CAPA Study Abroad Student Interview: Ben Lovin
Meet Ben, a CAPA London alumna and global studies major from the Arizona State University who spent Fall 2015 semester abroad. Ben had a very well-rounded experience: taking classes, completing an internship, starting a band, mingling with locals, joining an American football team, attending a local church and exploring the city. Below, he tells us about all of these things as well as why he chose London (and CAPA specifically) and some of the changes he's seen in himself since he started the program.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
BEN LOVIN: Hello! My name is Ben Lovin. I've grown up all over the place because of my dad's work, but say Arizona is my home. It's where my parents are from, and where I attend school. I am currently a junior at Arizona State University, and I’m studying Global Studies. Essentially, it's a combination of Political Science, International relations and culture. When I'm not studying, I like to be active. I enjoy playing music and I love to be outdoors. In my free time, I like to hike in the mountains of Arizona, or rock climb at the rock gym down the street from my university.
CW: Why did you decide to study abroad in London? Also, how did you choose a program? What was most important to you?
BL: I chose to study abroad in London because of experiences that I had just after high school. Shortly after graduation, I was coming home from a trip in the Middle East and my mom and I had a long stop-over at the airport there. We chose to leave and took the tube to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. We spent only a few hours there, but there was something fascinating about the city. The tall, old buildings, and the rush of people in and out of the underground stop were fascinating! I knew after those few hours that one day I needed to come back to London! CAPA was a perfect choice, because it allowed me to fulfill a degree requirement of an international internship, and spend a semester in a city I had made a goal to see.
CW: Tell us a bit about your internship in London, your duties and accomplishments. What skills have you learned or developed? How will this experience help you in your future career?
BL: I intern at at The Campaign Company (TCC) in Croydon, located south of London. We work, essentially, as consultants, in research-based roles. I've been able to work a lot with the Croydon Borough Council, on a project called the Young Opportunity and Fairness Commission. It's allowed me to engage with young people aged 11-25 across the borough and talk with them about issues regarding education, work and safety. We have been able to develop a proposal to improve the lives of young people in those areas and make Croydon a better place. It's been exciting to see the way that policy making and research can lead to real results that improve the lives of local people.
CW: Explain a day in the life of a CAPA intern.
BL: As a CAPA student, I really think being here an entire semester has given me a good look at what it's like to be a “Londoner”. So many people who live and work here are not actually English, or even from the UK so I feel like I fit right in. My daily routine is wild and hectic, and I'm surrounded by people from all over the world.
My day starts off around 7am. I leave my small flat in central London and board the crammed tube. Even though it's crowded, it's usually silent. Everyone is immersed in their own world, reading the news or books, going through work notes or listening to music. Once in awhile, if i'm lucky, I may have a brief conversation with someone. From the tube, it's off to Victoria train station and onto an overground train. I love riding the overground where I can sit and watch crowded London disappear as I cross the Thames and head to my internship in Croydon. Sometimes I just sit and think; other times I pull my laptop out and work on a project for work or school. Then I work all day and eventually head home, probably with a copy of the free newspapers in hand, catching up on all the local, national, and global news.
The day winds down, and at the end of it, I feel like a real Londoner, like this is my city, and I belong here.
CW: What classes did you take in London? How were your academics different there than in the States?
BL: While interning, I also studied. Because I am studying politics, I took a course on the European Union, and Governance, as well as a course where we learned about London as a global city. I also took a course called Learning Through Internships which allowed for a forum to discuss different themes regarding our internship sites. My favorite courses was the European Union course. We had sessions where we sat and talked about customs and cultures that were common through Europe as well as how these themes affect the system of the EU and its mechanisms of governance. We also would visit important parts of London, such as Canary Wharf and the City of London and discuss why they are so important. It allowed me to learn about London as a whole and its relevance in the world.
CW: We hear you formed a band in London! Tell us a bit about that experience. Is it something you'd recommend to future musically-inclined study abroad students?
BL: I met the guys I play music with because I wanted to get outside of the American bubble. It's easy to make friends with the other students on the program, but I really wanted to immerse myself in London life. I'm from the States, another guy is from Australia, and the other is from England. We've been able to play gigs at local pubs and open-mic nights and even for big CAPA-sponsored events. It's a great way to take a talent and use it in a way I NEVER would have imagined. We got to talking one day and decided to just to have a jam session. After about an hour, it was pretty clear we had a sound that meshed well. Before we knew it, we had a folk music band and we were writing our own music. It's been exciting to see it grow in popularity and before I head home we're hoping to put an EP album out through a studio in Brixton.
CW: CAPA's London program allows students to get involved with the nearby Imperial College's many clubs and groups. Tell us about your experience there.
BL: The clubs and groups at Imperial College have been awesome. I saw a group of guys playing American football in Hyde Park one day. I saw all the pads and helmets and got curious about what they were doing. I wandered over and asked what it was and learned it was the University American Football Club. I asked to try out and before I knew it, I was strapped up and playing quarterback for a college team that plays other universities across the country! There are so many groups and clubs to join that it's easy to find a place to fit in - music, dance, sport, and all kinds of things. They are an awesome way to stay fit, relaxed and keep a part of yourself. Moving to London can be a bit overwhelming, but the clubs allow you to do you, to participate in something familiar. Not to mention, Imperial is one of the best universities in the world for math and science, so I've had the chance to mingle with students from all over the world who are studying on incredible programs.
CW: What's your best advice for incoming students when it comes to meeting locals? Are there other ways you've connected to a community in London?
BL: My best advice for students coming to study abroad is to expect and embrace adversity. Studying abroad can be a challenge. Especially in London. 8.5 Million people live, work and play here. It's a lot to take in. Thankfully, you don't have to take it all in! Be yourself and find a way to put yourself into the flow of London life. That's what makes this city so great. It is so globally diverse that to not be individual and be yourself would be to go against what makes London London! Im very active in my church back home, and so when I found the local congregation here, it was awesome. Again, it helped me get outside the study abroad bubble. It's become my place that is uniquely mine, different than any other student's. I've met people from over 50 other countries and now see London, and the world, through a different lens!
CW: Where are the places you've carved out as "Your London" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that are most meaningful for you? What is special about them?
BL: Exploring London and finding new areas has really allowed me to embrace the city as my own. My favorite place, by far, is Trafalgar Square. It's a huge tourist spot and sometimes hectic. I love sitting on the steps in front of the National Museum and watching people interact or climbing the base of nelson's column with friends and starting down whitehall towards Westminster Abbey! It gives a sense of what London is all about - its history and Imperial power. It's funny, but sometimes I feel like Peter Pan looking toward Big Ben and can't believe that I'm actually here!
CW: What personal and professional changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? Why do you think these changes have occurred?
BL: I've really felt myself grow in London. It's a huge city and people are fighting for time, money and space. The result is a grind that can wear you down, but I've learned to really embrace it. “The grind” has helped me grow and realize what I can or can't do. I've learned how to manage time and find the balance between work and leisure. I've learned tons of soft skills but also, through my internship, learned how a business works from the inside out. I've been able to ask a billion questions, get a billion different answers, and form my own opinion about the city, my internship and my career path. Studying in London has given me a better view of the world, and myself, and I feel like I am all the better for it.