Carly Sirota - 2016 Program Participant

Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Australia
Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

What inspired you to go abroad?

Since I want to work in the sports industry, I knew having international experience would strengthen my resume. I also wanted to travel in an affordable and efficient way.

Why did you choose CAPA?

I have friends who are a year or two older than me and they did the exact same program I eventually did, and they highly recommended it. Because of this, I only looked into CAPA and saw no problems with it. CAPA was especially enticing because of the internship opportunity, and the location in Sydney - a city that has always been my dream to travel to.

What was your favorite part about Sydney?

My favorite part of Sydney was the culture. It was similar enough to American/Western culture that I easily adjusted, but there are enough differences that I had a refreshing semester. I love the accents, the slang, the popular foods and the city vibe. There were plenty of things to do in and out of the city, whether they were tourist-y or for the average Sydney-sider. I also loved that with a 30-45 minute bus ride, I could be at almost any Sydney beach. The beaches are beautiful, clean, and open for most of the year because of the consistently warm climate. It was the perfect mixture of fast-paced city and relaxing beach town, and somewhere I could even see myself living!

Coogee Beach in New South Wales, Australia Day
Coogee Beach on Australia Day

What made your experience abroad unique?

My experience abroad was unique because, unlike a lot of people in my program, I spent most of my time in Sydney. Many people prefer to spend their weekends traveling but I was able to get to know Sydney better every weekend I spent exploring and relaxing. I visited at least 20 different beaches (there's about 400, by the way), rode over the Sydney Harbor Bridge more than enough times, and tried out some new and some favorite foods from back home. I felt like I was living in Sydney, and when I left it was almost as if I was just going on vacation somewhere and would eventually come back to Sydney.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff for CAPA was extremely helpful. They planned multiple (free!) events for students such as dinner, a rugby game, Sydney Harbor cruise, and hike excursion to the Blue Mountains. They were also really active on our Facebook page and always answering any questions we had about classes, internships, or just Sydney in general. They were also on top of reloading our bus/train passes and making sure we could live worry-free. Something I really appreciated was when I lost my wallet on the bus and they gave me a cash loan until I received a new debit card.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would have traveled a bit more, but mostly budgeted better so that I could afford to take a few more trips. I had a great spring break, but otherwise didn't travel outside of the city. Especially towards the end of the semester I was running out of money because I hadn't made a solid budget plan. I had been hoping to visit local Australian cities, and maybe even another country, but flights were a little too expensive for me. Fortunately, I was able to visit the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand, so I definitely didn't miss out on too much!

Koala hug in Queensland, Australia
Holding a koala in Queensland

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Monday-Thursday I was either in class or at work. I'd take the bus or train to my destination with all the other travelers going to work in the city. On work days, I'd have a normal 9-5 schedule with a break for lunch. Usually my coworkers and I would go out for a nice lunch, or just grab something at the food court next door. When I had classes, I'd go in the morning and then usually spend the rest of my day at the library taking advantage of the free wifi. At the beginning of the semester I worked a lot of hours at my internship, so I was able to work a little less at the end and have three-day weekends. Usually I'd try out a new beach, go shopping in a new market I hadn't been to yet, or just enjoy the sights and views of Sydney.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my free time, I would always make plans to go to the beach. The beaches in Australia are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Even if the water was too cold, I still wanted to lay on the sand and relax.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I lived in a student apartment complex. It was right across the street from two universities and typically catered to international students, since many local students just lived at home to save money. My apartment had four doubles, each with a full bathroom, a full kitchen, and living room. I loved that the apartments were new and clean. The apartment complex had BBQ's every Friday, had public computers to use, TV rooms, laundry facilities, and always an RA or security guard at the front desk. I liked all of the resources available, as well as the location. We were right between two malls with three grocery stores, a movie theater, and a few department stores. There was even a doctor's office and pharmacy at the mall, as well as plenty of coffee shops and restaurants.

Bungy jump in Queenstown, New Zealand
Bungy Jumping in Queenstown, New Zealand

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Before participating with CAPA, everyone should know the pros and cons. I loved the program opportunity because I just had to pay one price and my classes, housing, transportation, and activities were all taken care of. I just had to show up to Sydney and everything was already set up for me. In exchanges, usually students have to handle this on their own which can be stressful and tedious. A big con for me was that on a program you're usually limited to socializing with other American students. All of my classes were with others in the program, I lived with those in my program, and there were a lot of us at my internship. Of course, everyone will have Australian coworkers, and most likely they'll be our age. There's also the opportunity to meet Australians while exploring Sydney. This is definitely something to take into account if you're looking to be completely immersed in Sydney culture and life.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

Being abroad took me way out of my comfort zone. This was great for me because I had never left New England and been on my own at this level. Traveling alone and figuring out a big and intimidating city was something new for me, but I'm so happy I got that experience. I learned how to use the bus and train system, traveled around the city independently and really enjoyed my time. I also got to do activities that I would have normally never done, like bungee jumping. Coming back, I feel more independent and like I have experienced so much around the world.

Would you recommend CAPA to others? Why?

Yes, I would definitely recommend CAPA to others. I loved CAPA because of the opportunities to explore your city with included excursions. I also liked the resources available - like the CAPA staff willing to help you out for any reason at all. Also, I was easily able to find classes that fit into my requirements but were also interesting. And the best part was getting an internship that usually is really hard to find back home.