CAPA Study Abroad Alum Interview: Miguel Lara
CAPA alum Miguel Lara may not have landed his dream internship with a professional soccer team while studying abroad in London, but being placed with a youth offending team ultimately made a great impact on his career since he has returned to the US. Below, he talks a bit about this experience as well as the changes he has seen in himself since studying abroad and gives some solid advice to future students looking to embark on an overseas adventure.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
MIGUEL LARA: Hello, hello! My name is Miguel Lara and I am a CAPA London alum of spring 2014. I am originally from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, but currently reside in Worcester, Massachusetts. In my spare time you can find me in a gym or on a soccer field.
CW: When you studied abroad with CAPA, what were your initial expectations that might not have matched up with the reality of your situation when you arrived?
ML: I wanted my internship placement to be with a professional soccer organization during my stay in London. Having once completed an internship with a professional soccer team in the States, I wanted to expand on that experience on an international scale. Unfortunately, that dream did not come true. I found out I would be placed in juvenile justice system working in probation. I ultimately ended up in the social services department of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Youth Offending Team.
CW: Tell us a bit about that internship experience in London, some of your duties and accomplishments.
ML: My internship kept me busy at three different sites: court, youth juvenile detention centers, and the office. I was required to attend court every Monday to serve as an aid to the speaking probation officer during the first appearance of new offenders. When I was not at the courthouse, I visited bi-weekly two detention centers that were outside the central London location: Feltham Young Offenders Institution and Oakhill Secure Training Centre. During my prison visits, I evaluated the progress of young offenders with the speaking probation officer while providing details about the progress of an offender’s case. And finally, I spent my time at the office working on intervention projects for new offenders with the hopes of having these projects adopted by probation officers.
CW: Give an example of a valuable contribution you made to your internship site abroad and how it impacted the operation of the workplace.
ML: My supervisor did not give me much room to make solid contributions to the office because he was concerned that there was not enough time to fully integrate a new intervention project with my limited stay in England. However, I was able to co-assist in the making of an intervention project with Westway Sports Centre. We created a cooking and nutrition program that would highlight the importance of health and fitness for teens. It was nice knowing that during my limited stay I could put my name to one project that may have benefited a young offender, which ultimately kept him or her off the street away from violence.
CW: How has your career developed since you returned to the States? What are you up to now that you've graduated?
ML: I have to say, I have been blessed. Since coming back, I landed an internship and a permanent position with the federal judiciary.
CW: Do you feel your study abroad and internship experience gave you an edge over your peers? If so, how so?
ML: Absolutely, I whole-heartedly agree that study abroad is the way to go. Studying abroad allows students to persuade employers about the importance of a domestic and international perspective in certain industries, which could ultimately be a huge benefit to some companies.
CW: Share an example of how you have communicated your study abroad experience in job interviews.
ML: One of the ways I have used my study abroad experience in my interviews is by highlighting the fact that I was exposed to different cultures and practices while abroad. Having immersed myself into the British culture in a short time, I told employers that I am able to acclimate to new spaces in quick time and that I could do the same if I worked for them.
CW: What challenges did you face when you returned home, if any? How did your friends and family react to stories of your experience abroad?
ML: To be honest, I did not really have any significant challenges other than going “broke” towards the final days. Money became tight but I made my experience neat out in London by not only interning with the Youth Offending Team, but I also refereed soccer on the weekends which is something I love to do! My family was really looking forward to hearing about my experiences.
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
ML: I think my experience urged me to appreciate the different spaces I occupy and how each space is unique in its own ways. I made an effort to go beyond Central London into spaces that weren’t “tourist-like” which allowed me to appreciate the culture even more. Furthermore, London showed me how unique and special our world is. People from all over the world tour London every day, and it is just fascinating how we can all be so different in backgrounds while occupying the same space. I don’t know – something about London was unique as opposed to other areas.
CW: What advice would you offer students currently studying abroad or considering a program?
ML: I offer a suggestion to those considering: see what kind of return you will get from your study abroad program. Whether it is research you would like to expand on an international scale with the hopes of bringing back to the US or an internship that could be showcased on your resume. While it is nice to tour and have fun in a new city you have never been to, see what else you can do that can really make your experience much more than just studying and touring a city. If you have the opportunity to do it, do it. Financially, it was difficult for me to study in London but I made it work. If you want to study abroad so badly, I know you will find a way to make it work.