From the Classroom to the City to 54 Goldhawk Road

Guess who’s back in Pittsburgh?

The past six weeks have been some of the most life-changing days of my life.  If you were to tell me two months ago that I would be leaving London with irreplaceable friends, journalism experience, and over ten stamps on my passport, I would not have believed you. What an amazing start to my senior year at Pitt.

In 2018, I was a student in a four-month study abroad program in Rome, Italy through my previous university.  That program was one of the hardest semesters of my life—not only was I exposed to an Italian-speaking country, I was living in a toxic environment with two horrific roommates.  After that trip, I questioned taking any future abroad opportunities and even decided to transfer to my current university: Pitt.  I am thankful that Pitt gave me a fresh college start and opened my eyes to the numerous opportunities for me in London.  Stepping out my comfort zone—yet again—to experience a new culture has changed the way I view my major, my future career path, and myself in general.

The first thing I noticed after I was all settled into my flat was how well everyone within the program got along immediately.  I look back at the events of my first week here and cannot believe that I had only known my peers for a few hours—it felt like I had known them for years! With the help of the CAPA staff and my new Goldhawk family, I felt prepared to take on the next six weeks in the United Kingdom.

My first day as an intern at London Live was an adventure as well. I went right to work within the first hour of my time on the job and began familiarizing myself with new editing software, camera equipment, and co-workers.  Although my internship has made me realize that a career in journalism is not a perfect fit for me, the interesting people I met through interviews and site visits were well-worth the twenty-hour week schedules.  Not only did I get the opportunity to hear the stories of local Londoners and people from all parts of the world, but I also got to share a part of my story with them as well.

Through my internship this summer, I gained proficiency in areas I never thought I would be able to.  I began my freshman year of college as a film and media arts student at a four-year college in Philadelphia.  My first college class ever was an acting class—a class that showed me how good I was at thinking on my feet, expressing emotions through someone other than myself, and how in-love with acting I actually was.  I knew that I wanted to go into a career that allowed me to express different sides of myself, along with present ideas and information. The following semester, I had my first business class and found that I could incorporate all of my passions into a degree in marketing.  Before this program, I hadn’t touched a DSLR camera in over two years.  Having an internship that allowed me to intertwine my film skills with my business classes was extremely beneficial.

Over the past few weeks, I have found that one of the hardest areas to balance while abroad is work versus play; I feel I did a fantastic job allocating my time to fit both my academic and “bucket list” goals—but it wasn’t easy.  I learned that the allocated between arriving at the airport and boarding my plane can be used as crucial “school work time.”  Most of my blog posts throughout the semester were created while aboard an aircraft; this is where—in my— opinion all travel blogs should be written!

My first trip outside of London this month was a last-second trip to the Amalfi Coast.  I am thankful that I got to see Italy in a new light on this trip and create happier memories in the country I once struggled in.  Although I was in Italy for less than thirty hours, I felt like I saw more of Italy that weekend than I did within the four months I studied there.

My second and final major trip outside of the United Kingdom was to Alicante, Spain, with my four flatmates. We decided to travel to a smaller city in Spain for a peaceful, final weekend abroad and enjoy our final days as the iconic “Flat 8.”  I noticed that I kept referring to London as “home” while planning events after our return to Goldhawk road.  Living with students with similar interests and experiences have helped me view London as a “safe” place to personally and academically grow.

This experience through CAPA has helped me create a career plan for after I return to the United States.  My hunt for the perfect MBA program begins as soon as I touch down in Pittsburgh—I have many different factors playing into how I decide which university to attend, however, I am leaning towards staying at Pitt to finish my second degree.  Hopefully, I can stay connected with the Pittsburgh students, Mizzou students, and Minnesota students I met throughout my time at CAPA and possibly work with them throughout the course of my business career.

As the number of my remaining days in London got smaller and smaller, I was both anxious and nervous to return home to the United States.  It will be impossible to find peers, professors, and co-workers like the once I have met throughout this program.  Heading home to a full-time job, roommate drama, and reality to face is intimidating, however, I know that the skills I developed while abroad will help me tackle each obstacle I face.  One of the mottos that I live by (and created) is, “If I can accomplish it in a foreign country, I can accomplish it anywhere.”  Studying abroad has helped me view challenges that once seemed daunting as microscopic issues. Although my first few weeks back home will come with stress and anxiety, I know I will fall back into a comfortable, daily schedule.  When I look back at this experience, I will remember how I “crushed” my summer in London—both in the classroom and all across Europe—and use my optimistic mindset throughout my six weeks abroad as a template to how I should live the remaining chapters of my life.

Thank you Pitt & CAPA London for an unforgettable six weeks.

Charlie