CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Natalie Hamilton

Mar 23, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Natalie, a University of Mississippi student, studied abroad in London with CAPA International Education during Fall semester 2014. Below, she talks about her rewarding internship with Elizabeth Arden that helped shape her career goals for the future, the classes that used the city as a place to learn, and some of her extra European travel adventures during her time abroad.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
NATALIE HAMILTON: I’m from Baltimore, Maryland but I go to school in Oxford, Mississippi at the University of Mississippi. I was on a study abroad program in London this past Fall, studying business with a focus in marketing and a minor in political science. I love, love, love reading. There are still many classics I haven’t read, but as I grew older, the books we read in class seemed like less of a chore to me. Of course, I love being with my family and friends and I love my two yellow labs more than anything. Since returning to the States, I have been just getting back into my normal routine and spending time running around and seeing everyone I missed.

CW: Talk about your pre-departure experience. How did you finally make the decision to go abroad? How long before you left did you start preparing? What was the process you went through? What were your worries?

NH: I had wanted to go abroad since the first day of freshman year. I was choosing between London, Paris and Florence for the longest time. I took French for twelve years. I had spent so much of my life learning about Parisian culture, I wanted to see it first hand. The reason why I chose London in the end is that I ultimately knew that I needed an English-speaking country. While other languages were easy to pick up on as I was traveling, I needed English for reassurance. I was also dying to do an internship, and knew that I needed to be in an English-speaking environment to do this. I worked with my study abroad adviser and probably annoyed him to no end because I had countless questions, but he was amazing through the whole process. I ended up only applying to CAPA, and here I am! The only worry that I had was whether London was the right choice. Would it be able to adjust? Would I make friends since I was the only one from my program? These worries quickly washed away.
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.
NH: With CAPA, I took Ethics in the Media, European Government and Politics, International Marketing, and completed an internship with the corresponding Learning Through Internships class. All of these classes were amazing, and each one allowed London to be a part of our classroom. In ethics class, we saw a lecturer at the London School of Economics. Euro Gov took us to museums like the Imperial War Museum, which ended up being my favorite museum in London.

CW: Tell us a bit about your internship that you are completing while studying abroad, your duties and accomplishments. What were some of the transferable skills you brought home?
NH: I loved my internship at Elizabeth Arden. I worked on the skincare team and worked with brand managers. Halfway through the internship, another intern started and we worked really well together. This was an internship that required a lot of work and I had to be diligent and self-sufficient. I learned how to ask the right questions, how to prioritize, and learned a lot of valuable marketing skills. I was able to sit in on meetings with consultants, investors and people from the famous Harrods department store.

CW: Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site and how it has impacted the operation of the workplace. Did your experience at Elizabeth Arden influence your career goals and aspirations?
NH: My experience at Elizabeth Arden definitely influenced my career goals. Before this internship, I knew I loved marketing, but still was unaware of what I wanted to do with marketing. This allowed me to be able to figure out what I want. I was given a lot of freedom with social media and creative work. I realized that I excel in being creative and writing about our products. I have learned that I want to be a part of a team. I loved how everyone was so in sync with each other and picked each other up when necessary.
CW: Did you have the chance to travel outside of London? Where to? What's your funniest travel story? 
NH: I traveled outside of London a decent amount. I went to Oktoberfest with some high school friends, then traveled six consecutive weekends after that. I traveled to Paris with friends, and Paris again with family, Dublin, Athens, Santorini and Corfu.
I think my favorite story happened while we were in Dublin. A group of us had decided to buy tickets for this all-day bus tour around Ireland that would eventually take us to the Cliffs of Moher. It was four of us on a tour bus with a lot of old couples from different countries. We quickly learned that there weren't the vast amount of landmarks in Ireland like there were in London, and the tour guide felt it necessary to talk about the limestone rock walls over and over again. We started to count how many times he would bring up these walls, his stories lasting for fifteen minutes. I spent that day laughing hysterically with my friends in a foreign country and I could not have asked for a better day.

CW: Did you ever feel at "home" in London? Was there a specific moment that you realized this? How would you define home?
NH: I consider London to be another home for me. I think when it really felt like home was when I would travel to different countries, only to want to go home to my flat in London. I loved traveling, but I loved getting back to London every time. I think the incredible people that I lived with helped me feel so incredibly home. Every day was an incredible day, and I have the people that I lived with to thank for that.

CW: London is a city that seems to have a whole separate city underground. Talk about your experience navigating the city using the Tube. Do you have any good stories to share?
NH: I loved traveling on the Tube. I was used to using the metro in D.C., so I had a good understanding of how underground systems worked. Hearing “mind the gap” for the first time was an experience in itself. I always thought it was concerning when I saw people sprint to catch the tube, even though another one was coming in two minutes. There’s something hilarious about a professional person in their business attire flailing their body to catch the tube in time. I spent a lot of time on the tube, commuting to airports, trains stations, work and school.

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?
NH: I found myself going to Camden Market quite frequently. There were cool hipster trinkets to buy and awesome food. A lot of lazy Sundays were spent there. I loved the different people that came from all over the world who ended up setting up a stand in London, making their living there. I did also find a home in the London theater. I saw three musicals and two plays. I had free time, these were shows that I had always wanted to see, and now I had the opportunity to see them inexpensively. I loved London’s theater.

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?

NH: I think I learned to love myself and my life whole-heartedly in London. I came out of London more confident in myself, and more sure of who I am as a person. I realized what kind of friendships and love I desired and how much of the world that I had yet to see. I have an itch to travel, and am constantly hoping and planning for another trip around the world. The people I lived with changed my life, and I am incredibly grateful for those relationships. They also made me want to be a better version of myself.
Thanks Natalie!
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Topics: London, England, CAPA Alumni, Interviews