A CAPA Alumna Interview: Victoria Ruggiero
Meet Victoria Ruggiero, a communication and international business major who studied abroad in London in the summer of 2016. Below, she talks about her love of staying active outdoors, how her internship experience led her to want a job in the international sector, and why she loved living in Camden Town and thinks you would, too.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
VICTORIA RUGGIERO: My name is Victoria Ruggiero; I am from Long Island, New York. I am graduating in May of this year from The State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego with a degree in Communication and International Business. At school, I am a part of the Ski and Snowboarding Club, as well as the Outdoor Club. I really enjoy anything outdoors; I love to hike, bike, swim, snowboard, and soak in the sun. I have an intense passion for traveling to various destinations and exploring new places. This past summer, I had the privilege of studying abroad in London with the CAPA program. Studying and interning in London was the best experience of my entire life. I was able to experience an entirely new culture which allowed me to learn so much about myself, and the world around me.
CW: Why did you choose the CAPA program and why London specifically? What was interesting about your program?
VR: When I initially began looking into different study abroad options, I was immediately drawn to the CAPA London program. I have always been highly fascinated with British culture, which is what sparked my interest in London. I know that London is one of the biggest financial centers in the world, and I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to pursue my studies there because of my interest in international business. When I found out that the CAPA program offered internship opportunities, I was sure that this was the program for me. I loved the CAPA program so much because it allowed me to take one summer class, in addition to my internship with a global engineering company as a Business Development and Marketing Intern. It was the perfect length of time (7 weeks) to provide me with a taste of the British culture, and the internship opportunity of a lifetime.
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?
VR: Since I only spent the summer in London (as opposed to a full semester) I only took one class while I was there, in addition to the class component of my internship. I took an elective course called Post War British Pop Culture. The course was once a week for eight hours; which I thought would be grueling at first, but when I actually got to the class, every single moment of it was incredible. The course was taught by a brilliant professor named Richard McGuire, who always kept the course interesting and fun. Every single week, we would meet in the classroom at the CAPA center at 8am. The first three hours or so of the course were taught in the classroom, and for the remainder of the class, we would go out into the city of London and explore different places that had to do with the content we were learning. This was my absolute favorite course that I have ever taken at the college level.
It was so interesting to learn about the different sub-cultures throughout the years in England. We learned all about British music and bands, like the Beatles and The Who. We also learned about different movements that had gone on throughout the history of England. The course did an excellent job of connecting the academics with the city itself. We went to some of the coolest places I had gone to in London with the class. We were able to visit High Gate Cemetery, where many famous artist had been buried. We were also able to go to different towns around London to view street art, such as Shoreditch. We also visited different toy museums, punk rock exhibits, as well as Abbey Road Studios. I was super excited that I was able to go to Abbey Road with the class, as the Beatles are my all- time favorite band. On the last day of class, we had the opportunity to travel outside of London to the city of Brighton, which is known as “the happiest place in the U.K.” There, we were able to go to the pier and beach which was an incredible experience. I loved this course so much because it allowed me to explore all these great sights and places around London that I never would have known of, had it not been for the course.
CW: Tell us a bit about your internship in London, your responsibilities and a typical day in your life there. What was one accomplishment or contribution you were proud of during your internship?
VR: While I was in London, I had my internship with a global engineering company called WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff. I worked with the Business Development team for the Rail Department as a Business Development and Marketing Intern. My responsibilities included creating initiatives for their health and wellness plan, developing ideas for the Blueshoots charity program, reviewing CVs for potential clients and employees, entering and organizing data into the computer, organizing after work socials and events, and attending meetings with the other office employees.
During a typical day there, I would arrive at 9:00 in the morning and go through my emails on the computer while enjoying a cup of tea. After that, I would work on whatever was assigned to me for that day, whether it involved creating newsletters to distribute amongst the office, organizing plans for an upcoming event, or entering data into the computer. After that, I would take a lunch with the other employees in which we usually would go to the local market and get some food to bring back to the office, or go to another nearby restaurant. After lunch, I would return to the office and usually would have some type of meeting to attend in which I would sit in, actively listen and learn about the company practices, as well as offer my input on what I was able to. After the meetings, I would typically return to my computer desk and debrief, go through some more of my emails, and finish up my work there for the day. One thing that I was proud of that I contributed to at my internship was when I assisted in organizing a huge summer event for the office which involved a boat ride around London. It was a lot of work and I was given a lot of responsibility in terms of the guest list, the food and drinks, as well as the music.
CW: Where was your housing? What did you love about your local neighborhood? Any hidden gems to share for students who live there in the future?
VR: I was lucky enough to have my housing placement be in Camden Town. In my opinion, Camden was the most vibrant, fun, and exciting town in London. It had so many unique aspects about it that made it so unlike any place I had ever been before. Camden Town is home to a variety of different subcultures, so there are all different kinds of people there; from punk, to Goth, to hipster, Camden Town has it all! Camden is also home to a variety of different music venues and a variety of fun and interesting clubs and bars. The best part about Camden Town is that it is home to one of London’s largest and most innovative markets; The Camden Market. Here, you can purchase any type of ethnic food that you could imagine. As well as lots of different clothing, accessories, furniture, antiques, and many more.
I would pretty much eat at the Camden Market every single day, and I would always try something different, I was never disappointed. It had such a wide variety of delicious foods, it was hard not to eat the same thing each time because everything was so good, but I always wanted to make sure that I tried something different. Right near the Camden Market there was also a variety of cool shops and stores for anything that you could imagine. There was also a river right there in which you were able to take short riverboat cruises to different spots in London. Camden Town was the former home of Amy Winehouse, so the whole town is really crazy about her; there are statues, and art of her all over, which was really cool to see. Another thing I loved about being in Camden Town was that it was home to Regents Park; which is a huge park in London that is absolutely beautiful and the home to one of the Queen’s magnificent gardens. It was nice to be able to take runs in and around the park. Another great part about Camden was Primrose Hill which was a lovely hike and offered an incredible view of the city! I loved absolutely everything about living in Camden Town, and I truly consider myself so lucky to have my housing placement been there.
CW: Tell us about your adventures abroad, both exploring the city and weekend travel abroad. Where did you go? Where were your favorite places that you discovered? Any travel tips for future students (both for London and beyond)?
VR: Fortunately, I was able to travel to many different places while I was in Europe, during the time I was in London, and after my time with CAPA was over. I was able to travel to a total of 8 different countries during my time abroad, which was absolutely incredible. The first place I went was a weekend trip to Paris, France during my time in London. It was a CAPA led trip, so everything was planned and set up through CAPA. The transportation, hotel accommodations, and excursions were all included which was really nice because we didn’t have to do much planning ourselves. Paris was amazing, despite the fact that we went at the worst possible time because they were experiencing floods at the time! The second trip I went on was also a CAPA led weekend trip; we went to Amsterdam, Holland, as well as Bruges, Belgium. We took a bus there so it did take a really long time to get there, but once we finally did arrive, it was a wonderful time. We went to Amsterdam first, in which our tour guide took us around to explore the city and outside of the city in Edam and Volendam.
On the way back to London, we stopped in Bruges, Belgium, only for a few hours. The city was breathtaking; filled with vibrantly colored structures, and of course, home to the Belgium waffle! After my time in London, my sister met me so we could travel around together to a few different cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Scotland. Being able to navigate ourselves around to all these different places was challenging, but it helped me grow infinitely as a person and a traveler. First, we flew to Switzerland where we went to a few different cities (Lucern, Interlaken, and Grindlewald). Switzerland was my favorite country that I traveled to because it was just filled with absolutely breathtaking mountainous beauty everywhere you looked!
After Switzerland, we went into Konstanz, Germany which is where one of my best friends from home was studying abroad. We stayed with her there for a few days, and then continued our travels into Bertesgarden, Germany. Here, we were able to visit the Eagle’s Nest which had incredible mountainous views in which we were able to hike around. After leaving Germany, we went into Austria where we visited two different cities; Salzburg and Hallstatt. Both places were amazing, but Hallstatt was so beautifully filled with mountains, lakes, and the cutest style homes. After our travels, we flew back to London for a night, and then into Scotland where we met my parents and traveled around the country for 2 additional weeks. One tip that I would give for future travelers is to have a plan and an itinerary of where exactly you want to go and what you want to do there. I also recommend that you get an app on your phone to help with the language barrier when traveling to non- English speaking countries.
CW: Let's talk about everyone's favorite topic: Food! Where were your favorite places to eat while in London? Did you try any foods you never had before? Anything you miss now that you're back in the US?
VR: I must say, that every single meal that I ate while in London was incredible. London is home to a variety of so many different amazing cuisines! My number one favorite place to eat while I was in London was at the Camden Market because you could get absolutely any type of food that you could imagine there, and it was guaranteed to be delicious! I also enjoyed eating at a lot of the other markets around London, such as the Borough Market (which offered the same type of things). Another place that I loved to eat was Garfunkel’s diner, which was right near the CAPA center. They had a delicious English breakfast (which I loved) and was fairly priced.
There was also a place that I would eat quite often in Camden Town that offered Halal food, which I had never had before going there, but was so tasty. They had different chicken options and delicious kebab wraps (sorry, I don’t remember the exact name of the place, but there was lots of places like this). London is also home to a lot of amazing Indian restaurants, as well as Thai food restaurants; so I would definitely recommend getting Thai and Indian food while there! Another great place that I tried while in London was right near the London Eye, called Wagawama. This place was great because they offered a variety of funky and yummy Asian dishes, including huge and creative bowls of ramen in which you could add whatever you wanted. Something else I tried while I was in London that I never had before was an item that could be purchased at the grocery store called ramen shin cups; they are Asian ramen cups that can be quickly cooked in the microwave but are very spicy… so good!
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?
VR: I am graduating this upcoming May, and my plans for after graduation have been entirely shaped by my experience abroad. I am actually planning on attending graduate school in the Fall in London to pursue my degree in International Business Management. After my brief summer in London, I decided that I absolutely needed to come back as soon as I could. When I started looking into graduate school programs, I realized that many of the schools in London were reasonably priced, and this gave me the idea and realization that I could possibly attend graduate school there. After my experience traveling, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in International Business, so that I would be able to work for a global company that offers the opportunity to travel the world. Traveling around Europe made me realize that the world is such a vast and interesting place, and I want to be able to see and experience as much of it as I can! I decided that the best way to ensure that I can is to pursue a career in the international sector.
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?
VR: Of course, the touristy sights in London are incredible; but it was the less traveled parts of London that I really fell in love with. Camden Town was the place where I spent the most time because it came to feel like my home and my place. I loved its uniqueness and all of the different niches that it incorporated there. I loved being able to lay out in the grass and relax on Primrose Hill and around Regents Park. Another area of London that I found myself going to a lot was in Shortditch. It was another town that was near the financial district where I had my internship, so I spent quite a lot of time roaming the streets and admiring the sights there. Shortditch was so cool because it was home to a lot of different street art, which was really interesting to look at.
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself, the world around you and some of the larger global issues we face today?
VR: I have changed and grown infinitely since the start of my study abroad program. The biggest change I’ve seen in myself is the fact that I feel and I act so much more independently than I had before. Being in a foreign country without your friends and family really forces you out of your comfort zone, which I was scared of at first but it is actually a really good thing! It’s a blessing to be able to see the world from a different perspective. After being in London, I found myself to be a lot more liberal and accepting of others in my way of thinking. It was like my whole mindset changed as a result of my time abroad. My experience there taught me just how vast the world is and how many different types of people inhabit it; but most importantly, it taught me to be tolerant and accepting of all different kinds of people. Being abroad helped me to realize that there is so much out there to explore and to see. There is no greater teacher than your own experience, and I am forever grateful for the ways that London has helped me grow.