By Nicole Gennarelli
Twenty-four students from Kent State’s College of Communication and Information traveled to London May 10-27 for a life-changing study abroad experience where they engaged with different cultures to grow both personally and professionally.
Kent in London: Global Ad & PR, taught by JMC Assistant Professor Danielle Coombs, Ph.D., and JMC Associate Professor Michele Ewing, was designed to provide an academically challenging yet professional study abroad experience for students interested in communication careers. The two-part course began in January when each student was expected to select an area of expertise. These areas could be content focused (health and beauty, fashion or sports), role-focused (copywriting, event planning or management), or media-focused (social media, television or print). During the semester the students researched and presented a multimedia presentation on their area of expertise in relation to the United States. Once in London, students began to research the same area in relation to the United Kingdom. The final presentation compared and contrasted the differences between the student’s area of expertise in the two locations.
“The Global Ad & Public Relations course focused on a comparative research project to help students develop an area of expertise and learn about the influence of cultural differences in advertising and public relations strategies,” Ewing said. “This cultural understanding will give students an edge when they interview for internships and jobs.”
The location gave students the chance to acclimate to London and become part of the city. Dr. Coombs’ husband worked in England for several years and is originally from London, so her familiarity and connections helped play a key role in the success of the course.
“If you look at advertising and PR, London, Paris and New York are where all the big agencies are located,” Coombs said. “In terms of the content we wanted to study, London is the place to be. I wanted it to be in one city so the students could get to know that city. When you try to hit a bunch of cities in a short period of time, you wind up not really knowing any of them really well. Our students got to know people in the community and got to know London.”
The students visited “we are social,” a global conversation agency; “Action Aid,” a non-profit charity dedicated to ending poverty; “Mother;” a major advertising agency and “Edelman,” a global public relations firm. They attended a social and global PR lecture with students from the London College of Communication and took a group trip to Oxford, as well. Outside of the required visits, students were also able to sign up for different outings they wanted to attend such as a trip to Parliament.
While planning this course, Coombs and Ewing wanted the end result to have a pay-off for students.
“Our thinking was that we wanted this to be a chance for the students to test the waters,” Coombs said. “You need to go out and interview people. You have to get good at pitching yourself and what you’re doing.”
“Networking with advertising and PR professionals and hearing about their global communications work seemed to inspire students about their future careers,” Ewing said. “I could see the excitement on the students’ faces as they met professionals who worked at major global advertising and PR agencies. Students also gained confidence in contacting and networking with professionals.”
Christina Loss, a senior advertising major and marketing minor, always dreamed about studying abroad but knew spending a whole semester away from home would be difficult. Loss had taken a few courses with Coombs and Ewing previously, so she felt comfortable under their direction.
“Part of our semester project was to contact experts in our areas of expertise and pick their brain,” Loss said. “This really helped me become more comfortable interacting with professionals in the advertising industry. Contacting and interviewing in London was even more nerve-racking, but it definitely helped me become more accustomed to initiating the conversation.”
Loss said she learned so much about other cultures and how the world operates. This trip is just the beginning of her world travels.
“I love and miss so many things about our class and being in London,” she said. “I bonded with many of my fellow classmates, and I know we will keep in touch for years to come. We all got along so well and they kept me laughing day and night.”