COLUMBIA, Mo. (Oct. 11, 2023) — Two graduate students at the Missouri School of Journalism are in Brussels, Belgium, this week as part of a select group of students and recent graduates from top journalism schools in the United States. Lily Williams and Michelle Renee Quinn are visiting the headquarters of the European Union to learn about how international reporters cover issues and politics in the region.
“This is an excellent opportunity for these students to get hands on with the work that foreign correspondents and international PR officers do every day,” said Earnest Perry, associate dean for graduate studies and research at the School of Journalism. “Students can learn a lot in the classroom, but immersing themselves in the epicenter of European political media takes their education to another level.”
The program, which runs from Oct. 8-14, is designed for those with an interest in reporting on international affairs and includes numerous opportunities for professional networking and hands-on learning. Organized by the Delegation of the European Union to the United States in Washington, D.C., the program features a media training from an expert with experience reporting on the EU, as well as meetings with diplomats, senior EU officials and members of the European media.
Quinn, who is studying broadcast journalism, hopes the program will complement her participation in a “journalism bootcamp” in Washington earlier this year, where the experience of researching free speech issues in the country of Colombia left her with a stronger appreciation for the importance of global news literacy.
“I realized a lot of what is happening [in Colombia] is happening here, which is terrifying,” Quinn said. “How many people don’t watch the news, don’t know what’s going on in other countries and don’t think any of it affects them? Well, it does. So, my interest in international reporting was sparked, and when this opportunity came along, I had to apply.”
The trip is not Quinn’s first time out of the country. As an undergraduate at Augustana College in Illinois, she worked as an international event planner for the International Family Therapy Association, where she organized the association’s conferences in locales such as Scotland and Puerto Rico.
Now, in Brussels, she is focused on honing her interest in international journalism into a tool that she believes can help audiences become more informed and engaged members of society.
“Every reporter wants to give people the power to make their own decisions and form their own ideas, but how are we supposed to do that if no one is paying attention?” she added. “So if I can say, ‘This is what is going on in that country, and if you don’t want to end up like this, you need to start paying attention,’ then I can educate myself and others to be better members of a democratic society.”
A full circle moment
In contrast, Williams, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism in May and has been part of the School’s accelerated master’s program since 2022, is approaching the trip from a strategic communication perspective. She is currently studying cybersecurity, data privacy and crisis management — issues that form an important part of the new transatlantic agenda currently under discussion between the U.S. and the EU.
Williams hopes to become a PR practitioner focused on cybersecurity incident response, and she said any new agendas passed by the EU or the U.S. would have direct impacts not only on the kinds of businesses she might represent in the future, but on the media organizations that cover them.
“As someone who is looking to specialize in earned media as an area of PR, I’m constantly working with journalists,” Williams said, pointing to her experiences working with top-tier media outlets in the course of internships at renowned PR agencies like FleishmanHillard and Edelman. “To be on the ground and attend working events with journalists I would potentially be pitching to in the future is just such a fantastic opportunity.”
Unlike Quinn, this is Williams’ first time traveling outside North America. She has had her eyes on study away opportunities in Brussels through the School of Journalism since her senior year of high school, but internships throughout her collegiate career have taken her to places like Texas and Chicago instead.
“It feels like a full circle moment to have been looking at Brussels in 2019, and now it’s 2023 and I’m seeing it happen, even if it didn’t happen through the track that I assumed it would when I was in high school,” Williams said. “So that’s exciting.”
The program is just one of the opportunities offered through the Global Programs Office, which has programs in major cities in 18 countries, including Barcelona, Hong Kong, Prague, Tokyo and U.S. media centers like New York and Washington.
Since 1994, the office has worked to provide students with international journalism experience, strengthen connections with the global industry — much like the School’s founder, Walter Williams, did more than a century ago — and export the Missouri Method of learning by doing all over the world.
Nearly half of all School of Journalism students study away. To learn more about the opportunities available through Global Programs, visit mujournalismabroad.com.
Updated: October 11, 2023