#StudyAbroadBecause you get to learn about the world around you

by Stasia Lopez /
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Feb 26, 2015 / 0 comments

Erin Sanderson is a Film Studies and Communications double major at the University of Pittsburgh. She studied with the Pitt in London program for a semester, which was through the provider, CAPA. She’ll be going abroad again briefly in April, where she’ll spend 10 days in Ireland. Erin has had three internships: Dick Clark Productions in Los Angeles, Quintessentially Creative in London, and on the show 48 Hours with CBS News in New York City. She was the recipient of the Ambrosio Internship Award, which granted her $5,000 to intern with CBS News. She also has been working with the nonprofit organization, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, for three years. Erin will be graduating in April 2015 and is hoping to find a job that allows her to travel the world and document it.


Erin Sanderson. #StudyAbroadBecause you get to learn about the world around you and have adventures you'll never forget!


Were you always interested in studying abroad? What motivated your decision to go abroad?

I've been interested in studying abroad since I learned it was a possibility. This was probably in first or second grade. I've always wanted to see more of the world and learn about other cultures, and that desire is still within me


What was your study abroad experience like? Describe the courses studied and basic outline of your experience.

Studying abroad was easily the best, most fulfilling experience of my life. I'm sure a lot of people say the same thing, but that's because it is entirely true. I took a British Film course, an International Economics course, and a course called British Broadcasting Today. When I wasn't in class, I was either working at my internship or exploring the different boroughs of London. My apartment was in Camden Town, and my flatmates and I spent a lot of time in the Camden Marketplace. There was always something to see there. Also, because our transportation was paid for, it was so easy to take the Underground to different neighborhoods and allowed us to see an incredible amount throughout the city. I also was able to travel outside of London; I went to Bath and Stonehenge in England, and also visited Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Cork in Ireland.


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

Going abroad definitely improved my communication skills, since I had to cope with being a new American intern in a tense office environment. It also helped with my organization; I was always the planner with the trips that my friends went on, and I had to keep everything orderly and ready to go for our travel arrangements.


Erin Sanderson - #StudyAbroadBecause you get to learn about the world around you and have adventures you'll never forget!


What were some challenges that you observed that happened on your study abroad experience?

One of the most intense challenges about going abroad was coping with finances and expenses. While I was there, the American dollar was at an all time low in comparison to the British pound. It may not seem like a huge deal while we're in the US, but while I was overseas, budgeting was a difficult time. There was no meal plan, which I had become accustomed to while at college, and I wasn't making any money while I was there. I've constantly had a job since I was 16, so not having an income was definitely a struggle.

Another challenge was navigating through such a large cities. I had to learn how to effectively use maps and atlases, and couldn't rely on technology, since using a cellular phone was such a process when I have a contract here in the States.


How did you prepare to go abroad? What steps did you take that really helped you? What advice would you share with other students? Did you have to attend a pre-departure orientation?

In preparation for London, I made sure to do my research. I checked the normal weather patterns for the city during the fall and packed my clothes in accordance. I also went out and bought electrical outlet converters, which proved to be extremely helpful. I brought a money belt for traveling, which sounds terribly lame, but it came in handy, especially because a lot of people around me were pickpocketed in populated areas. I had to call my bank and my phone provider in order to let them know I was leaving the country. I would tell other students to make sure to get a debit or credit card that is accepted in other countries; I got mine at AAA and it's easy to add money to it online. I had to attend a pre-departure meeting with the University of Pittsburgh, where they told us about the culture of London and tips and tricks to navigating the city.


Erin Sanderson - #StudyAbroadBecause you get to learn about the world around you and have adventures you'll never forget!


Many students worry about the cost of going abroad. How did you pay for you study abroad experience? Were there any scholarships and grants available? Any tips you would recommend to students who’re interested in going abroad?

I would say that the cost is definitely a valid thing to be worried about it, but I had saved for a while and my parents helped me out with some expenses. There are lots of grants available for people who qualify for them, so make sure to apply to as many as possible! Some people even take extra student loans out in order to study abroad, and I would say that it's totally worth it, since you'll be gaining such an incredible experience. It helps to make budgets when you get to the country you're studying in. If you plan out weekend, meal, and travel expenses ahead of time, money becomes a lot more manageable.


Did anything about your study abroad shock or surprise you? If so, explain. Do you have a favorite memory to share from your experience abroad?

One of the funny things that shocked me about going abroad was the difference in food that people ate and the products available at grocery stores. My parents sent me a care package during my time in London and included Swedish Fish, one of my favorite candies. I brought them to work with my lunch, and my coworkers were awestruck by them. I barely got to have any, because everyone in the office loved them so much! Also, if you're in any other English city besides London, it's difficult to find peanut butter.

One of my favorite memories was our Thanksgiving dinner, which was hosted by CAPA. The food was not exactly traditional for Thanksgiving, but it was such a sweet gesture for them to put on such a large event to make us feel more at home. I also loved visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences I've ever had.


Once you returned from your experience, how did you reflect upon your study abroad experience? 

When I returned from London, I posted several different entries on a blog I used to share with my friends. I also used several different social media platforms to share my pictures. And I made a fun scrapbook with a lot of the photos I took!


Did your study abroad experience ever come up in a job interview? If so, explain. Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?

When I was interviewing for my internship at CBS News, the head of the internship program asked if I had traveled abroad and I got to showcase my experience in London. It turns out that she studied in Dublin when she was in school, and she found international experience to be impressive for a resume. Because of this aspect of my education, I got the internship and got to make a great connection, since we bonded over our experience overseas.


How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

As a student who has experienced culture overseas, I feel as if I know more of the world and the people in it. Being exposed to different environments and seeing different ways of life has really changed my perspective on the way we live our daily lives.

It also made me want to see and experience even more of the world.


Anything else you’d like to share?

I guess one of the biggest things I'd like to tell students going abroad is to keep your mind open. Some of the most amazing experiences could come from unexpected things. I originally didn't want to go to Amsterdam because of the stigma that some people associate with the city. It ended up being absolutely beautiful and historical, which I would have never expected.


Erin Sanderson - #StudyAbroadBecause you get to learn about the world around you and have adventures you'll never forget!


#StudyAbroadBecause you get to learn about the world around you and have adventures you'll never forget!





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 Erin Sanderson