GoAbroad Interview

Monique Aronsohn - Interim Resident Director

Originally from South Africa, Monique immigrated to California in her early teens and began a career in international education at the University of California, Santa Cruz after graduating from UCSC with a degree in Psychology. Monique relocated to the UK in 2008, where she completed a Certificate in Counseling at Goldsmith's University and a Master's of Science in Clinical Psychology and Mental Health at the University of Sussex. While in the UK, Monique continued to work in international education at the US-UK Fulbright Commission, as Acting Director of the Fulbright Awards Program. Monique oversees the operational components of the CAPA Sydney Program and manages Student Services. Recently relocated to Sydney, she is eager to learn about her new home in Sydney alongside the CAPA students.

Cooking with a friend

Monique cooking with a friend

What does your job at CAPA in Australia entail? 

My role at CAPA is Interim Resident Director here in Sydney, Australia. I run all operational components of CAPA in Sydney and ensure our students have the best possible educational and cultural experience during their time down under. 

Through your position, how do you help individuals join, prepare, enjoy, or successfully complete a program with CAPA?

The safety and wellbeing of our CAPA Sydney students is my number one priority. By providing all of our students with a thorough arrival orientation we give them the knowledge, confidence, and background to go out and explore all Sydney and Australia has to offer! We also hold a number of events, trips, and activities which help our students explore their new home, beyond what the average tourist might see, and our partnership with both ACU (Australian Catholic University) and UTS (University of Technology Sydney) also provides our students with access to the Australian university campus life and integration with Aussie students.

What makes CAPA’s Sydney program different from other programs in Sydney?

CAPA offers students an all-round experience. Our students can take classes in an array of different subjects and experience Australian work culture, first hand, through an internship in their field of interest. Internships are sourced on an individualised basis so that we can ensure the student gains the experience and transferable skills they need for their future, and they get academic credit for it!

CAPA has an events calendar and weekly email that highlights different activities taking place in and around Sydney. This guarantees our students are never bored and always know about things happening in their local communities. All of our students are also encouraged to participate in CAPA volunteering events that allow students to give back to their newly adopted community and further integrate with local Aussies. 

The CAPA program also includes a number of trips. These include hiking in the stunning Blue Mountains, feeding, petting, and “taking selfies” with Australian wildlife, learning about Aboriginal bush medicine, and exploring the hidden gems of the Sydney Opera House, just to name a few!

What makes Sydney perfect for international education experiences?

Sydney is one of my favourite cities in the world. I have lived on four different continents, visited more than 25 countries, and countless cities worldwide, and still feel Sydney is quite possibly the best location for a study abroad program! Sydney has Culture, Location, Weather, Transport, and History, what more could you ask for?

Culture. It is a cultural melting pot, and you may be surprised with just how many different cultures you will find and interact with on a day to day basis. This allows students to learn about European, South American, and Asian cultures, in addition to the Australian way of life.

Location. Sydney is stunning and it seems to have something for everyone! It's quite a large city, which can be surprising for some, but this also means almost anything and everything is available. We have a number of museums, parks, cultural hubs, and of course, beaches! Sydney is known for its breathtaking beaches, coastline. and bay, but if you're into national parks, mountains, or desert, neither is too far and reachable within a day trip.

Weather. With a mild winter and hot summer, nobody ever complains about the weather here! Even in the heart of winter, Sydney more often than not, offers up a crystal blue sky with hardly a cloud in sight!

Transport. Trains, light rail, ferries, and busses; public transport is second to none here. You can get to Melbourne down south, the Blue Mountains out west, or Newcastle up north, all via public transport from Sydney's Central station! CAPA also provides all students with a travel pass for their stay in Sydney which allows unlimited travel within the city.

History. Aboriginal history dates back to 60,000 years ago, and some believe it represents the oldest surviving culture in the world. In Sydney there are close to 5,000 Aboriginal sites, and this is within the metropolitan area alone.

What is a typical day like for participants in CAPA’s Sydney program?

I'm not too sure there is one type of typical day for a CAPA Sydney student as each student has a different class schedule and may or may not be doing an internship. CAPA students typically spend approx four to eight hours a week in class, up to 18 hours a week at internships, and the remaining hours either studying, completing class assignments, or exploring all that Sydney has to offer.

If I had to describe a typical day, it may look something like this:

9 a.m. - 12 p.m.:   Classes

12 p.m. - 1 p.m.:   Lunch with other CAPA students and staff

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.:     Internship

6 p.m. - 8 p.m.:     Exploring one of the many Sydney neighborhoods, festivals, cultural events, CAPA student activity (such as the mid-term dinner) or MyEd event (food crawl through Newtown).

8 p.m. onwards: I like to think they are studying or completing assignments :)

Cooking in a kitchen

How do you ensure the safety of all students in Sydney? 

Each student receives an orientation when they arrive, which covers safety and wellbeing in Sydney. We also have a Sydney police officer come and speak with our students at orientation and answer any questions students may have about safety in Sydney and Australia.

Each student also receives a guide to their neighborhood and an orientation handbook. Both highlight where the closest bank, medical facilities, and other helpful resources are located close to their residence and the CAPA offices. Students staying in apartments also go on a walking tour of their neighborhood, led by CAPA staff, to help familiarize them with their new home away from home.

In addition to the above, CAPA has a 24/7 emergency phone. CAPA students can always get a hold of an in-country staff member no matter the time or day. CAPA staff are fully trained in crisis and risk management and are able to help students in emergency situations.

What is the most important thing participants take home from CAPA’s programs in Sydney, in your opinion?

An unforgettable, life changing experience and a lifelong CAPA family.

CAPA students come from many different U.S. colleges and each student leaves Sydney and the CAPA program with new lifelong friends from across the U.S. and here in Sydney. Your fellow students really do become your CAPA family and it's one of the best things students say that they take away from the program.

What component of CAPA’s Sydney programs makes them stand out from other programs in Sydney?

CAPA in Sydney has two different programs to choose from; our CAPA Sydney Program, which is offered in multiple different locations across the globe and our new UTS STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. 

Here in Sydney we pride ourselves on being innovative in our approach to learning and teaching. Our Capa Sydney Program blends classroom, experiential, and online learning to create a unique study abroad experience for our students. 

We also have weather on our side and beach BBQ student mixers at world famous Sydney beaches are frequent occurrences!

Can we expect any new program developments, excursions, or components of your Sydney programs in the near future?

Coming on board in Fall 2015 and offered through our partnership with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is an exciting new study abroad program for science, technology, engineering, and math students to take classes at a top notch Australian university with fellow Aussie students. UTS is ranked first in Australia and 20th in the world for universities under 50 years old in the QS Top 50 Under 50. The University is also among the world's top 25 most international universities according to Times Higher Education.

CAPA students enrolling in classes through the STEM @UTS program have the phenomenal opportunity of broadening their research skills, knowledge, and international contacts through learning and interacting with international faculty in an international setting. 

When outside the classroom or lab, the CAPA UTS STEM students still take part in the cultural activities, trips, and events organised through CAPA and have access to our 24/7 pastoral care.

This really is an exciting new development for STEM students wanting to complete a study abroad experience in Sydney!