A CAPA Alumna Interview: Nicole Taylor
Meet Nicole Taylor, a Journalism major from Lasell College and former official blogger who studied abroad in Dublin during spring 2016. Below, she talks about how she learned cultural differences at her internship abroad, what she's up to since graduating this May, and gives her tips to future CAPA explorers.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
NICOLE TAYLOR: Hey everyone, my name is Nicole Taylor and I am 23 years old from Standish, Maine. I recently graduated from Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts with my BA in Journalism and decided to stay in the area to start the next chapter in my life. I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland in the spring of 2016 and it was the best decision I have ever made. To no surprise, some of my interests include: TRAVELING, writing, sports, hanging out with friends, relaxing by the lake or pool, Crossfit, and cooking.
Photo: a few days before I left for Ireland and my family had a cake made for me to wish me good luck
CW: Describe your background for us. Had you traveled before? What made you want to study abroad? What was the reaction from your friends and family when you decided to study abroad?
NT: Ever since I was young (maybe 11) I had an interest in travel. Whenever I was asked about my future, travel was always my answer. Growing up, my parents took my sister and me on vacations to Florida, Virginia Beach, the Caribbean, and many other unique places. Every time a vacation was booked, I counted down the days. I’ve always been eager for adventure – I always wanted to see and do more. My first year of college began in 2011 at the University of Southern Maine where I played on the women’s soccer team, worked on weekends, and the only travel I experienced was when we had away games. After a year and a half I realized I did not know what I wanted to do in life – I had no major, no drive, and no sense of direction. I felt lost. I took some time off and worked full time for about a year before the itch for school came back. I researched schools with good Communications programs. I applied to 5 schools and two days before Christmas in 2013, I received my acceptance letter to Lasell College.
This was my second chance to do the things I'd never done before. In my time at Lasell I was an RA, Peer Health Educator, involved with committees and clubs, volunteered, and tried new things. I always wanted to study abroad but I told myself to just focus on school and travel later in life. That all changed because of one homework assignment – I was required to attend the Study Abroad Fair to interview people about study abroad and why they recommend it so I could produce a story for my Journalism class. The interviews turned into engaged conversations and I ended up leaving with a bag filled with pamphlets, information note cards, and free pens. From that day, I began saving the majority of my money. Just over a year later, I applied, got accepted, and departed for the most amazing journey of my life – all because of one homework assignment and a lot of desire from a young age. My family and friends were more than excited for me. They helped financially, they sent cards and letters to Dublin, and they threw a huge “welcome home” party upon my return. The support was endless and that is just another reason why my time abroad was so worth it.
Photo: me with the team outside 34 Fitzwilliam Square where Olytico was
CW: What surprised you about your host city? What did you discover that went beyond your expectations or stereotypes that exist of the city?
NT: Looking back, I would say the work environment surprised me. I was an intern at Olytico, a social media analysis company in Fitzwilliam Square. I was so accustomed to American work standards that I realized so many differences within my first week at Olytico. I noticed how cordial and welcoming the Irish are – “would you like some tea?” “coffee?” “I am going for lunch, can I get you anything?” “Good morning, how was your weekend?” Yes, in America we do hear these things at work, but the constant hospitality in Ireland is astonishing. You almost have to insist on tea or coffee because they will keep asking. Beyond that, I noticed how laid back the office feels and let me tell you, it feels pretty good to be trusted to work independently and not deal with passive aggressive bosses, a high-stress environment, or negative attitudes. The Irish people are humble and understanding. Even if something is stressful, they handle it with poise and rationale. These things surprised me because I was not used to it. My Olytico internship opened my mind to the tools and experiences I could take back with me to incorporate into my American work. I knew the Irish were humble because that is what people told me, but they honestly surpassed my expectations. I was truly blessed to intern for Olytico and experience the Irish way of working!
Photo: the last day of my internship, I gave the team t-shirts that were branded with their logo and quote from their website. They did not have t-shirts for the company yet so I spent some of my Explorer Fund on the t-shirts!
CW: As an intern abroad, can you tell us about American work culture versus the work culture in your host country? Were there similar or different attitudes surrounding work culture in the office? Were there any challenges (big or small) in settling in because of this divide if it existed?
NT: I touched upon this in the previous question but to add a bit more, I think American work culture is based on power and money. Sure, that is the aim of a business or company – money, but the way Americans go about it is far different than the Irish. Power comes in the form of authority in America whereas in Ireland it comes in the form of teamwork. There is no evident “boss” in the Irish workplace. I knew who my supervisor was, but he never made himself the “head” of anything. He did not project his power or use it in a way that undermined anybody. I think America struggles with the use of power. I was pleasantly surprised by the operation of Olytico and how it changed my attitude towards work in general. I have always been a diligent and innovative employee/intern, but after interning with the Olytico team I realized I can take that humble, teamwork style attitude back to America and try to reshape the environment. Notice I said, “…after interning WITH the Olytico team” instead of “…after interning FOR the Olytico team.” I never once felt like I was interning FOR somebody and that is a huge difference between American work culture and Irish work culture – something we can learn from them.
Photo: when I traveled to Killarney!
CW: Beyond Dublin, which other parts of Ireland were you able to explore? How was your experience in these places different from the city?
NT: Ireland was an amazing country to explore. Although there were some places I did not have time to reach, I did cover much ground and enjoyed all of it. I was able to visit Dun Laoghaire, Belfast, Killarney, Wicklow, Kilkenny, and Glendalough! The first place I was able to go outside of Dublin city was Killarney. It was there that I did the Ring of Kerry tour and I was absolutely blown away by the untouched beauty of the countryside and coast of Ireland. Getting out of the city was important to me because I am not one who loves city life. I am more of a suburban/urban girl so being able to see the nature and houses along with the ocean was serene. However, after living in Dublin for 4 months, I have learned to love and appreciate the city more than I ever did before.
Visiting these outskirt places was so enjoyable especially when done with friends. We were all able to explore and try new things together. I strongly encourage people to see as much of Ireland as possible! Do not forget to travel within your host country as well as outside of it. Some of the best views and experiences I had were right in Ireland.
Photo: this is the sign at the entrance of Auschwitz concentration camp
CW: What about travel outside of your host city? Where did you go? What new challenges did you encounter while outside of your host city and how did you overcome them? Any tips for future CAPA explorers?
NT: Like I said before, traveling has always been my passion and desire so being able to travel often in 4 months while on a budget was incredible. Fortunately, I knew I wanted to study abroad over a year in advance of my departure so I was able to save lots of money. I was very diligent about saving and wanted to make sure I was going to enjoy my experience abroad to the fullest extent. One of my biggest goals while abroad was to see as much as I could – and that I did. I traveled to: Belgium, Scotland, Holland, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Poland. All of which were amazing in their own ways. I particularly loved Italy and Greece as well as Poland. Each destination had a reason as to why I went. For example, I chose to go to Rotterdam, Holland to see my friend Mattanja who I had not seen in over 5 years. It was amazing to be able to reconnect and see parts of the city I may not have seen without her guidance. Another example is Poland – I chose to go to Poland because I am Polish! I had a strong desire to see Auschwitz Concentration Camp and try an original Pirogi.
This leads me to the biggest challenge of my travels abroad. I made the courageous decision to travel by myself to Poland. I did this as my last trip knowing I would be more comfortable with transportation and navigation in general. I was not scared at all! Of course, I did not stay out too late or go far away from my hostel, but I was able to book 2 tours and see the center of Krakow all on my own. I saw Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. It was a challenge because of the obvious – I was alone. But, I realized after doing this solo trip that I am capable of doing anything. I am capable of experiencing new cultures and adapting just fine. It was humbling knowing I accomplished something so big. I encourage people to travel alone, but only if they are comfortable doing so. It’s not for everyone and that is totally fine too! For me, it was an opportunity to reflect on my experience abroad, do what I want when I wanted to, and see another part of the world that means so much to my heritage. Aside from traveling alone, just travel. There is nowhere you can go that will not surprise you in some way and that is the beauty of traveling. Aim to reach your top 3 destinations, but allow yourself room to try places you never thought you would go. It is a big world and you never know what or where you will fall in love with!
Photo: I often cooked my own food and this was stuffed chicken with spinach, sweet potato, mozzarella, and pine nuts.
CW: Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite subject- food! What did you try that you had never tried back home? Did you find a favorite place to shop for food? Did you try to make any local recipes?
NT: Let me just start by saying I LOVE TO COOK. I was often cooking my own dinners; making things I would probably make in the states, but sometimes that was not the case. Often times, I found myself looking for an ingredient and I either could not find it or Ireland’s version was quite different, but it made for fun adventures and good tasting meals! I did get the chance to try a couple things I have never had such as black pudding and Irish soda bread (both of which I was not a fan). Black pudding is blood sausage – typically cooked with oatmeal and formed into a thick disk. Irish soda bread (brown bread) is just like typical bread but sodium bicarbonate is used as a leavening agent instead of the traditional yeast. I am glad I tried new foods in a new culture even though I did not like them. However, many of my friends who tried those foods loved them!
My favorite place to shop for food was Dunnes Food Store. I also did not mind an occasional trip to Aldi. I tried a few different places before discovering Dunnes. I liked it because it had more options than the other markets and stores. I was able to find more of the ingredients I needed and wanted, and they had some good deals on meats and produce! Grocery shopping every Sunday was something I looked forward to. I also meal prepped every Sunday making lunches much easier during the week.
Photo: I felt immersed in the culture when walking to my internship and this was me on my way to Olytico
CW: Tell us about a specific moment when you felt you were completely immersed in the culture of your host city. What was it about that moment that made you feel that way?
NT: As odd as it sounds, I felt most immersed in the Irish culture when I was walking to my internship. In Ireland, many people do not even own cars! They either bike or walk to work. It took me about a week to adapt to all the walking in Dublin, but once I did, I loved it. There was so much to see and not to mention, it is much healthier to walk than to ride a bus. Each day, I walked to and from my internship which was about 1.4 miles one-way. I either listened to music, called my mom, or just went with the flow of the people. I felt very at home and immersed in the culture in those moments.
Photo: my colleague and I teaching our 7th graders in Tanzania!
CW: How has your career developed since you returned to the States? What are you up to now that you've graduated?
NT: Many things have changed, come and gone, and evolved since I have returned to the States. I have been back for just over 1 year and I am very happy with where I am in life. A few months before graduation, I was offered a job as a Development Assistant at the Boys & Girls Club. I was sought out for my marketing ideas, detail orientation, and work ethic. I previously interned with the club and my internship supervisor recommended me to the Director of Development. I took the job and have been here since early February. In the days leading up to graduation, I was busy forming lesson plans and retrieving book/school supply donations for kids in Tanzania, Africa at the Viewenge School. The day after graduation I left for Tanzania with 15 colleagues and 2 professors/staff members from Lasell College. I spent 2 weeks there teaching English, learning Swahili, exploring, and immersing myself in Tanzanian culture. I have only been back for just over 2 weeks and I already miss it terribly.
This is how I felt when I returned from Ireland too. I went through phases after study abroad. I was excited to be home with my family, friends, and girlfriend. Then, I was sad and missed my friends from abroad and Dublin as a whole. After that phase, it felt like a dream – like study abroad never happened. Now, the experience is a memory and something I will remember for the rest of my life. I am eager to travel back to Europe and see more of the world. My plan as of right now is to work and in May of 2018 I will be getting my Master’s degree in Marketing as part of an accelerated program. I would like to work for a company that either offers travel opportunities or allows me to use my creativity and innovative skills to produce marketing campaigns or programs. Right now, life is good and I am truly blessed for all the intercultural experiences I have had in recent years.
Photo: Me on graduation day
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you studied abroad? Are they positive or negative? Why do you think these changes occurred?
NT: Ever since I studied abroad, I have noticed subtle changes in myself. One of those changes is that I am more culturally aware of my surroundings and the people in my surroundings. I have a more sophisticated depth of perspective on the world and how people and places differ. I have also noticed that I work with a positive attitude – not that I didn’t do so before but I’ve just realized the difference between power and leadership. I am sure there are other changes that have set in since I returned from abroad, but sometimes there are changes we as study abroad students do not see but others do. I think many of these changes occur because of exposure to other cultures – there are so many elements of culture that can change us, our perspectives, our goals, our thoughts, our way of doing things, etc. When you are in a place for 4 months and you grow accustomed to the way of life, you are bound to change in some way. I believe all the changes are positive. Sometimes they can be frustrating because not everyone will understand what you did and what you went through, but what matters is YOU know what you experienced and that is something nobody can take from you.