By Nicole Gennarelli & Stephanie Neumann
In two weeks we were able to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to Europe and seeing all the tourist hot spots while gaining credit towards graduation at the same time.
The Global Media Systems intersession study abroad seminar allowed us to visit different professional European journalism, advertising and public relations outlets. From visiting the Associated Press in Geneva, Switzerland to Havas, a global advertising and communications services group in Paris, France, it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between American and European media.
Studying abroad helped us learn about public relations on a different level. In your career, you might work in the U.S., but what you do probably has international effects. Different cultures respond to circumstances differently. For example, the French do not photograph people in handcuffs because they believe it implies they are guilty. They weren’t too happy about seeing Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in handcuffs all over American media. You have to be careful about what you publish and always think about your international audiences.
Although there are a lot of differences, I was surprised to see how many similarities there were between PR in America and in Europe. We met a media relations intern from Germany at a PR/Advertising agency in Paris and talked about what her job and classes are like. A lot of the principles she uses on a daily basis are similar to what we learn in our media relations class. It’s comforting to know that I could get a job anywhere in the world with a public relations degree. It’s also great to have professional contacts in other countries to keep in touch with.
Being public relations majors really allowed us to soak up all the different professional advice not only from PR professionals but advertising professionals and journalists as well. It was interesting to hear how international journalists interact with PR people in order to get new story ideas. Many of the different journalists we talked to said they get anywhere from 100 to 400 press releases in one day and have to sort through them to find the most relevant stories for audiences. Most journalists we talked to were Americans but have been living overseas for close to 20 years now. It was really eye-opening that a career in mass communication can take you in so many directions.
Kristen O’Brien, senior public relations major, thought the two-week Geneva/Paris trip was a great educational experience.
“I had the opportunity to meet with professionals in the PR, advertising and journalism industry and see what it’s like first-hand inside French and Swiss media systems,” O’Brien said. “Studying abroad was the opportunity of a lifetime. It allowed me to make connections with professionals in my field as well as experience what life is like overseas.”
Studying abroad is an important experience for students today. Most careers involve international business, whether that business involves actual contact with people in other countries or just learning about best practices. It’s hard to understand what someone in Switzerland wants when you’ve never experienced the culture, and it’s difficult to modify a best practice from another country if you don’t understand where they’re coming from.
Emily Carle, ’11, studied abroad in Florence, Italy in 2010 with the College of Communication and Information. Carle said it was one of the most rewarding experiences of her college career and her whole life.
“I spent 18 weeks altogether living, breathing and eating Italian culture,” she said. “I feel like I understand myself better as well as other cultures. Even though I am not (and was not) fluent in Italian, I still felt part of the Italian culture by the end as I would go shopping, go to restaurants and enjoy Florence. I also was able to travel to other parts of Europe very easily and did so almost every weekend. I spent time in Dublin, London, Prague and Paris to name a few as well as exploring all of Italy.”
All students should take advantage of study abroad opportunities whether it is a semester, a month or even a couple of weeks long. It broadens your horizons and takes you out of your comfort zone. Traveling to a foreign country looks great on a resume for future internships or future employers. It shows that you’re able to adapt to different cultures and embrace a different lifestyle; even if it may only be for a short time period. Plus, you get the added bonus of just seeing the beauty of another country. How many American students can say they’ve gone up in the Eiffel Tower or seen the Swiss Alps? Not many.
“I really encourage students to look into studying abroad, whether it is a short-term or long-term trip,” Carle said. “There’s a program out there for everyone and it is worth every penny. The experiences and life lessons you gain abroad cannot be taught or learned stateside, and I feel I am more appreciative of what we have in America as well as what other countries have to offer. I met people within my program I never knew, as well as other students from Kent State and universities across the country. I know that there is a connection between study abroad students, and it is so easy to strike up a conversation and discuss travels with a fellow study abroad veteran. For the personal, academic and social growth, it is worth it.”