Staff Spotlight: Anne McDonnell

CAPA Manager of Pre-Departure Services
Anne McDonnell graduated with a B.A. from University of Massachusetts – Amherst in Spanish Language and Literature. She spent a semester in Seville, Spain and backpacked around Europe and Morocco immediately following the experience. Anne has been a part of CAPA’s program management team since June 2006. In addition to working on the Pre-Departure team in the Boston Office, she has spent time working as part of the International Program Services team in the CAPA Madrid Study Center during the summers. She is an avid traveler and loves to seek out new international experiences. Recent trips include India, South Africa and Peru.

Did you study or intern abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Anne McDonnell - CAPA Manager of Pre-Departure Services

Anne: I studied abroad in Seville, Spain in the Spring semester of my junior year. I would say that my major dictated my study abroad plans, but in truth, my study abroad plans had some influence upon my major. I was undecided as to what career path I wanted to follow, but the opportunity to solidly build upon the language skills I had developed in middle school and high school seemed like a valid goal. I had dreamed of studying abroad since I had first even learned it was a possibility. I have to admit – I actually decided upon Spain after being inspired by the silly illustrations of Spain in my Spanish language texts books in middle school and high school, as well as a very old Berlitz Spanish-English dictionary. For whatever reason, these pictures completely captured my imagination about the place and lifestyle of Spaniards. Spain exceeded every expectation I’d held, and having now also had the opportunity to return and spend three summers in Madrid, remains one of my favorite destinations.

What aspect of working at CAPA inspires you the most?

Anne: Studying abroad was not an immediately accessible path for me, and I wasn’t sure if my financial reality was going to allow me to realize my dream of going abroad. I will never forget the day in which I was told that yes, I could actually do this, after meeting with my financial aid advisor. Being able to work alongside students in similar scenarios and providing whatever support possible to assist them is so fulfilling to me because of this. I know, from personal experience, what impact guidance and support can have in helping a student to make this a reality.

How do you see the field of international education changing over the next 10 years?

Anne: I hope to see more people going abroad to new locations and engaging in different activities. The concept of incorporating an international experience into your education is now become inclusive of a variety of opportunities – from internships and service learning, to multi-destination programs, and still direct enrollment in overseas universities. A diversity in student experiences will simply enrich the manner in which these experiences can be used and applied after the program.

If you had to choose one, what destination would you recommend to prospective students? Why?

Anne: If I had the opportunity to go on one of our programs, I would likely choose Istanbul. Although I was only able to spend a few days in Istanbul, I found it to be such a captivating city – truly a location that envelopes you in an incredible energy. Additionally, the opportunity to study alongside other international students at Bilgi and enroll in courses that delve into the topics of politics, security, international relations in a city that is poised between two continents would be incredible. Ultimately though, it’s about finding the location that is going to be the best laboratory for learning – the place that will challenge you, excite you, and continue to push you during your experience.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering going abroad?

Anne: Go early and often. My greatest regret was not going more than once. My time in Spain left me with an incredible desire to study abroad in Latin America. Although I could have gone again my second semester senior year, which proved challenging as I was in the midst of a job search. I wish that I had gone abroad in my sophomore year so as to making going abroad again in my junior or senior year more feasible. Although the experience may seem daunting to plan for the first time around, you can use that knowledge and experience to your advantage in your second or third time studying abroad.

Any tips for first time travelers?

Anne: Don’t bring a hairdryer with you. Ever. No matter how fancy your converter/adapter kit is, inevitably your hairdryer will end up being ruined in your second night abroad in a hotel in Toledo, as will your converter/adapter kit. NOT that I speak from personal experience or anything… At any rate, it’s not worth the time or hassle or space in your luggage. If you need a hair dryer, purchase one once you arrive overseas.

Anything else you would like to share?

Anne: Don’t travel every weekend. If you study in Europe, save your money and get a Eurail pass and go backpacking after your semester. Europe is more than cities and airports. Visually experiencing the changing landscape, meeting other travelers, having the opportunity to use your Eurail pass for spontaneous changes, whilst also knowing that you maximized your experience in the place you chose to study is really the best advice I can give.