A CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview with Erica Bergmann
Meet Erica Bergmann, a second time study abroader from the University of Massachusetts Amherst who spent spring semester of 2016 on the CAPA Sydney program. Below, she talks about her exciting plans after she graduates next month, shares her favorite foodie experiences from the Land Down Under and talks about travel - where she's been, a few tips and the benefits and downsides of traveling solo versus with friends.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself
ERICA BERGMANN: I’m a senior graduating this upcoming May from the University of Massachusetts Amherst pursuing a specialized Bachelor’s Degree of Individualized Concentration in International Relations with a Focus on Germany. Additionally, I will have completed minors in both German Studies and Political Science. I’m an overachiever, I know. I studied abroad with CAPA in Sydney, Australia in the Spring of 2016 and partook in an internship with DEC PR & Communications.
CW: Why did you choose the CAPA program and why Sydney specifically? What was interesting about your program?
EB: I chose the CAPA program because I jumped at the opportunity to gain valuable international work experience tailored to my studies and professional interests. Most jobs and requirements for even applying to work these days relies heavily on past experience and knowledge. I’ve also always dreamed of the opportunity to visit the Land Down Under and meet up with some Australians I had previously life-guarded with through the Camp America program. Plus, Sydney is a pretty cool and globalized city to explore, work, and live as a 20-year-old!
CW: This was actually your second study abroad trip. Where did you go the first time? How did your experiences compare?
EB: I also studied abroad at the Universität Mannheim in Fall 2015 but ended up living in Frankfurt, Germany with my native boyfriend at the time and his family, which was pretty sweet. I only had classes two days a week (Monday and Tuesday) so I would enjoy traveling pretty much for the remainder of the week or hang out and wander around in Frankfurt. I would say my time in Australia was probably more significant towards my professional experience I gained through working as an intern in a prominent global city.
CW: Where else have you traveled beyond Germany and Australia? Any tips for fellow wanderlusters?
EB: My first semester spent in Germany I went to the following countries and cities…
- (Germany): Mannheim, Deidesheim, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Mainz, Berlin, Darmstadt, Stuttgart, Hannover, Cologne, Munich, Nuremberg
- (Netherlands): Amsterdam, Maastricht
- (Austria): Vienna, Salzburg
- (Czech Republic): Prague
- (Spain): Mallorca
- (France): Paris
My second semester abroad in Australia I went to the following countries and cities…
- (Bali, Indonesia): Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud, Uluwatu, Denpasar
- (Thailand): Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phi Phi
- (Australia): Sydney, Byron Bay, Nimbin, Ballina, Bondi, Manly, Como, Sutherland, Coogee, Cronulla, Port Stephens, Hamilton Jervis Bay, Airlie, Whitsunday Islands
One tip I do have for travelers and students going abroad is to check out and use Skyscanner.com to compare flights, hotels, and car rentals from a collective variety of other travel websites to choose the best or most affordable offers you can find. Bali and Thailand were extremely cheap places to travel to from Australia and get the best bang for your buck!
CW: What are some of the benefits and downsides of traveling solo v. traveling with friends? Any tips for either type of adventure?
EB: Some of the benefits of traveling solo include: you get to plan your own trip and choose where you want to go and what you want to see, you can spend as much time as you want to do select activities, don’t have to depend on other people wasting time or causing delays.
Some of the downsides of traveling solo include: not wanting to go out late at night alone amongst strangers in a foreign country, periods of loneliness and having to have meals by yourself, not having a travel companion or group to share the experience with.
Some of the benefits of traveling with friends include: having travel companions to share and enjoy the experience with, having a trustworthy friend to go out and stay with, and it can be less expensive to share travel costs.
Some of the downsides of traveling with friends include: depending on other people to be on time and maintain a positive attitude, disagreements on where to go and what to see while traveling, and being responsible for other people.
CW: Let's talk about everyone's favorite topic: Food! Where were your favorite places to eat while in Sydney? Did you try any foods you never had before? Anything you miss now that you're back in the US?
EB: I LOVE FOOD!!! My all-time favorite place to go with my friends after a long day at Bondi Beach was Thaiinabox. The Thai massaman, green, red, and panang curries there are to die for. Another spot I really liked to go to for a really fresh brekkie was at Scari Berri along Bondi Beach where I’ve gotten awesome acai bowls and avo toasties. Other than along the beach in Bondi, the CBD and Newtown also had some pretty cool and interesting restaurants and cafes to check out. The CAPA food crawl we went on in Newtown was pretty sweet too so I definitely would not miss out on that!
CW: One of the main draws students tend to have toward Sydney is the incredible beaches! Any favorites? Any to stay away from? What's important to remember when you're enjoying the beaches?
EB: The beaches in Sydney are absolutely breathtaking. I do have to admit that Bondi Beach, probably the most famous and touristic beach in Australia, was my personal favorite. It was the closest beach to get to from work and where we lived in Ultimo, plus the beautiful coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee was there too! The Coogee Pavillion overlooking Coogee Beach was one of my favorite places to go out and meet other Australians at night.
Other beach tips: I would say use lots of sunscreen, and be aware of the rip tides at beaches which can pull you in and drag you out to sea if you are not careful!
CW: What do you see yourself doing when you graduate? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
EB: After I graduate this upcoming May, I plan on traveling with three other students that did the CAPA Sydney program with me last Spring from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Delaware. Collectively as a group, we really want to explore Italy, Croatia, and Greece, especially since we never had the chance to visit these countries before. But before I satisfy my wanderlust cravings, I would like to have a job lined up having to do with international business or global growth and development in New York, Boston, or California.
CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Sydney" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
EB: Obviously, I would have to admit that all of the touristic places like the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Bondi-Coogee Coastal Walk, and all of the beaches I went to were meaningful to me. The CAPA sleepover at the Taronga Zoo was also a unique experience that I will never forget. After all, how often do you get to tell people that you woke up in zoo?! Sydney will always be one of my favorite cities in the world and I cannot wait to have the opportunity to go back and visit Australia again someday
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself, the world around you and some of the larger global issues we face today?
EB: I have learned a lot through reflecting on my experience from studying abroad not just once, but twice, within two very distinct continents while traveling among a variety of countries and different cultures. I am much more independent, proactive, and now have a bad case of the travel bug after living abroad for over 10 months. It made me realize more of what interests me on the international scale, as well as how I am now able to utilize my knowledge of intercultural communication and understanding with others.
Want to connect with Erica and ask what it’s like to study abroad?