How Studying Abroad Led to My Career in Higher Education

May 22, 2017 8:30:00 AM / by Julie Ritz

A CAPA Staff Interview: Mary Brown, Admissions Advisor

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Meet Mary Brown, an admissions advisor at CAPA. Below, she talks about why she chose to study abroad, how that led her to her current role at CAPA, and what she loves most about helping students achieve their dream of studying abroad!

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and some of your hobbies and interests and where you’re from originally. What’s the coolest thing about living in Boston?
MARY BROWN: I am originally from Saco, Maine and essentially grew up in the woods which I loved. I think because of my upbringing I have always been a bit more keen to do outdoorsy activities like hiking, swimming, and running. Since those are all generic hobbies I spice things up with some knitting, experimental cooking, my new love for the ukulele, and of course, traveling!

I would say the coolest thing about living in Boston is how many different events happen at any given time. Just this past weekend I accidentally walked into the Japan Festival of Boston which was amazing. I love that there is always something to do for everyone.

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CW: How did your career journey lead you into study abroad? Where else have you lived/studied?
This sounds like a cliché, but because of the incredible experience I had studying abroad, I knew that I wanted to help students do the same. I promise no one is paying me to say that. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy during my Junior year of college and have been hooked ever sense. I began working for my university’s study abroad office and became an ambassador. After graduation I would say the rest is history- I jumped right in at CAPA!

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CW: Take us behind the scenes: What does your job as an Admissions Advisor involve? What do you love most about your role?
Being an admissions advisor is the most vital role here at CAPA. I'm only kidding! But, we are the first step for many students who are interested in studying abroad. My days usually consist of reaching out and talking with interested students, creating strategies to attract more students to study or intern overseas, and reviewing applications to be accepted. So essentially, we make dreams come true.

I would say that my favorite part about the job is when I get a really excited student on the phone and we talk about traveling and what they are looking to gain from studying abroad. Because my own experience meant so much to me, it is nice to be a part of another student’s experience as well.

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CW: What’s the most interesting thing on your desk right now? What do you wish was on your desk right now?
I actually crafted a “tea cave” under my monitor where I keep my tea and other supplies. There are various warnings and monsters guarding the cave as well. Cool? Maybe not, but interesting? I would say so. I try and keep things fun and different. Obviously I wish there was a puppy on my desk at all times.

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CW: Favorite travel quote?
It is not exactly inspirational but I have always referred back to the quote, “Book a ticket and just leave”, said by no one in particular. I think too often instead of traveling we think of all of the reasons why we can’t- money, friendships, relationships, personal anxieties. Sometimes you just need to do it. I remember sitting on my couch and booking the cheapest flight I could find to Vietnam before I could convince myself otherwise. The reality was I needed to just let go of my fears and go, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made.

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CW: Where are the top 3 places on your current wanderlist and why? 
Oh man, this is always the hardest questions. I want to go e v e r y w h e r e. But if I had to pick it would be:

1.Cuba- I have always had a fascination with the culture and history. Now that it is becoming easier for Americans to go I am really looking to find an opportunity!

2.Iceland- I desperately want to see the northern lights and the flights are pretty cheap!

3.South Africa- Some of my friends just went and the stories they told were amazing. The landscape and culture just looks out of this world and I need to experience it for myself!

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CW: What’s the one subject you are always excited to talk about with students who are thinking about study abroad?
This may be surprising but I love talking about financing and affording the cost. Yes, sometimes the cost of studying abroad can just be too high to conceptualize, but most of the time I believe there are ways to make it work. I think of myself as the queen of “ballin on a budget” and am always ready to share tips and tricks. With a little creativity, positivity, and determination you will be surprised at how much you can do to save a penny! I welcome all students to inquire about financing as early as possible if you are considering going abroad.

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CW: Is there anything you wish you would have done while you were studying abroad that you didn’t manage to fit in?
I wish that I explored more of Italy itself. I managed to see a majority of popular cities but I would have liked to explore more small towns to get an authentic feel. Also, many people in the smaller towns only speak Italin so it would have been a better opportunity to learn the language.

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CW: Share one myth about study abroad that you can debunk for other students.
One myth about studying abroad is that it isn’t a possibility for all majors and that it might set students behind for graduation. I think if you begin planning early and communicate well with your academic advisors (and us!) then it can be a part of your four year plan. With seminars, summers, and semesters offered I think nearly everyone can find a time!

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CW: Why is studying abroad important?
Studying abroad is one of the best ways to gain a new perspective on the world. We grow up reading about so many places and cultures in our history books but it takes really experiencing them for yourself to gain appreciation. By living abroad for a summer, semester, or even a year you are able to get out of your comfort zone and really grow as a person. Again, corny, but it is really true.

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Thanks, Mary!

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Topics: Interviews, CAPA Staff