CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Julia Campana

Jun 8, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Meet Julia, a CAPA Admissions Advisor who studied abroad in Florence with CAPA during Spring semester 2013. Below, Julia talks about what it's like to now work behind the scenes in our Boston office, her top Florence recommendations and a myth abot studying abroad that she'd like to debunk. 
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JULIA CAMPANA: My name is Julia Campana. I’m originally from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and am currently living in Boston! I studied abroad with CAPA in Florence through PITT during the Spring of 2013. I love to read, cook/bake, see live music, be outside, swim, and explore different cities (among lots of other things).

CW: How and when did you make the decision to study abroad? What was the reaction from your friends and family?
JC: I made the internal decision to study abroad after seeing the experience one of my best friends had during a gap year in Mexico when we were 17. Once I was at PITT, I chose CAPA because of the immersive courses in my major (English Writing), the program Inclusions that would help me become familiar with Florence and Tuscany. I was also excited about CAPA being a smaller program as I was coming from a really large university. My friends were jealous and my family was excited for me! I always expected I’d study abroad because I knew it was a great way for me to see the country my ancestors came from, and it’s a practical way to travel.
CW: Why is study abroad important?
JC: Study abroad is important to everyone for different reasons. For me, the biggest take-away was a new sense of self-confidence that came from being on my own in a foreign city, with a language barrier, and without the comfort of friends and family just a few hours away. Living in Italy specifically taught me to really slow down and soak up every aspect of life, especially when things weren’t unfolding as planned or what I previously expected.
CW: You’re now working as a student advisor for CAPA. Tell us a bit about your role and some of your typical daily tasks. What’s it like being behind the scenes after studying abroad with CAPA yourself?
JC: My main role is to reach out to students who have shown interest in studying abroad with us. I work with them to decide which CAPA program is the best fit for them - as a person and student - and to help them through the application process. Learning the ropes and seeing everything that happens behind the scenes has been motivational for me. I look back on my own pre-departure experience with the new knowledge of all the hard work from the different teams here in the Boston office, and am grateful and excited for the students who have yet to embark on their own adventures!
CW: What are three of the most common questions students ask and how do you answer them?
a.) “What will I do while I’m abroad?” I always talk through the options of the personalized internship and taking classes, as well as the extracurricular MyEducation events and built in excursions.
b.) “Where will I live?” Having the opportunity to choose between a homestay or a student residence/apartment–and even to be placed with their friends in an apartment–is huge. I love talking through the differences of both situations and hearing which aspects appeal to various students.
c.) “How do I get an internship?” It would take a bit to explain here, but it’s completely personalized. Students provide their career goals, along with typical internship/job application materials (i.e. cover letter, resume, recommendations) and CAPA finds an organization that would be a good fit!
CW: Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations or did you always want to work in this field?
JC: I always thought I wanted to be an English professor. I love to write, read, workshop writing and literature, etc. After I studied abroad and seeing all that the CAPA staff arranged for us, I experienced a new side to education. It changed my focus from academia to student affairs.

CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Florence"? What was special about them?
JC: The two restaurants and café that I mention below were really two of my main Florence spots. There was also a small park/piazza near my apartment and the Sant’Ambrogio market that I visited a lot - sometimes with friends or sometimes to sit and people watch or read on the grass.
CW: Italy is a country well known for its food. Share three of your favorite places to eat and drink in Florence and what you love about them.
1.) IL/Di Vino in Piazza San Pier Maggiore. This is truly a hole in the wall café run by a fast-talking, witty Florentine woman named Viola with the help of her son. She makes various pasta and/or meat-based dishes each day with a glass of wine for €5 (or at least she did two years ago).
2.) L’Antico Noè also in Piazza San Pier Maggiore. Best. Panino. Ever! This is a pick-up only sandwich shop connected to a restaurant. They have almost 20 different sandwiches on the menu, and they’re made to order. I only ever saw four different people working, and they were very patient with my broken Italian.
3.) La Loggia degli Albizi. This is really one of “My Florence” places. I went almost every morning for fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, a Nutella-filled croissant, and a macchiato. After two weeks, the baristo started making my order when he saw me walk in. He helped me with my Italian and always applauded me for my progress as the semester went on. La Loggia also has a beautiful patio during the warm months and a great aperitivo!
CW: Is there anything you wish you would have done while you were studying abroad that you didn’t manage to fit in? 
JC: I wish that I would’ve made it to Rome! The first weekend I planned to go there was a train strike, and the second time around I came down with the flu. As the semester came to an end I didn’t want to leave Florence and miss any of the CAPA events. I wrote it off as a reason that I have to go back to Italy, and soon.
CW: Share one myth about study abroad that you can debunk for other students.
JC: That school while studying abroad will be easy. The classes are challenging, especially when you have even less motivation to do homework when you’re living in a foreign, new, beautiful city. The great thing about CAPA though, is that our classes were immersive, and the homework assignments facilitated a lot of my exploring Florence. I hope debunking this particular myth doesn’t dissuade anyone from studying abroad. It’s something I really appreciated about my experience. I’m a better person for it!

Thanks Julia!

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Topics: CAPA Alumni, Interviews, Florence, Italy