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Establishing Career Goals Through an Internship Abroad

Feb 22, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Alexandra Esposito

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Study abroad was a personal and professional stepping stone for Alexandra Esposito who ventured out into the world with a goal to advance her accounting career through an internship and returned to the States with a clearer view of her future and new skills. Below she talks about this along with her academic classes at CAPA London during Fall 2015 and what she took away from her extensive travels through Europe.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ALEXANDRA ESPOSITO: Hi! My name is Alexandra Esposito (but I go by Alex). I’m originally from New Jersey and I go to school up in Massachusetts at Stonehill College. There, I’m a junior accounting major with a minor in communication. Whenever people ask me why accounting, I’m always quick to tell them I love numbers and the challenge that comes with the coursework. Outside of academics, I love to travel, hang out with friends, binge watch Netflix shows (currently addicted to "Grey’s Anatomy"), and I’m always up for a good cuppa tea!

My love for travel made me eager to study abroad, so I joined the CAPA London program in the Fall of 2015. I took three academic classes and interned 20 hours per week with the finance team at the London Marriott County Hall Hotel.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2015_From_Alexandra_Esposito_-_RussellSquare.jpgPhoto from the tube stop I lived near - Russell Square!

CW: Why did you decide to study abroad in London? Also, how did you choose a program? What was most important to you?
AE: I’ve traveled to Europe a lot growing up, since my family lives in Switzerland, but I had never been up to the UK. I chose London because it was a place I’d never been that had cultural diversity, a rich history, and a reputation for being a global business capital. London’s a huge city, too, so I was excited to be in a place where there was so much to do and see throughout my time there!

When I was looking into programs, I wanted an experience where I could grow personally, become more independent and grow professionally. I wanted my time abroad to have meaning for my career pursuits. CAPA was the perfect fit for me because of their diverse course offerings, internship placements, and the various trips and events they put on.

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CW: Talk about academics abroad: Which classes did you take in London? Which was your favorite and why? How were you able to connect your experience of the city itself and your academics?
AE: I took three classes abroad and the "Learning Through Internships" course to go with my internship. I took a global supply chain course (for my accounting major), a course about British broadcasting (for my communication minor), and course about London as a global city to supplement my time there. My favorite class was global supply chains! The class was small, so group projects were fun and I got to know the other students really well. The professor was great too and genuinely wanted us all to succeed in class and have an awesome overall experience. We wrote a final paper for the course and I loved having the freedom to connect my internship to the paper. I ended up writing about measuring sustainability in global hospitality supply chains (like at Marriott International, who I interned with!). All three classes included field studies, too, so we made the city our classroom. My top three favorite field studies were to the Olympic park, the BBC, and Canary Wharf!

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Photo from my field study to Canary Wharf

CW: Tell us a bit about your internship that you completed while studying abroad, your duties and accomplishments. Explain a day in the life of a CAPA intern.
AE: 
I interned at the London Marriott County Hall Hotel in their finance department. There, I got to work with accounts payable, general cashiering, cost control, internal audit and revenue control. I also got to talk with the Assistant Director of Finance one day and learned about the hotel’s financial reporting. I was given a lot of responsibilities throughout my time in different areas of the hotel’s financial operation. I really felt like a member of the team and I’d say my internship was the highlight of my time abroad. I didn’t want it to end!

On a typical day at work (Monday & Wednesday, or half day Friday) I would leave my flat at around 8:30am and take the tube to Westminster. Walking out of the tube stop and looking at Big Ben and the London Eye as I headed to the hotel never got old and always put a smile on my face. It honestly felt like a movie. I’d then work from 9am to 5pm doing whatever tasks my supervisor asked me to. I loved that there were some tasks I consistently worked on, but overall everyday was different, so I learned a lot! After returning to the US and taking more upper-level business courses, I started to see things I learned while interning show up in my textbooks and course materials, which was really cool.

I also had the "Learning through Internships" course on Tuesdays after my broadcasting class. We submitted weekly field notes, which was basically an online journal of what we did in our internship that related to a topic we talked about in class. I found it really helpful to have the chance to reflect more on my internship! It was also fun to hear about everyone else’s internship experiences and to know that CAPA checked in on us to see how things were going at our sites.

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Photo of London Marriott County Hall Hotel- My Internship Site!

CW: What do you see yourself doing when you graduate? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
AE: I want to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) after I graduate and work in the assurance practice of a large public accounting firm. One of my favorite parts of my internship was helping the team prepare for their yearly audit and seeing the weeklong audit take place. My supervisor explained the whole process to me before it all started so I really learned a lot and it definitely confirmed that I’m studying the right thing. I really enjoyed being in the hotel every day and I’m now considering doing audit for the hospitality industry, but more on the public side of accounting. Working and living in London made me fall in love with the city so I’ve set new goals for myself to someday return to London or somewhere else in Europe for graduate studies or my career if I can.

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Photo: from the top of the London Eye!

CW: If you could offer a piece of advice to the students studying abroad in London now, what would that be?
AE: 
The best piece of advice I can offer is for study abroad students to make sure they do something for themselves while they’re abroad. There are tons of opportunities to meet people and make amazing friendships or professional relationships at an internship. However, being abroad is also a unique experience and one where you can really learn a lot about yourself (I sure did!).

When people ask me what I learned abroad, I always sum it up in two words: do you. If you want to go see a sight around the city and no one else does, stop there on your way home or go check it out one free afternoon. You’ll regret the things you didn’t do way more than you’ll regret the things you did!

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Photo: Getting ready to go caving in Budapest with other CAPA students during our fall weeklong break!

CW: Did you travel outside of London? How did your new environment compare with your host city? What new challenges did you encounter on your travels and how did you overcome them?
AE: YES! I knew I wanted a balance between traveling and spending in time in London (because there’s so much to do in the city) so I planned everything and traveled every other weekend. I went to Dublin, Copenhagen, Munich (for Oktoberfest!), Berlin, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Amsterdam, Brugge, and then I spent 10 days in Switzerland after the program ended. Each city had a unique vibe and culture. I was definitely bit by the travel bug and every place I went presented a new adventure and memories I’ll never forget. However, no matter where I went, I loved returning “home” to London. In one of my classes, we discussed London being “the world in one city” because of its cultural diversity. Every time I returned after traveling, I realized more and more how special London really is for bringing together so many different cultures.

I was nervous after deciding to intern that I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as my friends in programs where they just took classes. My internship supervisor wanted me to travel as much as I could so I created my work schedule around my travel plans, making sure to get all my hours in. If you’re nervous that interning won’t allow you to travel a lot, I’m here to tell you can do both! I sure did!

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Photo from the East Side Gallery - Berlin, Germany

CW: How did you document your experience abroad? Any tips for incoming students on journaling? Why was this important to you and what did you learn from it?
AE: 
I decided to keep a journal while I was abroad. I considered keeping a blog for friends and family to keep up with my adventures but by journaling I knew I didn’t have to write to an audience and I could be as honest as I wanted about everything that happened. My journal turned into my outlet at times to write about something exciting or things I was worried about. At other times, it was just a place to keep my memories so I would always have a place to look back at the fun things I did during my four-month adventure abroad.

For incoming students: do SOMETHING to document your experience abroad! Journal, blog, vlog... anything works. Also, take as many pictures as you can! I put my pictures into a photo album I can look back at and I also kept a lot of small brochures from places I went that I put into a memory box. ALSO... if you’re into taking videos, check out the 1 second everyday app! It lets you take a 1 second video every day while you’re abroad. Then they get put into a movie at the end where you can see a fun thing you did or the people you were with every day you’re abroad. My friends did it and it’s super awesome!

The other thing I did to document my time abroad was taking a photo in every country I went to spell out “Thank you mom and dad for giving me the world”. I saw past study abroad students do it so I made it a small gift for my parents when I returned. They loved it and it was a fun thing to do throughout my travels!

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CW: Tell us about returning to the US. Did you have any reverse culture shock or face any unexpected challenges? How are you keeping your study abroad experience alive?
AE: Returning to the US was definitely an adjustment for me. After being in a global city and becoming a Londoner, I returned back to the opposite environment at my small liberal arts college. I went through a roller coaster of emotions and even two months after I left London, there’s plenty of moments when I’m realizing I’m not fully adjusted yet. It’s a tough adjustment leaving, but it’s also an adjustment coming home. I’ve realized it’s all part of the experience and one quote that was passed along to me after coming back really summed it up:

“You will never be completely at home again, because your heart will always be elsewhere.
That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

I had such an amazing experience abroad, so I’ve kept the experience alive by becoming a CAPA ambassador! A lot of my college friends were abroad the same semester as me, too, so we love sharing our stories and photos with each other. We’re all experiencing the reverse culture shock together, too, so it’s nice having a support system. The friendships I formed over in London I know will last far longer than the time I spent over there. Back home, it’s fun to stay in touch with them and reminisce on our fondest memories of living across the pond!

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Photo: from the CAPA Boat Party put on by CAPA Student Council

CW: 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?
AE: 
I’ve definitely seen changes in myself since the beginning of my abroad program. I have a new awareness for global issues and the history of different cultures. I was never really a history person, but being in so many old European cities, I became really interested in how the past has shaped the present in the cities I was adventuring through. It was a really unique time to be abroad in the Fall of 2015 as well, so I learned a lot about global issues that aren’t necessarily at the forefront of American news coverage. Personally, I’m much more self-aware, confident and reflective. Through my internship, I’ve gained a new business knowledge and skillset while also improving my communication, ability to work on diverse teams, and my professionalism. Overall, studying abroad instilled in me a commitment to lifelong global learning that goes far beyond the borders of the US!

I’ll always look back on my experience with CAPA as a huge stepping stone for me personally and professionally. Thank you CAPA!

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Thanks Alex!

Find out about the CAPA London program

Topics: London, England, Interviews