#StudyAbroadBecause I didn’t learn it, I lived it

Stasia Lopez's picture

Cassidy Davis is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, where she received two degrees, one in Communication and one in Digital Media. She also graduated with a Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies certificate and a minor in Theater. She has spent all three of her summers in college interning in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. She first interned for Susie Farris Casting, and then worked for CBS for two summers. The first time at CBS she interned for a production company called The Tannenbaum Company, and the second time she worked for Entertainment Tonight and Insider. Now Cassidy is moving to Los Angeles full time to pursue acting and to work for BGB Studio & Casting, where she will be working under Risa Bramon Garcia, who is currently the casting director for Masters of Sex on Showtime. 
Cassidy Davis: #StudyAbroadBecause I didn’t learn it, I lived it

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
My experience abroad was definitely a unique one. I actually had the privilege of growing up in Italy due to my dad’s job at the time, so I am fluent in Italian and spent many summers going back there to visit my close friends. Coming into college already having had a lot of experience abroad, I knew I definitely wanted to keep traveling and exploring new places, but I was reluctant to leave for an entire semester because I was a member of the University of Pittsburgh Dance Team and I didn’t want to miss dancing at any of the football or basketball games. So I came across the Undergraduate Research Office, where they offer opportunities to travel abroad and research a topic completely of your choice. I fell in love with this idea, and was able to be a part of the London Field Study, where we spent two weeks in London in the summer, as well as the New York Field Study, where we spent our spring break in New York City. 

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?
My experience abroad was unlike any other experience I have ever had. I was able to travel to these cities through the Undergraduate Research Office and spend an entire semester researching and studying a topic of my choice. Due to my interest in the entertainment industry, I chose to research gender stereotypes in British and American family-based sitcoms. During the semester I watched six family based sitcoms, three American sitcoms titled Modern Family, Blackish, and Mom, and three British sitcoms titled Cuckoo, My Family, and Mrs. Brown’s Boys, in order to compare the representation of men and women within sitcoms internationally. Then during my time in London and New York City, as well as some time in Pittsburgh, I was able to interview over twenty-five people on my topic. The people I interviewed were television professionals, gender or television professors, television critics, and the writers and the creators of the sitcoms I was researching. As a result of my research, I created a documentary where I included clips from all of my interviews in order to inform others on my topic and start a conversation about gender representation on television.  

One of my favorite memories from going abroad occurred when I was in London. There was a group of us that were in London doing research, and when we weren’t spending our time working on our projects we spent it exploring the city. One of my favorite memories of our time together is when a group of us decided to fly to Paris for twenty-four hours because it was a city all of us really wanted to see. So we got on a flight at 6 am and went to Paris where we spent the day walking around the city, eating baguettes and cheese, and getting to experience a whole new culture. I loved how spontaneous and adventurous it was, and it inspired me to keep traveling and exploring new places. 
Cassidy Davis: #StudyAbroadBecause I didn’t learn it, I lived it

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 
My experience abroad growing up in Italy definitely changed who I am today. I understand and appreciate Italian culture like it is my own, and feel at home when I am there. It also helped me to never fear new experiences because of how amazing and life changing they can be. It also taught me how to adapt to new environments and thrive within them. The skills I developed when I traveled to London and New York City definitely inhabited that fearless mindset, as well. Going to a completely new city that you don’t know can be intimidating, but going into it with an open mind and a desire to learn can completely change how you look at the culture. I also think it is really important to push yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time. My time abroad taught me to embrace words like new and unique in a whole new way. 

Going abroad through my research also taught me to never be afraid to reach out and talk to people. I contacted all of my interviewees on my own, which meant a lot of cold-calling and emailing, but if I had been too afraid to put in the time to find people’s contact information, or too afraid to pick up the phone and call them, I never would have been able to meet the people I had the privilege of interviewing. In the end I was able to interview an Emmy-winning screenwriter, the lead television critic of The New York Times, and the creators and writers of five out of the six sitcoms I was researching, as well as many other people. It blew my mind that everyone was so willing to speak with me, but it taught me, again, that inhabiting this fearless mindset could bring so many new and exciting opportunities into my life. 

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 
I think any experience abroad really influences who you are as a person, and I know that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without my experiences in Italy, London, and New York City. Now I am not afraid to move across the country to Los Angeles because I have been to new cities before and I know how to adapt to a new environment. My experience abroad has given me that confidence to go anywhere and everywhere, and it has fueled my desire to keep traveling and exploring. As a result, I think traveling will always be a part of my life. 

My experience has also helped me with what I want to do for my future career due to the topic that I was able to research. Now I can walk into my first job out of college and feel more confident in my knowledge and experience within the industry. My time with the Undergraduate Research Office has completely shaped my academic experience by allowing me to design my own curriculum for a semester. In the end, I have not only fallen in love with my research, but the industry itself, and it has made me feel that much more certain in what I want to pursue after college. 

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?
I would definitely advise to go abroad - no matter what. It can be anywhere! Just going somewhere that you haven’t been before, on your own, will teach you so much about traveling, about the world, and most importantly about yourself. Although at times it can be expensive to travel, I would advise looking into other options, such as the Undergraduate Research Office, which allows you to design your experience abroad to make it completely your own and walk away with a completed independent research project. There are a lot of opportunities out there like this that allow you to travel without spending a lot of money, and I highly recommend looking into them. Immerse yourself in a new culture and you will be amazed at how much is out there for you to learn and be a part of. 

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
Since I didn’t take classes when I went abroad in college, the only experience I have with international education would be when I lived in Italy. I started kindergarten in Italy, at an English International school, and stayed there until I was in third grade. All of my teachers were British, but almost all the students were Italian and were being sent to this school to learn English. Therefore, everyday I was completely immersed in the Italian culture. I was usually the only one in my class who spoke English, so I had to pick up on the Italian language very quickly if I wanted to make any friends. I will never forget that school and the impact that the international education had on me as an individual and a student. I felt like a true Italian every day. We would have three course lunches and get gelato after school. I made friendships at that school with people who didn’t speak a word of English, and those are friendships that I still cherish today. It was less about what I learned in the classroom everyday, and more about being completely immersed in a new culture. When you are immersed like that, especially at a young age, you don’t question it. You just join in. Now I can walk away with an understanding of Italian culture that is better than anything I would have learned in a classroom because I didn’t learn it, I lived it, and that’s the benefit of going abroad. 

#StudyAbroadBecause I didn’t learn it, I lived it


Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando.


All photos courtesy and copyright Cassidy Davis