CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Anita Chomenko
If you've been following along on CAPA World long enough, you'll remember Anita Chomenko from the weekly videos produced for her role as an official CAPA vlogger back in fall 2014. Anita studied and interned abroad in London. Now graduated, she is working in New York City as a Video Production Assistant for Apartment Therapy Media. Below, she reminisces about her classes and internship, shares her enthusiasm for exploring the city (including her favorite park tucked away behind Big Ben) and talks a bit about her travels and ever-increasing sense of wanderlust.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ANITA CHOMENKO: For my 2014 fall semester, I made the decision to go abroad and study with the CAPA London program. I was coming from Rider University where I was studying Digital Media. CAPA London offered a ton of classes that suited my interests as well as my major requirements with my university back home. I also love photography and exploring different neighborhoods. Studying abroad gave me the perfect opportunity to do both.
Since my semester abroad, I did a summer journalism program with iei Media in Urbino, Italy. In May, I graduated from Rider University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media. Following that, I flew to Spain and Morocco to do some exploring, and in June I started a full-time Video Production Assistant position with Apartment Therapy Media in New York City.
CW: Why did you choose to study abroad with CAPA and why London specifically? What was interesting about your program?
AC: I first became interested in studying abroad with CAPA London after a really great suggestion from one of my friends, Daisy, who had just finished a semester there. She had an amazing time abroad, visited so many new cities and countries, and she held an internship while studying there. My mom and I loved the internship aspect of the program. From there we just started looking at the program in more depth: what classes would I be interested in taking, what excursions did the program offer, etc…
The internship aspect of the program let me meet so many locals that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Making friends with coworkers who were my age helped me understand their opinions and view of America. Talking about cultural differences with them during teatime and debating over their intense love for beans on toast for breakfast was something I loved. I learned more about the television production industry while I was there, but even after my program ended I was able to take stories from my experience and bring them up during other internship interviews.
CW: Where do you see yourself taking your career over the next few years? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations?
AC: I just started working as a Video Production Assistant with Apartment Therapy Media in New York City. Apartment Therapy Media runs two websites, Apartment Therapy and Kitchn. The videos focus on design, house tours, DIY, food techniques and food recipes. We create videos that run on the website and social media platforms. I love the videos we’re creating and I plan to stay with the company over the next few years.
My internship abroad was with the MAMA Youth Project to help produce the show “What’s Up” on SKY1. I was a social media intern during my time there and I enjoyed working with the different teams to help promote the segments my coworkers were producing. I attended filming days and was able to get a better understanding of time management, quality control, paperwork and working with different personalities. Their focus was to produce segments on events happening around London, music, culture and the arts.
My experience abroad didn’t directly shape my career goals. I already knew what industry I wanted to go into. My internships in America and abroad were about finding the best environment to work in. My time with MAMA Youth and “What’s Up” made me realize that I was looking to create different content in my career.
CW: How was your experience with academics abroad: Which classes did you take in London? Which was your favorite and why? How were you able to connect the way you came to understand the city itself and your academics?
AC: During my semester abroad I took three courses: "Understanding Modern Britain", "Writing the City: London" and "British Broadcasting". I was interning with the MAMA Youth Project for my remaining six credits. Lastly, all students who held an internship abroad were part of a course called "LTI – Learning through Internships".
My favorite class was "British Broadcasting" with Kirsty Allison. We discussed similarities and differences of British and American television shows, and the approaches to various genres. We watched a lot of good British shows, wrote our own television pilot scripts, and toured BBC studios. All around, it was an awesome class.
I found a way to connect my experience with London and my academics in all my classes, but especially "Writing the City". We read essays that were set in different neighborhoods, parks and corners of the city. As students, we were challenged to take neighborhoods and create our narratives. For me, that meant spending more time in that neighborhood to really get a sense of the energy and the architecture in a space.
CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your London" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
AC: A place I carved out as my little section of London was near tourist sites but just behind them. Near Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, behind the Palace of Westminster was Victoria Tower Gardens. I saw the tower by chance one day and couldn’t remember how to get back. I wandered around that area until I found this beautiful colorful tower standing in the middle of the park on the waterfront.
One of my other favorite places was Twinings tea shop. The minute you step inside, the shelves are just filled floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall with every flavor of tea you can imagine. They also sold coffee by the pound and a few different tea sets. I still miss the tea flavors you can only buy in their shop.
CW: You were an official vlogger for CAPA during your semester in London. What did you learn from this experience in terms of understanding how you grew and changed while abroad? Would other students benefit from vlogging while abroad?
AC: I was lucky to have been chosen as the official vlogger for CAPA London during my semester. I made and edited weekly vlogs where I talked about different parts of studying abroad, visiting other countries and what my classes were like.
Vlogging during the semester was great because I continued to work on my video production as a one-man band. Prior to that semester, I felt I had gotten better at photography and had begun to understand ISO, aperture, etc… When I was vlogging regularly and setting up the camera, I really noticed the difference when I changed a setting. Between vlogging on my own and walking around the city and taking photos, I really began to notice a difference in my understanding of the camera.
I would definitely recommend vlogging to any communications, photography or videography major. It gives you experience in using an SLR and working through different conditions.
CW: When you think back on your time in London, what memories make you happiest? Would you do anything differently if you studied abroad again?
AC: When I think back on my memories in London, the memories that make me the happiest are the days where I went and saw something just because I was curious. I loved visiting the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio, exploring the parks, walking along the waterfront, going to Borough Market for a meal and exploring every corner of Harrod’s. I loved spending an afternoon writing in Covent Garden and checking out the quirky shops. I was so happy seeing the most beautiful parts of Italy on my fall break with my friends.
If I studied abroad again, I probably would have only done three internship credits instead of six and taken a philosophy class that would have transferred back over to my university. Otherwise I would do it again the same.
CW: If you could offer a piece of advice to the new group of students studying abroad in London, what would that be? Why is it important?
AC: If I could offer a piece of advice to a new group of students studying abroad in London, I would have to say explore. Use your afternoons to walk through a different area of the city. Use your weekends to go outside of London, explore the coast and other areas of England. Use your fall or spring break to see countries you’ve always dreamed of and to enjoy the best each place has to offer. Wander out in the rain or the shine and explore the city you’re living in for a semester. If you can, stay a little after your semester and continue to travel or go early to do extensive travel with your family. Take advantage of how much closer you are to other countries and just buy a plane/train/bus ticket to go somewhere new. In my semester, I was lucky to travel to Brighton, Amsterdam, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany and Portugal.
That being said, work hard before your semester and save your money. You won’t regret it.
CW: What did it feel like to go home again when you first returned to the US? And now, after some time has passed? Have there been any difficult moments?
AC: After my semester in London, I stayed in Europe for another month traveling. I met up with my boyfriend who was studying In Graz, Austria that semester. We went to Munich and Nuremberg for a few days before Christmas to see the Christmas markets and tour before going back to Graz. In the new year, I met up with my mom and we spent a week in Lisbon, Portugal. I absolutely loved having the extra time in Europe to spend more time touring certain cities I didn’t get to visit during my semester. Everything was beautiful and it was a great way to end the year, and start the new year. I was sad to fly back to America after all of that, but I was also looking forward to no longer living out of my suitcase.
The hardest part of being back home was watching other friends leave to go start their semesters abroad or their vacations in London. I missed Covent Garden, seeing Big Ben and walking along the Thames. But I will always have my favorite spots in London, and I know I’ll visit again one day.
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself, the world around you and some of the larger global issues?
AC: Since studying abroad two years ago, I’ve noticed some changes in the way that I plan my trips. Prior to studying abroad I was lucky enough to have traveled through several countries in Europe, Asia and South America. I have a continued love of travel and seeing different countries. I also have a desire to see new areas and regions in countries I’ve already visited.
Studying abroad was my only chance to live at a “dorm” or live away from home while in college, so I had a lot of firsts in that sense. First time really doing my own laundry, doing my own grocery shopping, etc… It taught me to be extremely independent and it came at a good time in my life. In my time abroad, my love of exploring continued to grow. After classes and after work, I would seek out new areas to see and visit because the months just flew by.
Now when I travel, I make sure to see the big tourist areas of each city, but also to try and find the hidden treasures. I plan time in smaller cities that have different traditions and architecture and by always going with what the locals suggest.
Spending a semester abroad working with Brits, it really opened up my eyes on global issues. It helped me to have a more open mind and to hear more sides of a story. In my “Understanding Modern Britain” class, we often debated and discussed ideas that seemed so cut and dry in America, but then hearing a different outlook that makes you think more. That was one of my biggest take-aways from living abroad.