#StudyAbroadBecause nothing exciting comes from staying in your comfort zone

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Feb 27, 2015 / 0 comments

My name is Nick Papa. I’m 22 and I’m currently in my final year at Salem State University, which is just north of Boston, where I study public relations and marketing. I grew up in the North Shore area of Boston, where we are spoiled with some of the best beaches in New England. I enjoy summer, hanging out at the beach with friends, reading magazines, and being spontaneous. I spent my fall 2014 semester with API in London at the University of Westminster, and I was also lucky enough to be part of the API/University of Westminster internship program!


Nick Papa, London. #StudyAbroadBecause nothing exciting comes from staying in your comfort zone


What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

My main motivation behind going abroad was getting out of the small area where I’ve grown up and gone to school my entire life. I wanted to experience something entirely different and I thought ‘when am I ever going to get this chance again?’ I knew if I didn’t do it I would regret it because that seems to be the common answer among people I’ve crossed paths with. They say “I always wish I had done that, do it while you’re young and have the chance.”

I chose to spend my semester in London. London had everything I was most interested in. It was a big city with a diverse culture where the main language was English. As a public relations major, with hopes of working in the fashion industry, I wanted a place where I could experience the industry first-hand and I was lucky enough to land the internship of a lifetime. The language was also a big factor for me, although I know it shouldn’t have been, but the idea of traveling abroad to a completely foreign culture was scary enough. The opportunities I saw in London outweighed all of my other choices.


What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

My experience was completely amazing. My friends that I made while abroad always talked about how our experience was more of a ‘sophisticated’ study abroad experience. A few of them were also interning and it made us feel that we were actually living in London versus just ‘studying abroad’. I was extremely lucky to be placed with a global fashion brand, working as part of their press team. The opportunity allowed me to meet young, creative people working in the field I’ve always dreamed of and I was able to get a local perspective of London from them. They told me places to go, things to see, and places to have fun. My co-workers made my experience even more amazing and helped make London feel like home.

My favorite memory of London would be the endless amounts of markets. The markets were a place where my friends and I would go on the weekends to walk around and explore. It was a way for us to experience the culture and diversity of the city. Usually, they would lead us to eating the most amazing street foods and finding interesting souvenirs to bring home with us. Being able to get out and walk around the city was also a nice change from hoping in the car to drive everywhere. Normally, I would avoid public transportation if the walk was around 20 minutes because I enjoyed becoming acclimated with my surroundings and there were always new things to see. It was a much better to experience the city on foot versus the crammed tube or sitting on the bus in traffic. 

The main challenge I faced was leaving my comfort zone: a place where I have a solid group of friends, a loving family, and familiar surroundings. I was most concerned about finding people who I would get along with while I was in a completely different country. It’s not like college where you could head home for the weekend to see familiar faces. Luckily, I found the greatest group of friends that made the experience even better and we are still in constant contact. There was also something about London that made the transition a breeze, but I don’t know how to put it into words.


Nick Papa, London. #StudyAbroadBecause nothing exciting comes from staying in your comfort zone


What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?

My skills may be a bit different than those who just study abroad. Interning in an international setting allowed me to experience the business side of the UK, more specifically the ins-and-outs of the fashion industry. I gained immense knowledge surrounding global media, fashion, and corporate structure in the UK. It allowed me to develop skills that will carry me through my career and help to launch my professional life after graduation.
As far as changing personally, yes, I definitely changed. London made me realize so much about who I am and where I want to be. It put my life into perspective and helped me to become more aware and ‘cultured’. How cliché. But, I was enrolled in a class called ‘Art & Society’, which brought us to different museums each week. Museum visits opened my eyes to the art world and made me appreciate the talent and meaning behind particular pieces.


Nick Papa, London. #StudyAbroadBecause nothing exciting comes from staying in your comfort zone


Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?

My study abroad experience hasn’t helped to get me where I am today, but I am confident it will upon graduating. I think with the skills I learned while interning will be appealing to prospective employers and it allows me to look into international careers because I now have connections abroad.


What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?

My number one piece of advice would be to fully immerse yourself in the city and country you're studying in first and worry about travel later. Yes, being able to say you went to 10 countries in three months is ‘cool’, but being able to say you fully experienced your host country to the fullest is much more interesting. Get outside and just walk around. Take in your surroundings and get to know locals because they’ll tell you the real deal. It took me about a month to become comfortable with my neighborhood in London and it took me a while to find my go-to places, but I did. I waited to travel outside London until I was there for a little over a month because I fell completely in love with London and I didn’t even want to leave for a weekend. Yes, it was amazing to see different parts of Europe, but getting the full experience of the city I was living in really solidified my semester abroad.


How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

I guess international education has helped shape me into a more well-rounded person. My studies exposed me to how the UK views certain topics in contrast to how we view them in the States. Learning about topics such as celebrity culture and marketing from a different perspective allowed me to understand the subjects in a different way. After my experience, I think International studies open your mind to more than just the standard teaching and learning methods we are used to, and make you think critically.


Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

In conclusion, I would just say that if you are even remotely interested in studying abroad, don’t think twice. Just do it. It’s an experience that is unlike anything you will ever get the chance to do, and it allows you to expose yourself to new cultures and new ideas. Being scared is completely normal, but every other feeling you will experience during your time abroad will offset your fears.

#StudyAbroadBecause nothing exciting comes from staying in your comfort zone.  


Nick Papa, London. #StudyAbroadBecause nothing exciting comes from staying in your comfort zone



All photos courtesy and copyright Nick Papa