CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Allison Knapp

Apr 27, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

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A University of Delaware student, Allison studied abroad in London with CAPA International Education during Fall semester 2014. Below she talks about what it was like to live in Camden, how her experience influences the direction she hopes to take her future career and what the pre-departure preparation period was like before she left.  
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CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ALLISON KNAPP: Hi! My name is Allison. I am a junior at the University of Delaware and from Springfield, New Jersey. I have a Human Services major and Business Administration minor. I studied abroad in London with CAPA International Education this past Fall, and miss it every single day. Since I have returned home and my school did not re-start until February 9th (the worst!), I have been telling everybody about my experience and adventures, trying to work back some money I spent, and stalking through all of my pictures. 
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CW: Why did you choose to study abroad with CAPA? What was interesting about the program?
AK: I chose to study abroad with CAPA because my school had a direct program that I could apply to and it was quite easy. I researched CAPA and spoke to former students who also went through their London program. Everyone had positive experiences. The classes offered went perfectly with my major, I liked all of the inclusions the program offered (like the trip to Stonehenge and Bath!), and I liked how CAPA also encouraged exploration and gave us some flexibility.
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CW: Talk about your pre-departure experience.
AK: I knew that I would never get the experience again to travel outside of the country for four  months (without major responsibilities left at home). I knew that if I was accepted to the program, I would definitely go as long as I could get credit for all four of the classes I planned on taking. I started preparing the Spring semester before I went by taking an extra class that semester, since the four the following would be the minimum. I also started having meetings with my advisor who explained more about the process and we had a Q&A with CAPA alumni. I started researching everything about London. Not until a couple weeks before I left did I start looking at other countries I wanted to visit, what kind of clothes I wanted to bring, what travel credit card I needed, what to bring and what not to bring, etc. My worries were that I would not have things there that I needed, that I was not bringing from home, and that I did not know enough about London before I left.
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CW: Which classes did you take with CAPA? Give us a few examples of ways in which you were able to use the city itself as a classroom that gave you a better understanding of your academic material.
AK: I took Theatre, Art History, Exploring The Global City: London and Ethics in the Media. With Theatre, it was awesome that we were able to see four (free) plays, including "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" (which is on Broadway in New York!). With Art History, every other week we visited a museum in London, which to be honest, I probably would not have had any interest in going to many of them on my own. This class really helped me appreciate art in a different light. I learned to enjoy looking at art and going to museums. With ExploringThe Global City: London, we left the classroom often, but two trips I loved were to the Docklands and to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where I learned a lot about London’s history. I would not have made it to these areas without the class and I definitely recommend going! With Ethics in the Media, we attended a LSE (London School of Economics) lecture which was super interesting as well.
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CW: Tell us about your local neighborhood. 
AK: CAMDEN!! (Shoutout to my Camden Cr3w!) Camden was amazing, and more. It is a neighbourhood known for its eclectic people, delicious food market, awesome shopping, and fun nightlife. I still don’t think I spent enough time in Camden because there was seriously so much to do! I know some of my friends in other neighborhoods got bored in their areas and would come visit Camden on the weekends. On a regular day walking down the street, you would see people dressed in goth, brightly colored buildings, shops like Urban Outfitters, H&M, etc, one of the best markets in London, and a bunch of cool pubs and clubs. I seriously loved every part of Camden. My favorite local discovery would be the Amy Winehouse statue (she was from Camden) located in the middle of the Camden Lock Market! It was awesome to see her there, as I am a huge fan.
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CW: A big city like London can be overwhelming at first glance. How did you discover as much of the city as you could while you were abroad? Do you have any tips for new students?
AK: I tried to never be in my flat if I had free time. I did not have class on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, so I tried to plan something to do each of those days. I used the Time Out magazines a lot, asked CAPA staff for suggestions, and even fellow students who have gone out and explored as well. I am a huge fan of the buses in London, so I would use my CityMapper app on my phone and take the bus anywhere and everywhere. The tube is also super easy to navigate (once you understand it), and it was nice being able to travel around zones 1 and 2. There is SO much to see in London; do not waste any second of it! Walk, take the bus or tube, do anything you can to explore. Even within your local neighborhood, there will be so much to see.
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CW: How did you fund your time abroad? 
AK: Most of my funds came from money that my mom, grandfather and I had. I did receive a small scholarship from my College too. I worked as much as I could last summer in order to save up money. I did have to take out a small loan as well, which I recommend if you need because it will be SO worth it. Sally Mae was super quick and easy! Try not to spend a lot on silly things and save for your trip. Just be smart.
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CW: What surprised you about your host city? What did you discover that went beyond your expectations or stereotypes that exist of the city?
AK: London is such a huge city with so much to see. I did try to explore it as much as I could. I did not do a ton of research before arriving (which was a mistake), so a lot of things surprised me.

First, the food is not as bad as people say and I actually enjoyed it.

Second, a major surprise for me was the art culture in London, from the museums, the large Blue Hen in Trafalgar Square, to the wall art in Shoreditch and inside the Leake Street Tunnel. I loved finding wall art to go look at or street art in different neighborhoods because the pure talent amazes me every time.

London surprised me in the fact that it is truly such an amazing city with so much to see/do, I was never bored. I was probably amazed each of the 30 times I saw Big Ben, haha! In London itself, I could have spent my whole semester doing something different each weekend and not just the ‘well known’ things like the London Eye, museums, the bridges, etc. I was even able to sit in on a debate in Parliament which was awesome (and free!) and most people do not know you can do that. 
Also, my friends and I found a chocolate show fashion event, where the model's dresses were made out of all chocolate! There is nothing London can't do. Additionally, there is something called the “rooftop film club” where we watched the ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ on top of a building, in comfy chairs and with a provided blanket. Lastly, my roommate and I were able to attend the first ever BBC Music Awards, and saw Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, George Ezra and more perform, which was amazing!
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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? 
AK: The places I carved out as “My London” were Tower 47 in Camden (the bagel/music shop where we did our homework), Internet Café down the street from CAPA where I would usually get lunch, the Camden underground station which I knew would bring me home, Neal's Yard in Covent Garden, Be At One, a bar which has 2 for 1 happy hour drinks in Soho, Camden Market, E. Pellicci - the English breakfast place we went to with THE cutest man, CAPA in Gloucester Road, and my flat building. Everyone was so friendly, and I felt at home where we lived. Also, I was able to see one of my favorite artists, Christina Perri, perform at KoKo, down the street from my flat, like 10 feet away from me. That was one of the most fun nights of my life.
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CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? Did your experience abroad influence your career goals and aspirations in any way?
AK: Even my best friends at home and school say I seem different (which I think is good?). I am definitely more open to new experiences and am more go-with-the-flow and less of a planner. I used to have everything planned out and organized, but now I know everything will be okay even if it is not. My experience has taught me that I am able to step out of my comfort zone and just have fun, meet people, and explore.

I also learned so much about the world around me and Europe specifically. I had not been before this trip. Visiting so many landmarks, taking tons of tours, talking to local people, etc, has allowed me to experience and understand several different cultures and has me interested in learning more.

My experience abroad has taught me that I love to travel and meet new people, so it has encouraged me to look at grad school abroad and possibly a career in the communications field.
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Thanks Allison!
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Topics: London, England, CAPA Alumni, Interviews