Francesca Smeriglio - 2015 Program Participant

Camden Lock, London, England

Camden Lock

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I've always wanted to travel, but was unsure about when the right time was, where to go, and how I would balance it with school. The CAPA program provided destinations in amazing cities that I've always wanted to go, while combining it with an amazing learning experience that contributed to my educational and business careers. I knew an international program would be a big step, but in the right direction; experiencing classes and an internship in a different country would prepare me for what's soon to come in my future.

Why did you choose CAPA International Education’s Study and Intern in London program?

London has always been appealing to me. I did my homework and read reviews, like the one I'm writing now. Hearing from someone first hand about their experience and how it has life changing effects was enough for me. It's an opportunity you cannot pass up. The CAPA program was super helpful before I even arrived in London. That's how I knew I entered the right program with a great organization.

Visiting Stonehenge in England

Visiting Stonehenge with a friend

What was your favorite part about London?

My favorite part was that we stayed in the smack dab middle of London. The diversity and the sights are unbeatable, and I almost felt like I was in multiple countries at once. I lived in an area that was very heavy with the Bangladeshi culture. I could eat dinner in Chinatown and on my walk home I would see Big Ben, one of the most iconic London landmarks. London has it all.

What makes the program you participated in unique?

The most unique part about my program was the internship side of things. I got experience I would not have gotten in the States. Working with British natives helped me with my transition because I was able to interact with them on a different level. I made connections on LinkedIn, I formed friendships with coworkers I didn't think were possible in eight weeks, and on top of that I received class credit.

How did local CAPA staff support you throughout your program?

The CAPA staff in London is always there ready for your questions. Whether it was directions on how to get to a museum or what was going on that weekend, they knew the 411. The staff also plans day trips around the city on the weekends and makes it worthwhile. You're able to see a part of London and hear its history and how it became what it is today. The CAPA staff is so well educated on the site you're studying in, they were like walking textbooks. You can always trust the advice from a CAPA staff member.

Unique photo of Big Ben

Big Ben

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

Going into my trip, I knew London was super touristy. So I thought I would try and avoid the touristy attractions that cost way too much money and do something else. Looking back, I don't see why I didn't participate in those touristy things. I was scared to stick out as an American and just wanted to blend with the locals. I needed to realize that being used to another culture such as my own is NOT wrong, just different.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Each Monday, I would have half a day of work and then make it to class by 1 p.m. My morning commute to work was an easy 16 minute tube ride to White City. On my way to the tube, I would stop at Pret A Manger (a huge coffee chain in the UK) and get my much needed morning coffee. I loved being a part of the morning rush.

After working for a few hours, I would hop back on the tube towards Kensington, where CAPA is located, and go to class for a few hours. In class I got the pleasure of learning about the global city I had just traveled through. After class, my friends and I would try to do just one thing we could check off our to-do list. We would go to an Indian restaurant (London is famous for its curry!) or head to a landmark for that perfect picture. I feel nostalgic just typing this.

What was your favorite activity outside of your internship placement and coursework?

My favorite activity was going to Wimbledon. This is London's biggest event of the summer. Waking up at 3 a.m. to wait in the famous "Wimbledon queue" (the line) was well worth it. Award winning food, fantastic weather (it was the beginning of July), and getting to watch a classic London sport was all too much fun. We didn't get back home that evening until 7 p.m. The atmosphere is addicting and if I could go back to one day of my trip, it would be the day of Wimbledon.
The Churchill Arms, London, England

Churchill Arms Restaurant

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I stayed in a flat in the Paddington neighborhood. There were eight girls to a flat, with four bedrooms, so everyone had one roommate. There was plenty of space for all of us. We had a living room to hangout in and do homework together and a kitchen to cook our meals in. It was nice because all the students from my university stayed in the same building. It allowed us to get to know each other even faster and hangout as a big group! I always felt safe in our flat.

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

It has helped me personally to get out of my comfort zone. As cliche as this sounds, I truly found myself. I discovered a love for a city that has made me want to return.

You see and learn so much about not only Europe, but this world that we live in. I have returned with a better understanding of culture and travel.
After this experience, I have even considered returning to lovely London to work and possibly live for a few years. It instilled a feeling I cannot let go of, nor do I want to. It was a learning experience I could not have gained any other way.