By Cole Figus
Studying abroad can be one of the most enriching aspects of an education, and can help students learn about a foreign culture and people. Immersion into a new language and country expands thousands of students’ minds every year.
Lindenwood graduate assistant Mikayla Francese took part in a month long study abroad program this summer through the Institute for Education in International Media (ieiMedia). Francese studied journalism in Urbino, Italy.
According to the institute, ieiMedia “offers journalism study-abroad courses and internship programs that help prepare students for the complex demands of 21st century global journalism.”
Along with Italy, ieiMedia students can also study in France, Turkey, Northern Ireland and Israel, and each program promotes the exploration of a new culture.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to study in Italy because I’ve always been interested in Italy, and I’m Italian,” Francese said.
After an intense application process and a three-month wait to find out if she had made the cut, Francese was accepted into the program. Her next worry was paying for it.
“When I got accepted my parents said ‘congrats!’… How are you going to pay for it?” Francese said. “The biggest challenge was paying for it myself.” She explained that extra loan money and a job at 24 Hour Fitness helped her afford the experience.
Once in Urbino, she combined her interests of Italy and journalism, and began experiencing the people, culture and history of the city. Amidst her journalism classes, she also took a basic Italian class to help with talking to sources.
“It was a culture shock always hearing Italian around you,” Francese said. “It was my first time out of the country, and I went in with an open mind.”
The program prides itself on developing “skills critical for successful journalism and digital storytelling, including the basics of finding and reporting compelling stories with words and images.
“The whole program in general I was really impressed with,” Francese said. “There were Pulitzer Prize winning teachers. And learning about how different people live and how they view life in general made me appreciate living here.”
Mikayla’s projects included creating two small stories and one big story about a mysterious 500-year-old book with an unknown author. This relic from the past is in the shape of a heart, and its writings include music, poems and a journal.
Francese’s journey with the book began with a librarian at the library in which the book was found.
“All she knew was she found the book in the library,” Francese said.
Seeing the book for the first time was a dramatic experience for her.
An excerpt from her article reads:
“In awe, I take the book. I slide the latch, creating the sound of an age-old story unfolding. Dust fills the air as the leather cover opens into the shape of a heart. My finger moves over the dry pages. They are more than five centuries old.”
Her project then turned to learning all she could from interviews with experts involved in the restoration in Italian.
“The most difficult part was working with a translator,” she said.
“You try to get the notes right, but translators aren’t always word for word. It took hours to do.”
Francese’s other articles for the program included an article about the heart-shaped book’s restoration artist, and a how-to on ordering coffee like an Italian. Her articles and the other students’ articles were compiled together and turned into a multimedia magazine that can be viewed online on the ieiMedia website.
“I’m very proud of the final copy of the magazine,” Francese said. “My story took so much time and effort. It was the most challenging story I’ve ever done.”