CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Ciara Johnson

Mar 9, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Meet Ciara, a Culver-Stockton College student who studied abroad in Sydney, Australia with CAPA International Education. Below, she tells us about her marketing internship, some of the classes that left an impression on her and what surprised her most about the city. She also shares a few highlights like attending a G20 summit informational meeting at the Lowy Institute and the thrill of a skydiving adventure in Cairns.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
CIARA JOHNSON: My name is Ciara Johnson and I am an international marketing major at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO. I studied Fall semester of my senior year in Sydney, Australia with CAPA International Education. I love to travel and learn about the different cultures of people around the world. I thrive on doing things I have never done before and I strive to push myself out of my comfort zone. 
CW: Describe your travel background for us.
CJ: When I was a freshman in high school, I learned that I loved to travel as I was able to fly to Atlanta, GA for a FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) conference. As I reached college, I had travelled extensively domestically, but I still hadn’t been out of the country. My freshman year of college, I had my first international experience on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic. I couldn’t get enough of it, so I enrolled at Culver and took advantage of their 3-week program, travelling to Costa Rica and Canada. I also went on another family vacation to Jamaica. These experiences were the driving forces, along with support and encouragement from my family and friends, that made me realize studying abroad for a semester was for me! I learned about the CAPA program through the study abroad advisor on campus and I was so excited to tell my family. They were happy for me, but had been completely expecting something of this nature.
CW: Tell us a bit about your internship that you completed while studying abroad, your duties and accomplishments.
CJ: While I was abroad, I completed a marketing internship with a company called Drinks Association. During this time, I was given a number of meaningful tasks; I even helped revamp training manuals to save employees time on everyday tasks! I was also exposed to an entirely new type of work culture.  Where America is quite “professional”, working in an office setting in Australia was a bit more laid back and relaxed. I felt this helped me feel more comfortable and complete my work more efficiently. Before I left, my mentor offered me a position if ever I wanted to come back to Australia as well as wrote me a letter of recommendation for a future job search. I think being able to say I completed an internship abroad will give me an edge on the competition with my future job search and help me stand out.
CW: Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site and how it has impacted the operation of the workplace.
When I was working for Drinks Association, I worked a lot with sponsorship for the big event the company sponsored: the Australian Drinks Awards. It was only the second year for the awards show, so it was still growing. The company was looking for a greater amount of sponsors to increase the budget for the show. It was my project to create presentations for companies in the industry showing them the value of partnering with the Drinks Association and helping to secure them as sponsors. Each company was worth roughly $20,000-30,000 and many responded saying they enjoyed the presentation I put together. 

I was also able to secure a database from the government that was comprised of licensing information needed to update the drinks licenses database. This was a huge help to the company as the process in place prior to this database was a daily task rather than monthly and was not entirely accurate.
CW: Describe an area of the city that surprised you and tell us what it was about it that you didn’t expect.
CJ: There was no specific area that truly surprised me as much as Sydney as a whole. I was not aware just how culturally diverse Sydney was in general. I met people from all over the world and learned what a ‘global city’ truly is.
CW: How did you fund your time abroad?
CJ: In order to fund my time abroad, I took out a loan and continued working at my bank job in order to save money. I was also able to secure an affiliation scholarship because CAPA had reached an affiliation with Culver. Because my decision to study abroad came a little later than would normally be expected and I was the first to complete this type of program from my school, I didn’t have the time or knowledge to apply for the scholarships I now know are offered. I know at Culver, the program is growing and funding options, as far as government funding and scholarships, will be easier to come by.
CW: Give three examples of ways in which you were able to tie the knowledge you’ve gained in your CAPA classes into the way you understand your host city.
I think the biggest way my CAPA classes helped me were in conjunction with my internship. In the coursework for my internship class, Learning Through Internships, we were able to reflect on our experience and learn about different prospects of working in Australia vs. the United States. I learned the differences in hierarchy and overall office environment. This was the topic for my final paper and I noticed the differences in the countries as well as learned how to react and adapt to them. 

I also learned a lot of different marketing techniques in my international marketing course and was able to apply them to different projects and tasks at my internship. I learned about the Australian market and the things that appeal to them and how it differs from the United States. 

Through my international business and trade course, I was able to learn about the interactions between Australia and other countries. I was more attentive to where different products came from and the process for how they were able to make these products a successful component of the Australian market.
CW: What classes did you take while you were abroad? Which one left the biggest impression on you and why?
CJ: While I was abroad, I took International Marketing, International Business and Trade and the Learning Through Internships course for my internship. If I had to choose which course left the biggest impression on me, it would be International Business and Trade.  The course as a whole helped me look at the world with a better business mind. My favorite aspect of the class was being able to attend the G20 summit informational meeting at the Lowy Institute. I had never experienced anything like it. I was able to listen to the concerns and ideals of business and political professionals all over the world and truly understand the worldwide issues that are being dealt with daily. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that truly stuck with me.
CW: Did you have a chance to travel outside of Sydney while you were abroad? Where did you go? What was your most memorable adventure and why?
CJ: Yes, I was able to travel outside of Sydney on two occasions. I went to Cairns to skydive and experience the Great Barrier Reef during our spring break and to the Gold Coast to experience the night life and adventure parks on a free weekend. My favorite adventure was skydiving in Cairns. It was a huge adrenaline rush and I was able to see Australia from 14,000 feet in the air with no plane window coming between myself and the beautiful scenery!
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?
CJ: I have seen a number of great changes in myself after studying abroad. In the classroom, I tend to be more vocal and I can offer a better global voice to keep the conversation flowing. I am able to better understand the concepts and ideas teachers present to me because I have now seen the global view and how things differ. In my social life, it is easier for me to communicate with others regardless of where they are from. I tend to search for international students to speak to because I am interested in learning as much as I can. I learned about the culture of Australia and how to react to differences in cultures. I also learned a great deal about the political and business aspects of Australia and other countries. Above all, I learned so much about myself and the direction I would like to pursue upon graduating with my undergraduate degree.

Thanks Ciara!
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Topics: CAPA Alumni, Interviews, Sydney, Australia