How My Study Abroad Experience Changed My Career Goals

Feb 11, 2016 5:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Spring2015_From_Julia_Economou_-_Magnetic_Island-1.jpgWords and photos by Julia Economou, a CAPA Sydney study abroad alumna and journalism and communications major from University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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Traveling to a new country and immersing yourself into a new culture is something not everyone can say they’ve done, especially for an extended period of time. Add on an internship and you have put yourself into an elite minority!

Choosing CAPA was simple for me. I wanted to have a fun and enlightening experience but I also wanted to take away skills for a future career (and figure out what exactly I wanted to pursue after graduation!).


I started my journey at DEC PR— a public relations agency located in the heart of Sydney. Not knowing much about PR, I was hesitant to start. I worried that they would expect me to know everything (thinking back on it, seems silly), or that they flat out wouldn’t like me or I wouldn’t like them. I went in on the first day with a wall up (and it didn’t help that it was pouring rain out and my grey dress was two different shades of grey from the water!). To my surprise, everyone was so friendly and eager to meet me. They reassured me that I didn’t need to have prior experience and that they would help me along the way. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do come graduation. I hoped that DEC would give me some direction and help me find my calling.


By the end of the internship I was leading social media platforms for two of their clients, drafting up case studies and magazine articles, and contributing in the daily team brainstorms. I never thought I would come to love the Public Relations industry like I do today. The internship made me realize how much I love being with people, writing, and utilizing social media platforms. I began applying for summer internships in the middle of the spring semester and landed an amazing paid one in my hometown. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for my internship abroad I probably wouldn’t have landed the summer internship I did.


In my last semester at UMass, I am using the tools and skills that DEC has given me to shape the type of career path I dreamed about. There were three major lessons that I took away from the people at DEC:

1. YES, YES, YES! There were times during my internship where I wanted to just stick to what I knew about and that was that. However, one day a co-worker came up to me and asked if I would like to work with her on one of their tech clients. I told her the only thing I knew about technology was how to work a cell phone but she reassured me that she would help. I could have said no, that I didn’t feel comfortable working on something I knew nothing about but instead I said “sure why not.” I learned more about the technology industry then I ever thought was possible in just three months. I’m no expert but it gave me a new area of interest that could broaden my career path.

Jumping out of your comfort zone is hard. But, when you do, you learn and do things you never thought possible! Always say yes to an opportunity that could help you grow and learn.

2. LEARN TO TAKE CRITICISM. I know most college students think they have it all figured out, but the truth is we don’t! I was asked to draft up a magazine article for Rolls Royce. My supervisor asked me “How much do you know about cars?”, to which I responded, “Well, I own one back at home.” She gave me an outline and sent me to write it. When I was finished, we went over it together and she told areas I could improve and explained why the tone of voice I was using wasn’t right. At first I thought she was telling what I wrote stunk, but before my feelings could get too hurt she started to explain the things she DID like about it. The criticism wasn’t meant to be mean, but was used to help me become a better writer. I wrote the piece over again using her feedback and came out with something awesome! It’s important to realize that feedback (positive and negative) is something we should all strive for.

3. SET GOALS FOR YOURSELF. On the first day of my internship I filled out a card that asked me what I wanted to accomplish within the three months I was there. Throughout my experience, my supervisor would check off what I accomplished on my goal sheet and by the end of my time there, I had completed everything I wanted to. It’s important to go into any experience with a direction and a list of goals you want to accomplish. A list of goals gives you more direction for your experience and allows you to have a set focus.

Even if it’s just three small goals, it can make a world of difference for not only you but your internship supervisor. It gives them a sense of what you want to get out of the internship and they can help you accomplish what you want. I have learned from this to create goals in my everyday life. Every week, I put my goals into my planner and cross them off when I have completed them. It gives me a huge sense of accomplishment to see all my goals crossed off at the end of the week.


These lessons were huge takeaways for me and I have learned to use these skills in my everyday life back in the States. I am more self aware, more positive when it comes to trying new things and setting goals for myself that will help me land an awesome job.

Thanks Julia!

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Careers, Internships Abroad