Meet Alexandra Jesaitis. Alexandra participated in CAPA's summer internship program at Griffith College in Dublin where she was placed with the marketing team in the college and attended class one night per week. Below, she talks about the responsibilities she had at her internship as well as the skills she gained there, shares her impressions of Irish culture and relays the story of a local whose conversation gave her another layer of insight into this country she spent the term exploring.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ALEXANDRA JESAITIS: My name is Alexandra Jesaitis. I'm from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida! During the summer of 2015, I participated in a six-week internship program with CAPA at Griffith College in Dublin, Ireland. I am an international business major with a minor in Spanish language. I have a passion for traveling, athletics, cooking, and continuing on my journey of active global citizenship.
CW: Why did you decide to study abroad in Dublin? What was most important to you?
AJ: The moment I decided to study abroad, the most important thing to me was finding a supportive program with great reviews and a location I felt comfortable in. One of the most helpful resources I used to make my decision about Dublin and prepare for my journey abroad was my study abroad office. They helped me decide which program was right for me (certainly the CAPA program). I found Dublin had a familiar culture, amazing reviews from students, and, even through my application process, CAPA helped me every step of the way.
CW: What were your first impressions of Dublin? What did you discover that went beyond your expectations or stereotypes that exist of the city while you were exploring?
AJ: I first arrived in Dublin around 9:30am. As I flew into the airport, I saw nothing but rolling green hills and stone buildings. The suburbs were incredible, but the moment I arrived in the city, I couldn’t even tell I was in the same country! There were tons of restaurants, people, shops, parks, and the nightlife was much more than I expected. The people are known for being welcoming and kind, and I never had any experience that contradicted that stereotype. I never imagined that such a forward-moving, modern city could be weaved so perfectly with traditional Irish culture and history.
CW: Talk about Irish culture, what you learned from it and a few of the traditions you were able to experience. What sort of lasting impact has living in Ireland left on you?
AJ: Irish culture is extremely similar to our US culture, yet has its own idiosyncrasies and quirks that took minimal adjustments. Many Irish are direct and free thinking individuals who are not intimidated to say exactly what they are thinking. I found this shocking at first, but it was so endearing that they took such interest in our lives at home and our country as a whole. Their culture is humble, modest, and traditional, but I never felt like an outcast or foreigner in Ireland.
CW: What classes did you take in Dublin? How were your academics different there than in the States?
AJ: I participated in a digital marketing internship at Griffith College. Alongside my internship, once a week I was part of an intercultural course provided by CAPA and an instructor from the College. I loved meeting once a week to recant my week and the other participants’ week in Dublin, hear funny stories about adjusting to Irish culture, and ground myself to adjust properly to a new experience in a new country. We learned about cultural norms and how to deal with common issues, such as homesickness. The classroom environment is much less structured than at home; we followed our syllabus loosely and our grading system was much less rigid than that of my American university. The teacher was so accessible, genuine, and entertaining that it hardly felt like a college course at all.
CW: Tell us a bit about your internship in Dublin, your duties and accomplishments. What skills have you learned or developed? How will this experience help you in your future career?
AJ: My internship was with the digital marketing department at Griffith College. On an average day, we worked with a marketing strategy known as “SEO” (short for Search Engine Optimization). We learned how to track users through the web to eventually find our product, which was an application to a faculty (major) with the College. Every day we learned something new, from programs commonly used for marketing, to social media for business, etc. I learned a great deal about marketing, but more importantly, I learned a great deal about myself as an employee. I learned how to take direction, appropriately ask for assistance when needed, and how to work respectfully with coworkers (even when you disagree with one another). Not only did the internship solidify my marketing aspirations in my future and teach me about professional environments, but also gave me a great deal of responsibility and showed me how to be an effective and efficient member of a team.
CW: Explain a day in the life of a CAPA intern.
AJ: Every morning, I had the luxury of walking to my office (which was common with many other students participating in internships through CAPA). I would check in with my boss, discuss any forms that needed to be completed for CAPA, and jump right into my work.
Upon arriving at my internship for the first time, I worked with my boss to determine learning objectives for my time in Dublin at my internship; therefore, all of my tasks were assured to have meaning and improve my knowledge, not just clerical work or “time-wasters.” Lunch is typically mid-afternoon, so we would buy lunch off campus at a local grocery store and finish our day around 5:30pm.
After everyone returned from work to the apartment at StayCity St. Augustine, we would all either cook dinner in our large kitchen or find a charming local restaurant to eat together. Some nights, we would visit pubs and dance, or do karaoke in the city center. Thursdays were our classroom days when we would go after our internships for an hour and fifteen minutes to learn about Ireland, culture assimilation, and other aspects of intercultural communication. I had three-day weekends, which meant I could go explore Ireland with my friends and see all that Ireland (and Paris) had to offer!
CW: Did you find a sense of community at Griffith College? Tell us a story of a memorable interaction you had with a local.
AJ: It was much easier to talk to strangers in an Irish setting because the culture is so engaging. However, if I had more time I think the relationships I was making with friends would have been more meaningful. Many of my friendships were fleeting and we barely spoke after we met. But interning at Griffith gave us so much exposure to what young culture is like in Dublin, fun spots for younger students, etc.
My most memorable interaction was during the staff party when I spoke to one of my younger coworkers. He knew so much more about the world than most of my friends back home and had such a new perspective as an outsider to American culture. He loved talking about traditional American lifestyles versus traditional Irish lifestyles and had so much access to Europe; it was incredible how much he taught me in one conversation!
CW: Where are the places you've carved out as "Your Dublin" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that are most meaningful for you? What is special about them?
AJ: My Dublin was without a doubt the traditional, local establishments. The Stag was a beautiful older Irish pub with awesome food and was a great place to meet locals. I loved the stories the locals had about the evolution in Irish culture. It was so incredible to hear live Irish bands playing folk songs that had been around longer than the musicians had been alive. There is nothing like the sense of camaraderie that you feel in Ireland; that was the most lasting impression I had during my study abroad term.
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?
AJ: I find myself more motivated for success now that my initial trepidation about the workplace has been resolved. Before study abroad, I was always worried about assimilating to a new environment, leaving the home I knew so well to experience new things, or to have a real job in the “real world.” But during my CAPA program, not only was I exposed to a new life in a new city, but phenomenal experiences and memories that are irreplaceable to me. I found out who I really was because I did not have my typical environment to fall back on. I got to strip away my American identity and find out who I was as an individual in the world and in the workplace. There is nothing more empowering or exciting than learning about yourself during a study abroad program.