On Being a Nontraditional Study Abroad Student

Sep 25, 2017 8:30:00 AM / by Julie Ritz

A CAPA Alumna Interview: Joyce Leung

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Meet Joyce Leung, a Dietics major and Public Health minor from D'Youville College who studied abroad in London in spring 2016. Below, she talks about what it was like to study abroad being older than her peers, how growing up in Hong Kong and Canada affected her study abroad expereince, and why an internship was her primary goal for her study abroad experience.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JOYCE LEUNG: I am a Dietetics major/Public Health minor student from D'Youville College and studied abroad in London, England. I am originally from Hong Kong but completed most of my education in Canada. I studied both community college and university in Canada. I worked in healthcare throughout and after my education. I moved from Toronto, Ontario to Buffalo, New York for a combined Bachelors/Masters of Science program, which allowed me to study abroad with CAPA for an internship.

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CW: Talk about your pre-departure experience. How did you finally make the decision to go abroad? How long before you left did you start preparing? What was the process you went through? What were your worries?
JL: I knew that the Dietetics program at D'Youville College allowed part of the Dietetic Internship to be completed abroad because it was on the D'Youville Dietetics website. I knew I wanted to go abroad when I accepted the college's offer. As soon as conversations about internship sites started in my program, which was about a year before studying abroad, I scheduled something with my program coordinator to talk about my study abroad options. She referred me to the international student office and they helped me through the application process.

I was extremely worried about my internship placement site. We were told to have an open mind and give three areas of interest that we would want to intern with. Because I've spent lots dedication in my field already, I really wasn't interested in anything outside my field. As a Dietetics major/Public Health minor, I was comfortable with a wide range of opportunities but not knowing my placement until two weeks before landing in London was stressful. My faculty members and a past CAPA Dietetic student reassured me that things will work out just fine.

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CW: Why did you choose CAPA? What was interesting about the CAPA program?
JL: CAPA allowed me to complete an internship while I was studying abroad. I've spent many years in school already so I wasn't too interested in academic course work. I was interested in work experience, culture experience, and an excuse to stay in a different city a little longer than the standard two week vacation to really explore and feel out what it's like to live somewhere else. The CAPA summer program allowed me to stay for six weeks and helped find me an internship that would have been approved by my college. Everything just worked out well with CAPA.

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CW: You were a unique study abroad student in that you studied abroad at age 27. How did that impact your choice to study abroad? What advice could you give to other students your age who are unsure about studying abroad?
JL: If it is an option, then take advantage of it and go! I don't know what other advice I could give. I wasn't sure when else I would have another opportunity to spend a little more time than a short two week vacation somewhere on my own before too much life gets in the way.

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CW: You're also unique because you studied abroad on an American program, although you grew up in Canada and Hong Kong! Did you feel a clear distinction from your peers because of your nationality? Are you conscious of your behavior in relation to the stereotypes of Canadians that exist?
JL: There was a clear distinction from my peers when I studied abroad but it could be due to nationality, age, or experiences. I didn't pinpoint it but I knew it was different. I lived in the US only about a year before studying abroad so the distinction might have been American habits that I was not yet accustomed to. The two biggest things I was conscious about was the pronunciation of certain words and being apologetic too often. I knew about the stereotypes of Canadians that exist but never really thought they related to me. I didn't think I fell into that stereotype until two British women in London looked at me funny when I apologized to an object I bumped into at a restaurant. I think it took a different environment to learn about myself.

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CW: Tell us about your local neighborhood. Where in London did you call home? How would you describe it to someone who's never been? What did you like and dislike about it? Favorite local discovery?
JL: I lived in the Shepherd's Bush area, right across from the Goldhawk Road tube station. My flat was right above a small chain grocery store and next to the Shepherd's Bush Market. Everything I needed was within a 10 minute walk away. There were also bus stops just steps away from my flat. I didn't spend too much time in my home area because I was often out exploring other parts of the city. I remember my street having lots of textile shops and a variety of restaurants from cuisines around the world. My favorite local thing in the neighborhood was the market next door. I loved how accessible fresh fruits and vegetables at such a bargain price were to me. 

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CW: Explain a day (or week) in the life of a CAPA study abroad student or intern.
JL: Most of us that interned were required to take an internship class with CAPA as well as an additional class. The internship class was a half day morning class with an instructor that facilitated class discussion about the work place, culture and diversity. Reflection assignments were due weekly and made me realize what I was gaining from the experience.

I had 1.5 days of class and 2.5 days of internship, which occupied only 4 days. My internship site was very flexible so I was lucky enough to have most Fridays off! There was one weekday where I got to enjoy a 45 minute tube ride outside of rush hour commuting from school to internship site. I chose my additional class based on accommodating as many full days possible at my internship site. I ended up taking a course in child development. It has nothing to do with my major but I was open minded about a new learning experience. The professor was excellent at engaging the class by asking us questions to think about, especially on field trips, which led me to really appreciate the world I live in today. I learned to enjoy museums at a different level and look forward using a new thought process when visiting more at my next travel destination.

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CW: Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
JL: My goal was to become a Registered Dietitian and it still is. It was an eye-opening experience to see the work behind a national health awareness campaign. Working with the team at Blood Pressure UK taught me many things about myself and the work behind public health promotion. The experience allowed me to work with people outside of the healthcare profession who all contribute to the same cause. I learned the value of a multidisciplinary team outside of a healthcare setting. I believe disease prevention is key to having a healthy population and it is important for public health promotion teams to spread the word. Hopefully, I can contribute to preventative health in the future.

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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? Is there anything you did that you didn't expect to do but particularly enjoyed?
JL: I enjoyed walking over to Kensington Park during my lunch break on days I had a full day of class. It was about a 20 minute walk from CAPA. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I really did! I walked through a beautiful residential area, appreciate the beautiful architecture along the way, ended up at the park, and ate lunch on a park bench. Aside from the beautiful scenery in the city, the Kensington Palace is in the park. Parts of the palace were opened to the public. I didn't expect these sites to be so convenient for me to visit so I enjoyed it the convenience lot more than I expected.

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CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? Are they positive or negative? Why do you think these changes have occurred?
JL: I think budgeting finance is something that I've always worked on but I become even more conscious of it after studying abroad. I don't know if I would identify the change as being positive or negative. I think it's just changing preferences of how I spend and live. I loved my experience in London and it was worth every penny. I was able to live out of one suitcase and a backpack for six weeks. I spent the rest of the summer traveling as well so I actually spent 3 months living out of one suitcase. When I returned back to my normal student life, I realize how many things I didn't need because I value the experiences I gained more than the materials.

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Thanks, Joyce!

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Topics: London, England, London Interview