Alumni Spotlight: Francesca Smeriglio

Frankie is currently a junior at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where there is much more to offer than cornfields. She is from Arlington Heights, IL. You will find her at any coffee shop drinking a vanilla latte, listening to Mumford & Sons, and photography blogging. However, she may not be as friendly as she appears, for she has lost her heart. She believes London is the culprit. The investigation is ongoing and will alert the media if any signs of evidence come about.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

A young girl posing for a picture.

The first thing I do when I talk to my friends about going abroad, is acknowledging their fear. Dipping one's toe into the study abroad pond is a scary thought. I tell them how I cried the morning of my departure. I tell them how I cried in the airport before I left my parents.

I tell them about the crazy rage of feelings I had on the airplane for the entire way there. A mix of nervousness, anxiousness, scared to death, curiosity...the list was endless. And then I tell them my feelings I had in the plane ride home - fulfillment, amazement, hopefulness, I felt changed internally for the better, more cultured, met so many new and amazing friends...that list is also endless.

I tell them that I would have stayed for a year if I could. Once you start to live in a place and adapt to their customs and get attached to it's people, you feel like you've found a new home. You also have this satisfaction of overcoming a fear. And not only overcoming it, but thriving once you crossed that line. I tell them it's amazing what stepping out of your comfort zone can do for you.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

I can talk about the time I went to the Tower of London, the Shard, or the London Eye. All huge tourist landmarks that are breathtakingly gorgeous. Though, some of my favorite times and places reside in the simpler adventures that came my way.

I liked traveling alone - sure it was scary, but it allowed me wander without the constraints of time or direction - literally. Previous to my trip, I had heard a lot about this place called Hampstead Heath. On a free afternoon, I ventured to find it. It was a decent bus ride away, plus a long walk through forest areas with multiple trails to choose from.

I felt like I was walking through a movie - people were swimming in reservoirs and picnicking. I finally see an opening to, well, a heath. I walked out with slight satisfaction that I had finally found it and I sat down amongst many Londoners.

A young woman posing for a photo.

I saw a group of young friends celebrating a birthday, a couple picnicking, people with their dogs, and so many more scenes of happiness that looked like they were from a book. The view over the city was absolutely beautiful. It was there in that moment I knew I had found one of my favorite places thus far on the trip.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

CAPA gives its students so many opportunities to see the city and other parts of the country. It's easy to disregard their emails or throw away the flier that they gave you when you were at class.

But my advice to people going through CAPA is to take FULL advantage of the trips and opportunities they want to take you on. It's so evident that they want us to see as much as we can during our time abroad. Without CAPA, I would not have gotten to attend Wimbledon, Bath, or Stonehenge.

I would not have gotten to try the most authentic of Indian foods (London's specialty) on the famous Brick lane. Seize every chance you get to do something new. And when you're in a foreign country that you've never been to, everything is new. In other words: DO EVERYTHING.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

What made this trip, and every trip, super meaningful, was the people. The people I lived with, worked with, studied with - they made my trip the best it could possibly have been.

People really mean it when they say you truly know someone when you travel with them. Taking on the struggles of adjusting to culture shock with students I had never met before from my own university was a real experience and extremely comforting to me to know they were going through the same thing as me.

Beautiful scenery

Another thing that made this trip meaningful was how many doors open the moment you open yours. Meaning, once you let down your walls, so much opportunity floods in.

In terms of the future, being in London motivated me to find some kind of career path that leads me back here. I now have a light bulb go on inside my head when I see that a company is international.