Conversations on Studying Abroad

On Taking a Chance by Leaving the US for the First Time

Aug 21, 2017 10:30:00 AM / by Julie Ritz

A CAPA Alumna Interview: Matthew Leonard

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Meet Matthew Leonard, a Marketing and Supply Chain Management major and Economics minor from the University of Pittsburgh who studied abroad in Sydney during spring 2017. Below, he talks about leaving the United States for the first time, how his internship has made him more confident in his career choice, and shares his top 3 tips for future CAPA Sydney students.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
MATTHEW LEONARD: I'm a Marketing and Supply Chain Management Major with an Economics Minor from the University of Pittsburgh. In the Spring of 2017, I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia. In my free time I enjoy listening to and playing music. I have been playing the saxophone for 10 years and the piano for 3, playing gigs in and around the Greater Philadelphia Area. I also enjoy bowling, weightlifting, and reading.

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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?
ML: Studying abroad was a completely new life experience for me – I had never even traveled outside of the United States before departing for Sydney. Since then, I have traveled Australia and New Zealand, and have begun to make plans for backpacking Europe upon graduation.

Going abroad was potentially a life-changing experience for me. It made me realize how valuable traveling and experiencing new things is for personal development, and that nothing makes greater memories or friendships. I’m lucky to have had a supportive family that was excited for me every step of the way.

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CW: Tell us the story of a favorite experience you’ve had in your free time in your host city. What did it teach you about the world around you?
ML: My favorite experience had to be going away to Surf Camp for a weekend. Surfing is an activity I never felt compelled to try, but the Australian culture and my newfound willingness to try different things led me to sign up with a group of CAPA friends for the camp. It was an incredibly fun experience that led to hilarious stories, better friendships, and even a little bit of a surfing prowess.

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CW: Did you find that there was a sense of community at CAPA? Was it easy to make friends on your program? Tell us about some of the relationships you built abroad that you won't soon forget.
ML: There was definitely a sense of community at CAPA. The living arrangements made it very easy to get close with your roommates and others within the program. I was able to meet students from my own school whom I had never met before, in addition to students from other schools around the country. Some of my best friends from the trip are from Minnesota, so I plan on taking a trip out there to visit them at school in the fall.

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CW: Did you travel outside of Sydney? What are the challenges you faced and advice you can offer other students?
ML: I traveled to New Zealand for a week during spring break, as well as to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef for a weekend. They were both amazing experiences that allowed me to take in the greatest landscapes and nature I’ve ever seen. Traveling definitely requires a bit of resourcefulness – as I learned first hand – even the most well thought out itineraries can become derailed somewhere along the way.

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CW: Tell us a bit about your internship that you completed while studying abroad, your duties and accomplishments. How will this experience help you in your future career?
ML: I interned at a company called Marley Spoon, which is essentially the Blue Apron of Australia. Working at a start-up was a great experience, as while my role was to assist in marketing activities, I was able to get an overview of the entire operation of the business, ranging from procurement – where I spent a day literally on the picking and packing assembly line – to sitting in on a meeting with a distributor to go into a partnership for a new product line. This was a great learning experience, as my second major is Supply Chain Management, and it certainly helped me grasp the full scope of how a business operates.

Beyond this I believe it helped broaden my horizons for jobs I would consider, and industries in which I might be interested. More and more since beginning at Marley Spoon, I’ve found myself setting my sights on one day (hopefully soon) starting my own business and taking my chances as an entrepreneur.

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CW: Talk about your favorite class at CAPA. What have you learned so far? What activities have you enjoyed? How have you been able to apply your new knowledge to the way you explore the city around you?
ML: Hands down my favorite class was Strategic Management, taught by University of Pittsburgh professor Bob Atkin. Bob was one of my favorite professors back at Pitt, and I was thrilled to learn I’d get a chance to take another class from him while in Sydney. The small, discussion-based class allowed us all to get to know each other well, and become very comfortable discussing high-level concepts as a group, which I feel really helped us all process the material.

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CW: How do you imagine that your experience abroad will change the way you approach your environment now that you are back home? How do you think it will change the way you approach your studies?
ML: Going abroad to me, in a sense felt like being a freshman in college all over again. I left for a new place, with a group of strangers, and was able to make friends and live life how I wanted. I think getting another experience like this helped me become more well-rounded, shift some priorities, and look at the world with a better appreciation for all that’s out there.

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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?
ML: My exact career path right now is still up in the air, but I see myself doing something with marketing in a big city. I always saw myself going into advertising, but I’m good with numbers and enjoyed the analytical side of marketing during my time at Marley Spoon.

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CW: Share your top 3 tips for other students heading to Sydney this year!
ML: 1) Make sure you make the most of it. Three months seems like a long time up front, but it’s easy to end up on the last week of your trip still feeling like you had way more to do. Take the time to relax when you need it, but push yourself, try new things, and keep yourself busy.

2) Really try to hangout with as many people in CAPA that you can. In Urbanest, it’s easy to only hangout with your roommates without realizing it – since there’s so many of them. All my roommates were great and lifelong friends, but there were a lot of other cool kids in the program I wish I had hung out with more too. Don’t let your living situation make your friend groups clique-y.

3) Don’t be afraid to spend money (if you can). Sydney is expensive. Really expensive. But don’t let money hold you back from having fun. Be conservative when you can (eat meals in, pack lunches, etc.) but don’t shy away from spending the extra dollar all the time. I certainly overstretched my budget a little bit and worked after the trip to pay some of that credit card spending off, but I have absolutely zero regrets and would do it exactly the same in a heartbeat. Take my advice with a grain of salt and be smart, but money comes and goes; you only have one study abroad experience to last you a lifetime.

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Thanks, Matthew!

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Topics: Interviews, Sydney, Australia, Sydney Interviews