Career Path: From CAPA Study Abroad Student to CAPA Staff

Apr 18, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

Meet the CAPA Staff: Alisia Engle

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Photo: First time at the Boston Harbor visiting my sister when she was in Graduate School at UMASS Boston in 2008; who knew eight years later I would call this gorgeous city home!

Meet Alisia, one of the newest members of CAPA staff. Alisia is a CAPA London alumna from 2011 and now a Global Cities Program Advisor, helping other students on their way to having an international education experience as rewarding as her own. Below, Alisia talks about what it was like to relocate for work, shares a few tips for making the most study abroad and tells us about the most interesting things you'll find on her desk!

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself, some of your hobbies and interests and where you’re from originally. 
ALISIA ENGLE: I am originally from Albany, New York. Some fun facts about me: I did competitive cheerleading for many years and used to love to run until my knees stopped cooperating. I do lower impact exercise now, like Zumba, and I am hoping to get into some aquatic classes! I absolutely love to read and am obsessed with discovering new music and going to live shows. The last time I was in London, I met Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons which was amazing!

My favorite time of year is definitely Fall in the Northeast, when you can enjoy apple cider donuts and fall foliage. I recently moved to Boston from North Carolina and it was a rude awakening to realize they did not have apple cider donuts! During the summer, you will find me kayaking on Lake George or hiking one of the Adirondack mountains on the weekend. My family also spends time on Lake Ontario in a small town called Fair Haven, NY; this is my happy place. Activities include reading on the beach, ice cream cones, Frisbee throwing, hiking the bluffs, late night games of apples to apples, poker and the list goes on!

CW: What’s the coolest thing about calling Boston home now?
AE: The best thing about calling Boston my new home would be that I am only 45 minutes from my three gorgeous nephews; I have missed my family so much being away. Although I wouldn’t trade my travels or college choice, I am so excited to not have to miss the precious moments anymore.

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Photo: The Moskal Boys, Spring 2016 - Weekend trip to the city!

CW: Take us behind the scenes: What does your job as a Global Cities Program Advisor involve? What do you love most about your role?
AE: As this is only my second week on the job, I will give you my brief understanding so far but I’m sure the list will keep growing. My primary role is to assist in all things pre-departure. I will guide students through the application process for all Global Cities Programs as well as advise them on how to build their resume and cover letter if they are applying for the internship program.

I have specific institutions that I will work with and will help out at Study Abroad Fairs and Pre-Departure Orientations. I am the main point of contact for students before they go abroad and I also help out on the crisis management team in Boston while students are abroad.

I most love the ability to help students study abroad with a program that was so transformative in my own life! I studied abroad in 2011 through the CAPA London program.

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Photo: Searching for the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, Spring 2011

CW: Having only recently started at CAPA, what advice can you offer for other CAPA alumni starting a new job? Especially since you relocated to take on this role, how have you been settling in?
AE: I think the best advice I can offer is to just say “yes.” Never underestimate what doors an opportunity will open for you! Maybe it’s something you’re not excited about, or even better maybe you have landed your dream job as I have, but no matter what you’re doing, if you put your full effort into it and approach tough times with a positive attitude, it will take you far. I have worked in retail, hospitality industry, academic services, student affairs and now international education and I wouldn’t change a thing about my path. Each opportunity got me to where I am today and I am better for it.

There will always be negative forces in offices, it is easy to give in and commiserate but if you rise above it and just look at each opportunity as a blessing and a step toward your goal, this does not go unnoticed. I feel fulfilled professionally when I am developing others and building relationships and so I make sure to take time every day to do this. Find out what drives you and don’t let anything stop you from doing just that! My favorite quote from one of my mentors is, “If you’re going through hell, don’t pitch a tent!” I think too many of us forget this in the moment and just accept the status quo or that this is our hand in life. It’s not! Life is full of choices and my decision to study abroad changed my life forever.

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Photo: Tower Bridge Fun, Spring 2011 - My best friend from SUNY Oswego visited me in London while she was studying abroad in Germany.

CW: How did your career journey lead you into study abroad? Where else have you lived/studied? 
AE: 
While studying abroad in London I was also the Marketing Intern at The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM). This experience was invaluable to my professional career. I was able to publish numerous articles on their website, help plan an international conference and enhance my professional network with international contacts. When on job interviews, usually the first questions I am asked are about my international internship and au pair experience, and I am always excited to talk about both. International experiences and an understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures are very marketable skills!

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Photo: Christmas Market in Wroclaw, Poland: Magical experience, gorgeous handmade crafts and their famous mulled wine.

After graduating from SUNY Oswego, I accepted a full time position as an Executive Team Leader of Logistics for Target Corporation in Syracuse, New York. This role taught me so much, I realized if I can unload a Target truck, I can do anything. I was very blessed to work on the recruitment team and captain the SUNY Oswego recruitment. After almost two years I realized the main part of my job I enjoyed was recruiting at colleges and was I very burnt out from retail hours. I reached out to my mentors from college and they all suggested I go into Student Affairs.

I was accepted into The College of Saint Rose’s College Student Services Administration Master’s program. I decided to take a break before pursuing my Master’s and completed my pre-requisite courses online while I au paired in Wroclaw, Poland. I chose to au pair because it was a way to travel pretty inexpensively and I could help two young children learn English. I had studied abroad in London, but to live somewhere that English is not their first language was a wonderful and humbling experience. When I returned, I worked at Hilton as a Front Desk Agent in Albany, NY and this only furthered my love for international education as I met business and education professionals from all over the world!

After almost a year with Hilton and a GraduateAssistantship in Transfer Student Services, the Registrar’s Office offered me a full time position as an Office Assistant and I took it! Working in academic affairs was an eye opening experience and I feel I understand the full picture of higher education, but I knew I wanted to get back into student affairs. After graduation, I accepted a full time position at University of North Carolina at Charlotte in Residence Life. I opened a new residence hall and managed a building of 410 freshman residents. When on call, I was responsible for 6,000 residential students. I absolutely loved Charlotte and getting to live in another region of the United States. Residence life was a wonderful challenge and I enjoyed the relationships I was able to build with my residents and peers. I was also able to teach an Academic Success seminar which was such a rewarding experience.

All of my experiences have encouraged my love for international education. I feel this position combines all of my areas of interest and utilizes all of my skills and will be a great opportunity to help students on their path to self-discovery abroad! I still have wonderful relationships with the CAPA London staff and faculty and am so fortunate to be able to work with them in a professional capacity now.

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Photo: Professor Neifeld-Wheeler and I at The College of Saint Rose Commencement May 2015 in Albany, NY. SO blessed to have her as one of my mentors.

CW: Having been on a CAPA London program yourself a few years ago, what’s the view like from the other side? Why are you excited to work in the field of study abroad?
AE: I cannot believe it has been five years since I was in London. It is amazing on the other side to see all of the logistics that go into sending students abroad and to work with such amazing people who are here out of their own love for international education. Everyone here, no matter what area of the company they are in, studied abroad and so is able to share stories and that has been amazing. I am just so excited to help students enjoy the experience that transformed me! I feel so blessed to be able to give back to a company that gave so much to me.

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Photo: Trip back to London when I au paired in Poland!

CW: Share your top 3 pieces of advice for students heading to London on a CAPA program!
AE: 
1. First and foremost, do not get comfortable; keep challenging yourself! So many of my peers came with friends from their home institutions and only stayed with them. Although I think a balance is important and traveling with people you know can be helpful, the whole point of traveling abroad is to experience new things. I asked to go out with co-workers from my internship. I joined local couchsurfing groups and met other international students. I also sought out other students from other institutions at CAPA and asked to go out with them. I still speak with very often and I have even visited some of the friends I made in London - alum of the program, coworkers, CAPA staff and friends I made while exploring. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there!

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Photo: When In Amsterdam…Clogs and Cheese!

2. Second, TRAVEL. I saw nine countries while I was studying abroad. I’m not suggesting to not explore London, because you definitely do not want to miss out on that and I know finances can limit your excursions, but do the most you can. Once you start a professional position you will not be able to take three months off of work to simply explore so make the best of it! Flights and buses are MUCH cheaper than in the United States so take advantage of that. 

I loved the travel fair CAPA brought to the center and I booked a ton of the trips I found there. It was great because I was able to meet other students and travel safely in a group with a guide. I am still friends with one of the guides who led one of the excursions! A travel tip I have is to make sure you take time to go to Wales. I am Welsh so I may be a tad biased, but it was such a wonderful trip and it’s a short bus ride so you can do a day trip from London. I think often people get caught up on the larger tourist destinations and do not take the time to go but my roommate and I went and LOVED it. I went twice I enjoyed it so much.

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Photo: Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

Third, make sure to document your experiences! Some of my friends created blogs, vlogs, scrapbooks, photo albums and journals. Do whatever works best for you, but I promise you will want to be able to look back at these memories, because once you’re home it will feel like a dream that went by way too fast.

CW: What’s the most interesting thing on your desk right now? What do you wish was on your desk right now?
AE: I think that would have to be the “Greetings from Ghana” sign and pen holder on my desk that I absolutely love! I hosted a Graduate Fellow from Ghana two years ago when I worked at The College of Saint Rose. She truly became a member of my family and I love the pen holder she brought me from home.

At UNC-Charlotte, one of the members of our housekeeping staff was from Ghana. She had seen the pen holder I had and surprised me with the sign when she came back from a vacation to Ghana. She said she felt welcomed by me and wanted to thank me for this. These items are a small reminder of these relationships and passion for international education and networking.

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CW: Where are the top 3 places on your current wanderlist and why? 
AE:
Brazil: The first year I hosted a Graduate Fellow, she was from Brazil. I truly want to visit her and meet her family as she became a part of mine. I cannot wait to experience the Brazilian culture she so wonderfully described and shared with me!

Ghana: As mentioned before I hosted a Graduate Fellow from Ghana and I want to visit her and get to experience her way of life which is so different than mine. It is one thing to hear about a culture and another to fully immerse yourself. My family donated money to help her school and I would love to meet her students and see her school that she teaches at!

Jamaica: Growing up, my mother and I traveled each harvest season to a farm about an hour from my home to hold services with other community members for Jamaican migrant workers. Each week I would make a baked good and get to spend time with these amazing and generous men. We would hold clothing drives for them at church and it was a beautiful thing to experience. We would get to know them as the same men returned from season to season and when one didn’t for health reasons, we rallied together to collect donations to send him. Every season they invite my mother and I to their home and I would love to see their lives and meet their families they’ve talked of so often.

CW: What’s the one subject you are always excited to talk about with students who are thinking about study abroad?
AE: For me, I would have to say it is the global mindset that you will return to the United States with. We learn about diversity and are exposed to diversity in different ways while in the United States, but to go to a different country and immerse yourself in another culture, you truly learn to appreciate differences.

I studied abroad in London, so there was not a language barrier (aside from different sayings/definitions/spellings) but it was a very different way of life. I was so surprised at what an interest my London colleagues and friends took in me and learning about my culture. In our education system, there is a large focus on US History and I was so surprised that in Europe they had a much more diverse history education and they knew so much about so many different places. One of my friends I made abroad was from Wales and he surprisingly knew a ton of New York state history, which was just mind boggling to me. The other amazing thing about these locations is they truly are global cities, so you will not just be interacting with people from that city but from all around the world!

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Photo: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

CW: Why is studying abroad important?
AE: 
There are so many reasons, but I will try to stick to just three!

First, as stated before, for the global mindset you will gain. I remember getting so many questions about American culture that I had never taken the time to even think about why we did the things we did. Living in another country allows you to gain a more critical lens and unique perspective on your own culture and way of life instead of just accepting things as cultural norms. I did a lot of reflection in London and matured greatly.

Second, even when I went a few hours away to school I always had my parents and friends to rely on. When I went to London, I truly gained my own independence and became self-reliant. If you can take on moving to another country and adjust to a whole new way of life, you can do anything. The self-confidence and maturity you will gain on this experience is invaluable.

Lastly, the network you will gain! I still speak (even when I wasn’t working for CAPA) to CAPA London staff members and faculty, my internship colleagues and friends I made in London. I stayed with one of my internship colleagues when I visited London a few years later. I e-mailed them to just say hello and let them know I would be in town and they asked me when they could pick me up at the airport! She even put together a happy hour for me to see my other colleagues. Also something I learned is that in London, once someone buys you a pint, you are friends for life. Every friend I made while abroad, I still talk to and luckily one of my CAPA classmates actually lives in Boston too!

Thanks Alisia!

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Topics: Interviews, CAPA Staff