Rachael Taft

Rachael Taft

Intern Abroad Expert
St. Petersburg, FL

Member for

5 years 5 months

Growing up in the Midwest, Rachael couldn't wait to get out and see the world. She's studied abroad in Italy and Thailand, interned abroad in Sydney, worked abroad in Australia and Fiji, and traveled to 30+ countries, including backpacking solo across South America. In addition to working in international exchange, Rachael obsesses over all things her blog Girl, Unmapped.

University
University of South Carolina
Travel Experience
0-5 Countries
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Reviews
Rachael Taft
Rachael
8/10

WARNING: This is going to be a long and thorough review. I just want to get all the details out there so you can make an informed decision on whether you should intern abroad with CAPA in Australia, and how you should prepare for it.

Let me start off by saying, you are paying a lot of money for this experience, so don't feel bad being a little pushy to get what you want. Australia is awesome, and I will get to all the fun stuff about living there later but the internship is supposed to be the most important part of your experience.

If you are set on a certain field, do not settle for an internship in a different one. Once you have been accepted into the program, pick up the phone and call someone at CAPA and discuss what you really want from your internship and what experience you are looking for. Maybe they will even have to direct you to someone in Australia, but I believe it is really worth doing this. As I said, you are paying a lot of money to them, they should be able to help you get what you want from the experience. Once they have assigned you to a place, ask if there have been other interns that have worked there and see if you can get in touch with them. If they tell you they were just fetching coffee all day every day, then ask to be put somewhere else.

I say this because I didn't do this. I was living in Asia for the whole semester before my program, and when I saw I was placed in a PR agency (as opposed to my requested advertising), I just accepted it because I didn't have reliable access to phone or internet at the time. I probably could or should have said something when I arrived in Australia, but I didn't want to cause problems. Well, sometimes you have to cause problems or you might regret it later! (Not that I regret my experience overall.)

The reason I say this, is because I felt CAPA got a little lazy in placements. I don't feel that they actively sought out new places for interns. In my case, I was placed in a PR firm that basically had a new intern every few months. The agency was attached (literally) to an advertising agency. They were under the same parent company and were on the same floor of the building. All CAPA really had to do was make a phone call and I probably could have been placed there. They actually shared a printer and I would sometimes sneak materials out of the recycling just to get a glimpse at how such things from a real ad agency looked! Pathetic, I know, but I didn't at the time feel I could do anything about it. Looking back, I could have brought this up to CAPA or even just asked to spend some time across the hall in the other agency just to learn a little bit.

Again, I don't necessarily regret anything. It is good to have some PR experience (though I had other friends in the program who were placed in PR agencies where they got to do much more interesting work), but the atmospheres between the PR and ad agency were like night and day. My agency was extremely high stress -- I had one co-worker that was always crying -- and the ad agency... they had a foosball machine in their common area, just to give you an idea.

This is all why I recommend trying to get in touch with a past intern from your placement. Or pushing CAPA to find you a new place. Some people in my program must have been the only intern their company had had, because I couldn't believe some of the gifts they were showered with. Very expensive free dinners, experiences like climbing the Harbor Bridge. This of course isn't what the experience is about, but it's definitely a nice bonus! I, on the other hand, being one in a string of interns, couldn't even rely on my former supervisor to give me a recommendation when I moved back to Australia a couple years later. I had emailed with him and he agreed to be a reference. When a potential employer called him, he said he couldn't remember me!

However, if you maintain a good relationship with your supervisor and coworkers after you leave, it could be hugely beneficial to you. And one last note on the internships themselves... if you have any interest in journalism and writing, this could be an amazing opportunity for you. There were a couple interns at travel magazines who got all-expenses-paid trips to write about places in Oz! Can't beat that!

CLASSES
Also, your internship is four days a week and you have class one day a week (most weeks). Sometimes the classes were helpful at giving you some perspective on your internship, what you wanted to get out of it, etc. Sometimes you learned interesting things about Australia. Sometimes the class feels a bit useless. We had to do projects on famous Australians, which seemed a little bit like we were in third grade again or something. It was interesting to learn about some people, but kind of a waste of time. I'd rather have spent time doing a worthwhile project related to my internship, or getting us involved in the community.

Ok, I know this is getting long, but moving on.

HOUSING
We had an issue where the normal student housing was canceled on us (apparently maids were stealing?) and we were moved to this other building which sadly no longer exists. At first everyone was upset - we're paying all this money for this nice housing downtown (with maids) and suddenly we're dumped in a slightly sketchy part of town in a ragged building where there most certainly are no maids. People complained for a few days, then we realized this was actually the best thing ever. We instead were in almost a hostel like place (and all had our own rooms, though shared bathrooms) with students from all over the world. There were people from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America. Everyone was friends - cooked dinner together in the shared kitchen, went out together, etc. This MADE my experience.
I'm assuming CAPA has probably moved back to the boring all-American housing (worth asking about), but this doesn't mean you can't make some friends outside the American-student-bubble. Befriend your coworkers. Go out to bars, footy games, coffee shops in other neighborhoods around the city and meet people. Get involved! Volunteer at the pet shelter or participate in that Guiness-Book-World-Record of most people to eat a pizza as long as a cruise ship. (Yes, this happened when I was in Oz!)This will make your experience so much better.

COST OF LIVING
Australia has gotten very expensive. From the time I interned there in 2008 to when I moved back in 2010-11, prices had skyrocketed and the AUD and USD had become even. Even though CAPA gives you gift cards for grocery shopping (which I never seemed to use all of, but that may have changed with the prices) and a metrocard each week, there are still plenty of other expenses. You're going to go out (warning: drinking is really expensive!), you're going to want to maybe do a little travel, buy some souvenirs, buy a cell phone/get a SIM for your iPhone (the minimum phone card is $29/mo. with Vodafone), etc. Make sure you have plenty of money. I'm sure CAPA can help you with this. On a high note, they do have a couple nice meals for you at the beginning and end of the program (so just cook your meals and save your money!), plus a day trip or two, included.

SUMMARY
You are guaranteed to have fun in Sydney. It is an amazing city. It's likely the other people in your program will be great - you all are there for the same reasons (hopefully). The city is full of an incredibly diverse mix of super friendly people. It's hard not to love it. There is so much to see and do in Sydney (and in Australia, if you have the time and money to do a bit of traveling). Just a few things to leave you with.

(Our) summer in Australia is actually (their) winter. It isn't going to snow, but it WILL be cold. And there will be rainy days. Bring appropriate clothing. That being said, there will be really nice days too so don't fret.

Traveling during your internship isn't impossible. You do have three day weekends, and could possibly even get a day off from your internship. Budget airlines like Tiger and Jetstar (even sometimes Virgin and Qantas) can be affordable. In the beginning of the program, STA or some similar agency presents to you a bunch of options. Most people go to the surf camp. I didn't, but in the end I found that booking everything on my own was cheaper. I was able to fly to Aerlie Beach and take a weekend sailboat cruise to the Whitsundays/Great Barrier Reef, as well as a weekend trip to Hervey Bay and the Gold Coast to visit Frasier Island and the Australia Zoo. It's possible.

Finally, my biggest recommendation: do the longest possible option. I did the two-month version of this internship. I do believe they offered a three-month version. DO THIS. You will get so much more out of your internship (many of the people who got do the coolest things at their internship were on the longer option), and you will be glad you have more time to spend in Australia. I can guarantee you will not regret it! And perhaps you will love Australia as much as I did, that you will move back after you graduate. It's easy on the Work & Holiday visa, or maybe your company will love you so much they'll sponsor you! ;)

How can this program be improved?
I would require a more in-depth discussion (or any at all!) with an advisor at CAPA about your internship and what you want to get out of it. I would like to see them put more effort into getting you exactly the kind of internship you want in the field you want, even if they have to go find new companies. And I would like there to be more of a process in place if you come to Australia and find your internship is not fulfilling.
Yes, I recommend
Rachael Taft
Rachael
7/10

I imagine this is a problem for any program in Florence, but there is very little immersion with API and LDM.

API is great if you have never been abroad before and are nervous, but I felt there was almost too much hand holding.

The accommodations are extremely nice. We had a huge apartment right downtown, within close walking distance of classes... and in a building full of other American students. Yes, the social life can be great, but I didn't go to Italy just to party with other Americans.

The same goes for the classes. The subjects are really interesting, there is some challenge but they aren't overly difficult, but all the other students are American. I had one Mexican girl in my Intermediate Italian class, and the rest were Americans. There is no difference of perspective, except perhaps from your teachers (at least most are Italian).

Overall, there is a lot of support in this program, great housing, interesting classes, and little cultural immersion. My Italian only improved because I had some previous study, my professor was challenging, and I traveled a lot and stayed with Italians (luckily, my roommate had relatives still living in Italy).

Too many of the students go with closed minds and spend all their time partying in Florence's clubs with other Americans and the Italians who party there just to meet Americans. Then they sit and complain that they can't split checks when they go out to dinner or that things aren't exactly like America. I have nothing against sorority girls from Long Island, but they seemed to make up 75% of the students and they had no interest in having any kind of an authentic experience.

Lastly, this is a pretty expensive program. It includes a lot of field trips, including an overnight one in a hotel, but I would have rather paid less and just done those trips on my own. (Again, more hand holding.) The housing must also be extremely pricey. I wouldn't mind living a little further out of the city around actual Italians. I was prepared to live in a tiny apartment, not a gigantic loft.

All of these views are from my experience in Spring 2007, so perhaps things have changed. Just my opinions.

No, I don't recommend

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