CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Ashley Moon

Feb 2, 2015 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

We've reconnected with Ashley Moon who was CAPA's official London vlogger during spring semester 2014. Ashley's been back in the States for a while now and has taken on the role of Editor in Chief at Howard Payne University's newspaper after recently returning from an exciting visit to Sweden. She's hoping to apply for a CAPA Sydney program soon whcih would be her third study abroad adventure. Below, she reflects on life in London, shares her best tips for new study abroad students and tells us about some of the memories that make her happiest to look back on.CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Spring2014_AshleyMoon3
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself. What have you been up to since your CAPA program finished?
ASHLEY MOON: My name is Ashley Moon and I’m a creative 20-year-old with lots of energy and excitement for life. I love music, coffee, people and things that look nice. I am from the Dallas area (Waxahachie, TX, to be exact) and I study Media Communications and Journalism at Howard Payne University. I studied in the CAPA London program in the spring of 2014.

Since my incredible time in London, I have continued to pursue my interests in travel and media. Over the summer, I interned at an advertising agency. In August, I travelled to Seattle and Canada just a week before heading back to school and assuming my new position as Editor in Chief at my university’s newspaper. And in November, I travelled to Stockholm, Sweden to participate in a Model United Nations conference.
CW: Why did you choose to study abroad with CAPA? What was interesting about your program? Would you consider a second semester abroad?
AM: I first studied abroad in London with my university in the Spring of 2013. I had never had any particular burning interest to travel to London or anywhere else, but I asked myself “why not?” and a few months later, ended up in London.

After my first study abroad, I was hungry for more. I had a good relationship with the Study Abroad Coordinator at my university, because she had been in London with me the first time. She had been searching around for other trips I could go on and she came across CAPA. I loved that CAPA provided me with the opportunity to meet local people through a host family and an internship. My biggest criticism of the first semester I spent in London was that I was around Americans 90% of the time. I wanted to study abroad again, but I wanted to be in a program that offered a chance to be more plugged into the city I was in. It was by chance that I ended up in London again, of all places, but I was thrilled to be there and have now developed such a deep love and understanding of the city.

I am currently trying to arrange my credits so that I can study abroad a third time. This time, I’m hoping to study with CAPA in Sydney, Australia. ;)
CW: What do you see yourself doing when you graduate? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? 
AM: My experience abroad absolutely influenced my hopes for the future. I’ll be graduating in about a year, and I’d really like to move to London long term. Since I have spent so much time in London, I feel at home there. I love big cities and if I don’t end up in London, I’d like to try New York, Paris, Denver or LA.

I am a media artist, which means that my skills are in photography, video, writing and design. I am interested in journalism and advertising as potential outlets for my work, but I am keeping an open mind, because you never know what opportunities will come your way. Lately, I have been looking for a way to combine my love of media art with my love of music, which could possibly lead me to a job where I’m making music videos or documentaries for an artist or photographing their tour or album covers.
CW: Beyond the wanderlust, what transferrable skills did you take away from your time abroad that will help you in your future career?
AM: Europe has taught me to be open minded and to accept different ideas. Being from Texas, I was not exposed to much variety of culture when I was growing up. I don’t mean to say that everyone in Texas is exactly the same, but there are certainly some hegemonic ideologies there. Living in Europe, I met people from all over the world who spoke a plethora of languages, practiced different religions and were interested in all sorts of things. Being exposed to such diversity, you have to be able to value other ideas and respect people who are not like you. As a Communications major, learning how to interact with people is one of the most important skills to master. I now feel that it is easier not only to interact with others on a personal level, but also to collaborate with my colleagues in a professional manner through our work.
CW: You were an Official Vlogger for CAPA during Spring semester 2014. 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?
AM: I’ve said many times that the best part about being a photographer is that you have your entire life documented. All of your memories of special places, old friends and embarrassing things you did when you were young are preserved in tangible ways. The same is certainly true about being a videographer. I filmed so many things when I was in London, which encouraged me to continue making vlogs when I came back to the States. Because I had so much footage of the awesome things I had done throughout the year, I was able to make a “Year in Review” video of 2014 as a whole, which was really special to me because it was a life changing year. Vlogging is also a useful tool in meeting people or becoming closer with the people you already know. Often times in my vlogs, I ask my friends’ opinion on something we were doing or ask a stranger at the same event for input. It can really break the ice with people because vlogging is so much fun! I would suggest that everyone who studies abroad do something to consistently document their trip, be it a vlog series, a blog, a photo album or a personal journal.
CW: You chose to live with a host family while you were in London. What was that experience like for you? Would you do it again? What were the advantages?
AM: Living with my host family was the best part about my time in England. I lived with a wonderful family who had two daughters (ages 15 and 12) and a 10-year-old son. Everyone in my host family was fun and welcoming. The first time I studied in England, I felt really homesick. During my second term abroad, I didn’t feel homesick a single day. This was mainly because I had a family and a house to come home to. I had people to ask me about my day, have tea with and watch Harry Potter with. There were always people coming over for tea or bringing their children over to play, so I was really plugged into a solid community of people. I was lucky to be paired with the amazing family I lived with and I would absolutely do it again. 
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?
AM: Well, the coolest thing for me was that I actually did get to do it all over again. After leaving the UK for the first time, there were things I wished I had or hadn’t done, and when I got to go back the next year, I made sure I wouldn’t have any regrets. I shopped less and travelled more; I didn’t let small things bother me; I explored by myself and I tried harder to make friends. My happiest memories are of my friends. As I mentioned previously, I had a wonderful relationship with my host family, but I also had a very close relationship with my boss at my internship site and his family. He was married and had two small children and I spent a lot of time with them. I truly believe that both of those families are now lifelong friends of mine and they showed me so much love. I also have very fond memories of the trips I took when I was in the UK. I travelled to Paris, Wales and Brighton during my term with CAPA and all three trips were magnificent.
CW: What did it feel like to go home again when you first arrived? And now, after some time has passed? Have there been any difficult moments? 
AM: Honestly, I wasn’t ready to go home. I was very sad to leave England. I probably would have stayed longer if I had had more money or if I could have worked to make money while in England. I do miss it very much, but I have learned that the best thing is to be happy wherever you are. In the last two and a half years, I haven’t lived in one place for more than four months at a time. I’ve mostly been bouncing back and forth between my hometown, my college town and London. All places have pros and cons, so I’ve learned to just be happy in every temporary place I reside. But also, I’m not so sad about being out of the UK because I know I’ll be back. I’ve realized that if you really want something in life and you are willing to work hard to obtain it, you will. London will always be special to me and it is a place I will always return to.
CW: If you could offer a piece of advice to the students studying abroad in London during Spring 2015 semester, what would that be? Why is it important?
AM: There are so many important pieces of advice I could give, but the most important would probably be this: Don’t let yourself get upset over the small things about the culture that bother you. It will absolutely ruin your trip. In any new place you travel to, you will notice that some things are done differently than the way you’re used to. Sometimes, these differences can be confusing or irritating, but in the long run, they are unimportant. I actually didn’t like London at all when I first came. Because I had never left the US, I had no idea what to realistically expect from a foreign country. I imagined America, just with better tea and fancier accents. At first, I was really aggravated that the shops didn’t run 24 hours or that I couldn’t get free refills on my drink at a restaurant. For about 3 weeks, I was really hung up on all the little things that were not how I envisioned they would be. But there came a point where I just had to get over it and enjoy London for what it actually was, rather than what I thought it would be. I think it can be very detrimental to over plan or over think your trip. Start your semester with the mindset that you will be ready for whatever comes your way, and then go with the flow.
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?
AM: Studying abroad made me much more tolerant and understanding. All of the friends I made in the UK had different ways of living, different backgrounds and different beliefs, but that’s what made it interesting. Secondly, studying abroad made me very hungry to learn. While in London, I was always discussing differences in culture with my host family and my boss. They would ask me things like “what would you eat for dinner in the US?” and then I would get to eat the dinner they made. Simple differences, such as expressions, music or manners have become very interesting to me. I have learned so much about other people and the way they live, which has in turn, helped me to see a clearer picture of the life I want to live.

Thanks Ashley!

Ashley welcomes you to connect with her on Instagram @Ashleytothemoon, watch some of her videos on YouTube or visit her website

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Topics: London, England, CAPA Alumni, Interviews