Travel changes you: Professors from the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media reflect on the impact of studying abroad in Italy


Some of the students who participated in the study abroad trip to Italy. Photo by Mark Dolan.

Every night in his Florence flat, Mark Dolan would open the shutters of the screenless windows and let in the cool air as he fell asleep to the sound of people talking on the cobblestone streets four stories below.

“A lot of them (were) leaving the bars, some laughing, some arguing, and although I don’t speak much Italian, I understood a lot,” he said. “Their voices would rise amid the terracotta tile roofs.”

Getting used to the rhythms of Italian life has changed Dolan, his three colleagues and the 52 students who participated in a study abroad program in Italy this summer.

Dolan, an associate professor of multimedia journalism at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media, taught an 8-hour photography class called “Smartphone Storytelling” that covered shooting and editing with iPhones and the use of layering and masking techniques to produce images that could be journalistic or fine art.

“It’s kind of like immersing yourself in a place, and then you realize you’ve only scratched the surface…” Dolan said. “After the first photo assignment, a big part of the challenge was how to escape the shots – the wine glasses, the scooters and the espresso cups…

Hillside houses in Italy above water.

Hillside houses in Italy above water. Photo by Mark Dolan.

“To attempt this in such a visually rich country was professionally gratifying… The cities we lived in became vast classrooms, those veritable ancient cities of the Renaissance – Florence, Venice, Rome.

Dolan said he hopes the experience has enriched his students.

“Being in college is the perfect age to fend for yourself in a world completely unlike anything you know – and to be responsible for yourself and deadlines in what were often 12-hour days,” did he declare. “You come to understand yourself, paradoxically, by being outside of yourself. It is a wonderful moment of change, of becoming, an extremely stimulating experience.

The group spent three weeks in Florence with side trips that included San Gimignano, Chianti, Pisa and Venice. After leaving Florence, they spend four days in Sorrento and a final week in Rome with a stopover at Vesuvius and Pompeii.

RJ Morgan, Ph.D, associate professor of journalism and IMC, taught a course called “Writing With Voice.” He was impressed with how the students articulated their sights, sounds and emotions as they encountered many strange but beautiful settings.

“Having the ability to slow down and pay attention to the world around you on a deep enough level to be able to write about it is a useful skill both professionally and personally,” he said. “The more detail you are trained to notice and observe, the more vivid and lasting those memories will be.”

Ben Johnson and other students have a meal together in Italy.

Ben Johnson and other students have a meal together in Italy. Photo by Mark Dolan.

Christina Sparks, an associate professor of integrated marketing communications education, said she teaches “brand and relationship strategies.” Students learned how brands are positioned and marketed differently in different countries.

“They discovered new brands, as well as current brands,” Sparks said. “An example is Nutella. It’s an Italian brand that’s well developed in Europe, but marketed differently in the United States.

Students also explored cultural communication considerations of global brands and presented their research to the class.

“You get to know them and have the opportunity to be part of their broader perspective and deeper learning experience as they explore different cultures and develop broader thinking,” she said.

Jason Cain, Ph.D., acting IMC program coordinator and assistant professor of integrated marketing communications, taught a course called “Global Communication Systems.” Cain liked to see students navigating through Rome.

“It’s a big city that happens to be built in and on top of a very old city,” he said. “A lot of students find it quite intimidating, and a lot of them never quite recover from the culture shock. However, a lot of them do, and in the last few days have really sunk into what I believe to be one of the most beautiful cities on Earth.

Cain said he hopes students realize that people are both different and similar, which creates opportunities and complications in global communication. He hopes that the students will grow from their own experiences and that the journey will have made them curious and eager for new adventures.

“There’s no question there’s a level of privilege that comes with being able to travel the world,” he said. “I’m constantly trying to find ways to make it more accessible to more students because I think for those who can, when you’re put in a situation where you’re in a place long enough to be something more than a tourist, I think it changes you.

Cain said he changed while traveling abroad and witnessed the same growth in student numbers.

“I hope that eventually they will understand better that there are people in all these places of the world who are not so different from them with their own hopes and dreams and fears,” he said. he declares.

In fact, one Sunday in Rome, Dolan attended Mass with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica. While on the line with a Wichita family, he learned he needed a ticket. So a priest from South Korea took off his backpack and generously gave Dolan the extra one he had.

“The family held my place in line and I ended up in the front row,” Dolan said. “I was there on a floor made up of tiny mosaic tiles from the 1600s – no benches, no folding chairs – and I heard a living pope. Impressive.”

To learn more about this study abroad trip, courses offered, and future adventures of the School of Journalism and New Media, visit this website for updates: https://omjabroad.squarespace. com/about

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

Tags: top IMC programs, top journalism programs, featured, integrated marketing communications, Italy, journalism, study abroad, travel, University of Mississippi, University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media


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