CAPA Study Abroad Alum Interview: Sam Schira

Jun 15, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Meet Sam, a Michigan State University student who studied abroad in London with CAPA International Education during summer term 2014. Below, Sam talks about interning with the Crawley Town Football Club, experiencing reverse culture shock and how his experience abroad influenced his future career goals. 

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself, your hobbies and your interests. When and where did you study abroad? 
SAM SCHIRA: Hi all! My name is Sam Schira. I am a senior marketing major at Michigan State University. I’m originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan. No, the Black Keys were not making it up; it is a real place, I swear. I have always been a massive fan of football ("soccer" for all you Americans), which played a large role in me deciding to participate in the CAPA London summer internship program during the summer of 2014.
CW: What have you been up to since your CAPA program finished? How has your career or academic planning developed?
SS: Since my CAPA program finished, I have been working on completing my degree while consulting for Mercedes-Benz. After this, I plan on continue my schooling at Michigan State to receive my masters in market research. When I finally say sayonara to my life in academia, I plan on using my masters in market research to work in the sports industry as a market research consultant.

CW: Tell us about your internship that you completed while studying abroad, your duties and accomplishments. How will this experience help you in your future career? 

SS: To say my internship was a once in a life time experience for me would be a massive understatement. I interned with Crawley Town Football Club. As a marketing intern at Crawley Town, I was tasked with the responsibility of increasing match day revenue. I was able to accomplish this by creating pre-game events, drawing in younger fans, revamping party packages, and a wide range of marketing roles to boost match day ticket sales. As I progressed through my internship at Crawley Town, my duties evolved into revamping the day to day office operations, increasing overall efficiency. Oh yeah, and I got to watch top clubs in England including Chelsea and Fulham play!
CW: How did you prepare for your internship and the initial interview? Can you share your best advice for other students? Tell us about the interview itself and how you settled in to your new role.
SS: An initial CAPA internship interview can be make or break. Not necessarily about whether you will get the internship, but more about how the employer will use you in their company. Being prepared and knowledgeable about the company during the interview can set the tone of the entire internship. For me personally, I researched the ins and outs of the club, their rise to success, management, how the club finished last year and changes they have made at the club. I even went on to YouTube to watch highlights of previous games played to increase my knowledge of the players. After the interview, Birt - my supervisor - half-jokingly said I knew more about the club than he did.

CW: Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site and how it has impacted the operation of the workplace. What were you most proud of accomplishing there?

SS: I went into my internship not only looking for a great personal experience, but also how could I make a lasting impact with my work. Crawley Town FC has recently been on a meteoric rise up the leagues. In 2004, CTFC was in the Southern League, and in nine short years, CTFC moved up four leagues to Football League One. As their on field success continued, the front office practices struggled to keep up. This quickly became evident to me and I set out to fix this. I introduced the community department to real time databases reducing the chance of error or redundancy. They are still using these today.
CW: Explain a day (or week) in the life of a CAPA intern. 
SS: CAPA does a wonderful job of mixing work, school and pleasure. I would spend 20 hours a week in classes and 20 hours a week interning. My classes included "Exploring the Global City: London", "Child Development" and a "Learning Through Internship (LTI)" class. The LTI class was one of the most beneficial things CAPA offered. Essentially, it was a structured time for me to reflect on my internship. Self-reflection is critical to fully appreciating the impact of an internship, as well as the effect living in a new city was having on me. When I was not at class or work, I was roaming the city. The amount of freedom is something that is pretty unique to CAPA compared to most study abroad programs and something that I really appreciated. I would typically spend my weekdays until 5pm at work or class, after which I would explore the city. CAPA offers some pretty awesome day trips called MyEducation events, but my favorite thing to do was get off at a random tube stop and walk around for a while, fully immersing myself in the London culture. 

CW: Tell us about your favorite class at CAPA. How have you been able to apply your new knowledge to the way you explore the city around you?

SS: My favorite class at CAPA would have to be hands down the "Exploring the Global City: London" class. The class was a split between traditional structured classroom time and going on field trips around the city. The class really helped me develop a better understanding London. Maybe I’m alone on this, but often times when I walk around a new city I kind of just gawk at the beauty it without really critically thinking. This class helped me develop a much deeper understanding of not only the architectural feats of the city, but more importantly, gave me a deeper appreciation of the people who live in London.
CW: Having been back in the States for a bit of time now, what emotions have you been experiencing? What has been the biggest challenge and how have you coped?
SS: Reverse culture shock was far more prevalent than I was suspecting. The culture shock you will inevitably experience when you go to another country is drilled into your head, but reverse culture shock is just as real of a problem. I tried to mentally prepare myself for my journey to London, but I never really considered that coming back to the States was going to be an issue. The biggest challenge for me was trying to adjust back to the monotony of life back home. In London, every day was an adventure. I would wake up every morning with no clue how my day would end. It is weird to think that you can live at home and feel “homesick” for your life overseas, but trust me you will! The best way I found to cope is to keep in contact with both co-workers and friends I met abroad. Just because study abroad has come to an end doesn’t mean your global experience has to.

CW: Did your experience abroad in any way shape or impact your career goals and aspirations?

SS: Without a doubt! I would say it is almost impossible to experience something as unique as interning in another country without coming out of it a changed person. It helped me realize that I love working in the sports industry, not necessarily in the capacity I did at my internship, but somehow involved in it. More importantly, it opened my eyes to the importance of having a global perspective. As I am beginning my job hunt, if a company doesn’t have a global presence, they are almost immediately eliminated for me. I absolutely loved working abroad; the culture differences, the new challenges, the people and the experience generally have all helped me gain a global perspective.

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?

The changes I experienced and things I learned during my time in London are almost incalculable. I think I grew more in my three months in London than at any other time in my life. Living in the United States, the major harp on our citizens is that we are too ethnocentric, and I thought I always tried to not be part of this stereotype. But it's hard not to be when that was all I have known. Yes, I have been to Canada, and touristy parts of Mexico, but all these countries have grown with the US making it easy to draw similarities. Coming to London was the first time in my life where I truly felt out of my element and was really able to change my whole global perspective. It is undoubtedly a challenge to adjust, but I took on London and despite a few silly faux pas I came out relatively unscathed, proving to myself that there is no task too daunting for me to handle.

A story I love to tell my friends is that it took me until halfway through my time in London to finally learn how to order at a British McDonalds. In the States, we order and move to the side to wait for our food, allowing the next person in line to order. Whereas in England, you order your food and stay at the cash register until your food is brought to you. Going through your pre study abroad process, they always tell you don’t get caught up on the little things. There is a lot of truth to that, but I implore you to try and discover why the little things are different. That is when you really begin to learn about a new culture, and even your own culture.

In my somewhat silly McDonalds story, it brought me to a very important observation about the differences between American and European culture that I still use today. In the US, the culture has been built up around the ideas of Henry Ford and the assembly line; our satisfaction is largely derived from speed and efficiency above all else. Whereas in Europe, speed and efficiency do not carry anywhere near as much emphasis. This somewhat simple fact helped me to explain why things were done differently in London, and how to adjust myself to become a more effective intern in London’s work culture. 

Thanks Sam!
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Topics: London, England, CAPA Alumni, Interviews