How Interning Abroad in Sydney Changed My Career Goals

Mar 21, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Lilibeth Resendiz

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Meet Lilibeth, a CAPA Sydney study abroad alumna and Political Science and International Relations double major at UC Davis in California. Below, she tells us about how her internship with Cancer Council NSW made an impact on the decisions she's now making for her career, about taking on the Australian mindset and learning to better balance her life and about where to find out about all of the cool stuff that is always happening in Sydney!

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
LILIBETH RESENDIZ: I’m a Political Science & International Relations double major at UC Davis. During Fall 2015, I spent 12 weeks in Sydney. True to my Southern Californian roots, I love spending my spare time in the ocean from SUPing to surfing; if I’m ever missing, chances are you’ll find me at the nearest body of water. When I’m not out on the water, I like reading, playing soccer, baking and of course watching Netflix with my roommates.

CW: Why did you decide to study abroad in Sydney? Also, how did you choose a program? What was most important to you?
LR: I choose to study in Sydney because I’d always wanted to visit Australia and because this was one of the very few programs (in Davis) that offered an internship. The internship component of this study abroad program played a huge role in my decision. The most important thing to me was maximizing the time I would be spending in another country and the Sydney program happened to be the perfect fit.

CW: Are you from a small town, a big city or somewhere in between? Talk a bit about city life in Sydney, any adjustments you had to make or challenges you faced and overcame while you were there.
LR: I’m from a Northern San Diego, which is primarily composed of small beach towns. Sydney was quite a change in scenery for me, which I did not expect. When you think of Australia, you think of the hundreds of miles of coastlines and the Australian outback. While you can find those elements throughout New South Wales, Sydney is a combination of skyscrapers, rouge taxis, and New York-style bodega storefronts. Whilst the city is very much metropolitan, Australians have found a way to integrate the mellow-surfer vibes into urban Sydney. Trust me when I say if you get lost, a friendly Sydneysider will help you find your way!

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CW: How was your experience with academics abroad? How were you able to connect the way you came to understand the city itself and your academics?
LR: CAPA worked with UC Davis to structure a program that would allow a Davis professor to come along on the trip and organize the academic portion of our abroad experience. This may not be the case for everyone, so I would definitely sit down and talk to your study abroad office and see what the academic structure your program will utilize. My classes focused on completing a writing minor through UC Davis. Personally, my favorite class was the Arts & Culture course, which would take place throughout Sydney rather than the conventional classroom setting. Our instructor would take us to museums, on hikes, and walking tours. It was awesome to learn about Australian culture by actually experiencing it!

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.
LR: First and foremost, I want to say that I’m incredibly biased because I thought (and continue to think) that I had the BEST internship ever. I was placed in the Events & Marketing Department of Cancer Council NSW, a national nonprofit. I interned three days a week, from 9am – 5pm. I arrived during Cancer Council’s busiest fundraising season and was able to participate in the planning of the 10th Annual Seven Bridges Walk. As an intern, I was given the responsibility of coordinating CCNSW volunteers, working with Operations to determine the logistics of the event, as well as coordinating tasks for incoming interns.

A typical day in the office would start with “sunrise” yoga with my boss, morning tea and team meeting at 10AM. Then we’d all break off and work on any tasks for the day, for me it would vary day by day sometimes I’d set out in the city for meetings with sponsors and vendors or working alongside the PR department to set out comms (emails and calls) to sponsors, volunteers, and VIPs. Lunch hour always had something new, on a slow day it would be a quite lunch at Third Village Coffee and on other days it would be team bonding at the pool. By 2PM, we’d be back at our desks working on Seven Bridges Walk planning and conference calls, which would typically continue for the rest of the working day.

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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?
LR: I’m currently in the process of applying to law school but because of my amazing experience and professional relationships in Australia, I’m looking at a program that will allow me to return to Sydney. Working with Cancer Council NSW opened professional doors for me and made me think about working with nonprofits rather than corporate law.

CW: Where did you live in Sydney? Talk a bit about your housing situation and the local neighborhood that was home for the semester.
LR: I lived in Ultimo, a suburb of Sydney. Ultimo is a 10-15 minute walk from Central Station, the major transportation hub in the city. The apartment that I lived in was part of Urbanest (student accommodation) and it was the most ideal living situation! Because we were placed in the middle of the city, I was a short commute from Sydney’s main attractions: 10 walk to Darling Harbour; 15 minute train ride from Circular Quay; and 20 minutes from campus. There was always something happening around the neighborhood from Glebe to Darling Harbour to Haymarket and everything else in between; I was never bored.

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CW: Tell us about some of the events that happened while you were in Sydney and any advice you have for future students who may be interested in attending similar happenings. 
LR: Honestly the best source to what’s going on in Sydney will come from the CAPA team in Sydney. Tamara & Andrew send out emails every week to let you know of any cool events happening. For food and drink, Andrew will have the best suggestions like the Dumpling Festival, and Tamara can tell you where you can find Sydney’s hidden gems. The event that most stands out to me was a one day music festival, the Gentleman of the Road Tour, hosted by Mumford & Sons at The Domain. While this was well-publicized, locals will be able to tell you where to find the cheapest tickets for events like this. Luckily for me, a bar in Newtown was giving out FREE TICKETS because they were sponsoring the event! This is where having local friends really comes in handy; they’re privy to all this “secret” information.

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 For an adventure out in Sydney the only things you’ll ever need:

  • Your OPAL card.
  • A crisp twenty-dollar bill, as many places don’t take cards.
  • A travel-size sunscreen (at least 30 SPF) + sunglasses
  • A light jacket + comfortable shoes
  • Your phone
  • A water bottle

Carry these things and you’re ready for an adventure!

CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Sydney" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
LR: The great thing about living in Sydney is that it has something for everyone: world-class beaches, hundreds of miles of trails to hike, diverse restaurants, local boutiques, and an efficient transportation system that will take you anywhere you want to go.

My Sydney was a collection of hidden beaches, local coffee spots, and incredible hikes. I found the best flat white at The Nectar Coffee House on Mountain St. I snorkeled with the local legend “Bluey” at Clovelly Beach and witnessed the most amazing sunrise from the cliffs of Bronte Beach. The reason that these places were so special was because they catered to my interests and played an important part in my inauguration as a true Sydneysider!

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CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? If so, how so? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
LR: Initially, I was hesitant to study abroad because I didn’t want to take three months off of my routine. This is why I chose Sydney. They offered an internship component and I figured I could justify exploring another country because I would not only be able to go to school but I would be completing an internship; little did I know that Sydney was going to take my routine and throw it out the window. The culture really forces you to slow down and take it easy, as cliché as that sounds. A common Australian philosophy is to take the day 8x8x8: 8 hours work, 8 hours play, and 8 hours sleep. After spending years overworking myself and rushing towards the next thing, Sydney taught me how to balance my life.

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Thanks Lilibeth!

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Topics: Interviews, Sydney, Australia, Internships Abroad