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Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Interviews