CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Sophia Love

Apr 13, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

A student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Sophia studied abroad in London with CAPA International Education during Spring semester 2014. Below, she talks about the value of her internship in allowing her to gain international workplace experience, understand her future career options and meet locals. She also describes a week in her life as a CAPA student and talks about staying fit in a new city.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
SOPHIA LOVE: Hi! My name is Sophia and I am a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am double majoring in management and hospitality. I live in Milton, Massachusetts, a town right outside of Boston. Some of my hobbies include traveling, working and exercising.
CW: Describe your travel background for us. What was the reaction from your friends and family when you decided to study abroad?
SL: Before studying abroad in London, I had barely traveled. Since I was little, my family has been going on vacations around the east coast, but as for international travel, I had only been to Canada. I was not used to flying or navigating an airport alone by any means. However, I did have knowledge of public transportation and consider myself a city-goer.
My parents, friends and family were very excited to hear that I wanted to study abroad. Every time that I got nervous about going, they would reassure me that I was more prepared for the trip than I was giving myself credit for. Since I am the kind of person who does not really like surprises, it was hard for me to grasp the whole concept of not knowing my housing arrangements or internship placement until shortly before the program. However, once I found out what I was going to be doing and where I was going to be living, the sense of nervousness about the unknown began to fade.
CW: You wrote about your internship with the Marriott in a previous blog post. Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? 
SL: Working at the Marriott definitely shaped my opinions on what my future career will look like. For starters, it gave me a lot of insight into the hospitality industry from the perspective of working in a department where events were planned for a single location. Before this, the work I had done in event services and sales was mostly for outside companies that handled events for multiple locations. This was good for me to be able to experience both sides of possibilities and to compare the benefits and difficulties of the two. I was also able to learn more about the international aspect of the hospitality industry. In this Marriott, as with many international hotel chains, people from all over the world use their career as a way to travel and experience places outside of their original home. Meeting people from all different kinds of backgrounds was so interesting and I loved learning about cultures aside from my own.
CW: Describe a week in your life as a CAPA student.
SL: My week at CAPA usually consisted of one full class day, one half-day of class, and two and a half days at my internship. I took two classes, an art history class and a class about the city. These were both very interesting to me and I often went on field trips all around London for them. My classes were very essay-based rather than exam-based, which I enjoyed because it helped me reflect on what I had learned from our trips to museums, shows, etc. In addition to these two classes, I took the required “Learning through Internships” class, which was a class that all students participating in internships took. I actually really liked this class because I got to hear about other student’s internships and their exciting stories and compare my challenges with navigating the city to theirs. I felt that I made a lot of friends in this class in particular because we all got to talk about our experiences in different workplaces.
CW: What specific new skills did you learn (or old skills refined) at your internship abroad that will help you in your future career?
SL: I learned that when working in a small office (my office only had about five people), it is important to assert yourself into the environment. As an intern, sometimes your supervisors may be hesitant to give you a lot of work because they feel like you will be overwhelmed and not learn as quickly as someone who plans on being at the company for a long time. It is always a good idea to speak up when you don’t have any work or feel that you can handle more difficult tasks than you are given. Since there is an hourly requirement to fulfill your credits, you will be there regardless of how much work you are given. I am the kind of person who likes to be busy so I learned to speak up when I didn’t have anything to do. As time went on, I was assigned bigger projects, which I felt I learned a lot from.
CW: How did you keep up a fitness routine while you were abroad? Why is this important? 
SL: I am very active. This means that going to London and realizing that a gym membership was going to cost me about four times what it cost back home was not a pleasant surprise. Fortunately, the weather is very mild in London (most of the time) and there are several parks and other open areas even though it is a big city. To exercise, I would run to the park down the street from my living arrangements. The park I went to the most was Kensington Palace, which is not only a beautiful place to walk around, but is also full of activity. I found that as I ran around the park, I was less of an American tourist and more of a London resident. There is also an overwhelming amount of dogs that run around and play in the parks so it made me happy to see all of that activity. It was very motivating to run because I would get to explore at the same time and sometimes my roommates and I would make a whole day out of it.
CW: Were you able to carve out opportunities to meet locals abroad? How was socializing in London different from socializing back home?
SL: I made friends with a lot of people that I worked with at my internship. They were very welcoming of me and invited me to a lot of after work activities. This was a good way to meet other people that weren’t a) students in CAPA and b) American. They were also able to give me good advice on places to visit that weren’t the normal popular tourist attractions. I found that it is easy to meet people if you are friendly and outgoing. Many non-Americans have a preconceived vision of Americans being arrogant, snobby, and loud, and by proving this stereotype wrong I made a lot of friends while I was there.
CW: How did you fund your time abroad? Any advice for other students? 
SL: There is no possible way to predict how much you’re going to spend while abroad. Truthfully, you could have barely any savings or have a huge bank account at the start of your trip, and you will probably spend it all either way. I came back with nothing in my bank account, but didn’t care. Spending the money that I worked really hard to earn the year before I went to London is not a regret because I used the money to make memorable experiences for myself, which is better than spending my money on trivial things that I don’t really need. While you should definitely expect to spend a lot, budgeting your time at home before you leave and being prepared to adjust to the exchange rates abroad are the best ways to prepare for your time overseas.
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?
SL: I really liked the Italian Fountains in Kensington Gardens. They are these pretty fountains that have benches around them and it was a really peaceful place to stretch and take a break in the middle of my run. I also loved Camden Market. It is an open air market with every single kind of food you could ever imagine for really cheap. I made a point to go there every weekend I was in London because I always knew that I would enjoy my time walking around there. They have a fresh orange juice stand that had the best orange juice I have ever tasted.
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?
SL: I feel really grateful for my health and good fortune that allowed me to make this trip. It gave me a lot of insight into how people live outside of America, and how others view America. I am happy to be home, but I know that my time in the UK and Europe was a once in a lifetime experience that I will keep with me no matter where I go.

Thanks Sophia!

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Topics: London, England, CAPA Alumni, Interviews