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How my CAPA study abroad experience changed my life

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(Wojtek Gurak/ Flickr)

(Wojtek Gurak/ Flickr)

Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to travel the world. As a first generation Colombian-American, I was exposed to different cultures and values from the get-go. Balancing a traditional Hispanic upbringing with an oftentimes contradicting American culture was a challenge for my siblings and myself.

However, it helped me keep an open mind to how vast and interesting our world is. When I finally decided to go abroad with the CAPA International Education program in Dublin, I knew it was going to shape the rest of my life.

Among the endless study abroad program options at the University of Massachusetts, CAPA stood out to me from the very beginning. Not only are students given the opportunity to study in another country, but the program also guarantees an internship. As a junior, I knew that it was the most important time to be gaining work experience for my resume. A job in another country seemed like an opportunity I could not pass on.

In Dublin, I was placed at the city’s chamber of commerce. I gained experience in marketing, communication and basic business principles. The chamber has over 1,500 members, including Google, Twitter and SurveyMonkey. I attended weekly events and worked on efficiently networking. My coworkers became my family away from home. Rather than leaving me with menial office tasks, I was allowed to work on big projects like social media campaigns and event planning. I now feel confident relaying these new skills to future employers and being able to explain how I made a difference at my internship.

Most importantly, living in Dublin allowed me to learn more about myself than I could have in any other situation. By leaving my comfort zone, I was forced to go out and take risks. My cell phone use was restricted to places with WiFi, which encouraged me to actually look up and take in my surroundings. Ireland is a beautiful country, rich in history, with rolling green hills and beautiful blue and gray skies. These images will forever stay with me.

I can only say good things about my time abroad and always encourage others to look into options to see the rest of the world. When I speak to students on campus about studying abroad, I always try to pass along as much advice as I can.

Try to set a budget for however long you will be away. There is no doubt that you will be spending money in different ways than you would at home. Set guidelines for yourself, with some flexibility for any unforeseen situations. Make a rough list of other destinations you would like to visit (especially if you go to Europe). You will be thankful later on that you started looking into your choices. Bring a small personal item that has meaning to you! I have had my stuffed animal dog named Jason since I was six, and this was my small connection to home even when I was far away.

Finally, trust that everything will fall into place. There are many components involved in preparing to leave the country. CAPA was very helpful in setting up my study abroad experience in an organized and straightforward way. Although you may be stressed at times, nothing beats how you will feel when the plane finally takes off. Take a deep breath and go for it. You will not regret it.

Luz Arregoces is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “How my CAPA study abroad experience changed my life”

  1. rachel on March 2nd, 2016 7:39 am

    Ireland makes some of the best scarfs in the world;

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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