CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Luz Arregoces
Meet Luz, a CAPA Dublin alumna who studied and interned in Ireland during Spring semester 2015. Below, Luz talks about her rewarding internship with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the skills she learned that will be beneficial for her future career, her worries about homesickness and her tips for incoming students who plan on traveling to other European cities.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
LUZ ARREGOCES: Hi, my name is Luz! I spent an amazing semester in Dublin, Ireland. I’m currently a senior at University of Massachusetts Amherst. I’m a Communication major, also working towards an International Relations certificate and a Political Science minor. A couple of my interests since I was little are singing and acting! My sister was always very involved in the arts, and I followed in her footsteps. I love playing tennis, reading, and traveling as much as I can.
CW: Why did you decide to study abroad in Dublin? What was most important to you when you chose a program?
LA: To be honest, Dublin was not originally my first choice. I consider myself a very indecisive person, and found it difficult to choose just one city! One day I was browsing through the various programs, and CAPA really caught my eye. I was so excited at the opportunity to not only study in another country, but intern there, as well. I would say the internship component is what really drew me to CAPA the most. At the first information session I attended, I received a great deal of information and advice, which really encouraged me to stick with CAPA. Both the program and Dublin seemed very welcoming and appealing.
CW: Tell us a bit about your internship in Dublin, your duties and accomplishments. How will this experience help you in your future career?
LA: While in Dublin, I interned at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. This organization helped create a common ground for the various businesses in Dublin, ranging from small companies to multinational corporations. I specifically worked with the Member Retention Department. We worked on keeping businesses active, helping them network with each other, and putting together events. I learned a lot about using different computer programs, such as Excel, Google Analytics, SurveyMonkey, and CRM.
This experience is going to be a lot of help for my in the future. It was my first official internship, which is obviously a big step in itself. However, I was also able to gain experience working in an office environment. I learned not only about Irish business, but how that plays into the global business field. Most importantly, I was able to connect and network with various new people. There are so many social and interpersonal skills I gained, as well as a general intercultural competency.
CW: Explain a day in the life of a CAPA intern.
LA: A day in my life as a CAPA intern started around 7:30am. I had just enough time to get ready before I had to hop onto a Dublin bus. It took about 15 minutes to get into the city center, where I would then walk 10 minutes to the Chamber of Commerce (stopping along the way for a coffee, of course!) I would intern from 9am to 5pm, working on new tasks every day. Some were typical intern activities (mailing invoices, updating Excel spreadsheets). Most of the time, though, I would be able to attend events with many Irish companies. I observed how these representatives interacted and networked with each other, and gained my own insight. At 5pm I hopped on a bus back home. I typically had a warm Irish dinner in Arthur’s, the dining hall at Griffith College. Then it was time for my Learning Through Internships class! This class was a way to discuss internship placements with other students. We could discuss our own experiences, new things we might have come across, or simply talk about how to handle a new workplace abroad. This class made it much easier to adjust to Ireland and the different social norms.
CW: Did you find a sense of community at Griffith College? How easy was it to meet locals?
LA: I definitely found a sense of community at Griffith College. It was a very small campus, which made it easy to find your way around. Sometimes it was difficult to meet locals. It is a very international school, so I met just as many Americans, Germans, French, etc. However, as time went on, it was easier to befriend the locals I would always run into in class or around the city. My best interactions were with the locals at pubs, restaurants, or cafes. The Irish people were always willing to strike up a conversation about anything. I felt so welcomed by everyone. I was lost one day in the city, and could not figure out which bus to take home. A complete stranger was even unsure himself of where I should go, but took time out of his day to look up directions, and even ask someone else walking on the street!
CW: What classes did you take in Dublin? How were your academics different there than in the States?
LA: My internship counted for credit at UMass. In addition to this, I took International Business Environment, Learning Through Internships, and Irish Language. Irish language was definitely my favorite! People might assume that Ireland is very similar to America because both speak English. However, this class showed me that there are still plenty of cultural differences. Our professor was a very nice Irish man who tried very hard to teach us this difficult language. Academics are definitely different in Ireland than in America. I found that assignments had fewer directions included. We would simply receive a short prompt and be expected to write about it. In America, I am used to knowing how many pages to write, which font to use, what size font, etc.
CW: Did you travel outside of Dublin while abroad? What's your best advice for other students planning weekend adventures?
LA: I loved Dublin and all of Ireland. However, I really took advantage of being able to travel to other European cities! I was able to go to London, Belfast, Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, Paris, Athens, and Santorini. My favorite was Amsterdam! My advice for other students would be to be sure to include international travel in your budget. I ended up spending much more money than expected because I had no idea how much I would end up traveling. RyanAir will become your best friend! It is not luxurious traveling by any means. However, it will be much cheaper than trying to travel with a bigger airline.
CW: What were you most worried about before you left for Dublin? What happened in reality?
LA: I was really nervous about being too homesick while living abroad. I missed home a lot as a freshman in college, and thought this would be the same case when I arrived in Dublin. I even came close to convincing myself not to go abroad, or at least do a shorter period of time abroad. However, the CAPA advisors were really helpful with convincing me to be strong about it. They made me realize that it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity! When I finally arrived in Dublin, I realized that I was far too busy to be homesick at all. The CAPA program plans so many activities for you to participate in. This made it easy for me to adjust to the new city, and to meet the other people in my program. I found that I could really relate to all of my roommates. We were all in a new place without knowing anyone, and helped support each other. I still talk to my roommates now, months after our program ended!
CW: Where are the places you've carved out as "Your Dublin" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that are most meaningful for you? What is special about them?
LA: Each day at my internship, I would have an hour break for lunch. To make the most of my time, I would try to eat quickly and then walk around Merrion Square. It was just a two minute walk from my office, and it was really nice once the weather became warmer. Noshington Café was across the street from Griffith College, and has amazing coffee and food! My usual order would be a soy milk latte and a scone. My roommates and I often ordered burgers from Bunsen, in the city centre. This restaurant literally only makes burgers, fries, and milkshakes! I loved sitting by the river on a nice day, taking in the (occasional) sunshine and watching the happy people walk by.
CW: What personal and professional changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program?
LA: I have noticed a great deal of changes in myself since I decided to study abroad. I am a much more independent person now. I am typically a homebody, and do not like leaving my hometown for too long. However, being able to live in another country for four months completely changed my thoughts on this. I was able to meet so many new people, and learn to take care of myself.
Professionally, I believe that I am better equipped for the “real world” after graduation. I have been able to observe how to network efficiently, and connect with people from all different backgrounds. These changes are truly going to help me in the future. I would not change my study abroad experience; it shaped who I am today!