Missouri School of Journalism students return from European tour with fresh perspectives 


A view of Barcelona from near the top of Montjuic, in front of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Photo: Jeannette Porter

By Benjamin Miller

COLUMBIA, Mo. (March 14, 2024) — Just two days before the new year, 18 students and two faculty representatives from the Missouri School of Journalism boarded a plane from Detroit to Amsterdam. Their destinations: Prague, Rome, Barcelona and Brussels

The group had approximately four days to spend in each of the cities over the course of the two-week tour, which was organized by the School of Journalism’s Global Programs office, including Director of Study Abroad Tami Custard.

On top of earning two credit hours during the trip, students also got the chance to spend their winter break networking with media professionals from different corners of Europe. They exchanged LinkedIns, emails and phone numbers with leading communication professionals from the countries and outlets they visited. 

“They were just so willing to continue the relationship that they built with all the individuals on the trip,” said senior Cat Curcuru, a strategic communication student. “They were so welcoming to us. They constantly told us how much they loved University of Missouri students.”

The trip also allowed students to learn about what goes into connecting with European audiences as opposed to American ones. This was done through studio and newsroom tours with European media companies, seminars and meetings with top tier journalists and strategic communicators and lectures at high ranked communications departments at accredited universities. 

“Students at the School of Journalism have so many global opportunities, and being able to sample those opportunities while making professional connections in just two weeks can be life-changing,” said Fritz Cropp, associate dean for global programs at the School of Journalism. “Our Global Programs are not only well-established and productive, but they open doors to more students whenever possible.”

Worlds of opportunity

In Prague, students were given an overview of Czech media by marketing and public relations experts from Charles University. What followed later in the afternoon was a meeting with Roman Hula, the global account leader for McCann Prague, one of the top advertising agencies in the Czech republic. 

In Brussels, the cohort met up with Gareth Harding, the Brussels Program director for the School of Journalism with decades of experience in political and foreign affairs reporting. There, the students visited Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a leading public affairs firm.

Out of the many opportunities available in Barcelona, students were given a tour of the TV3 studio — the flagship channel at one of Spain’s major public broadcasting networks — and got to see broadcasters during their informational sessions, morning-to-afternoon talk shows and the production of their different entertainment programs. 

On her last day in Europe, Anna Duffy spent the day taking in the history and culture of Rome. “If I could only return to one of the cities I visited, I would go back to Rome,” Duffy said. “It was incredibly beautiful and unlike any place I have ever visited before.” Photo: Anna Duffy

While in Rome, the group was given an informational session at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the School of Church Communications to see how media is distributed for religious audiences. 

Part of what’s special about being in four different countries in such a short amount of time is that the students had access to four different cultures, said Study Abroad Coordinator Andrew Dumas. 

Each of the media organizations the students visited all had advice and professional tips for MU students on how to advance in their careers internationally. They emphasized that part of being a good storyteller and communicator is through embracing and learning foreign languages. 

“They are speaking English, French, Spanish, Dutch,” said senior Anna Duffy, a strategic communication student. “They’re able to reach so many people and interact across so many different cultures.”

Considering the program covers the duration of only two weeks, Dumas said it gives students a taste of the world around them and reinforces a curious instinct to see more of it. Global Programs also offers semester long internship journeys to London, Delhi and Florence, as well as in Brussels or Barcelona. 

“It just goes to show the international aspect of our commitment to top flight communications, both strategic and journalistic,” said Jeannette Porter, a strategic communication professor. “The J-school turns out people who are ready to live and work in today’s world and beyond, no matter how global it gets.” 

Global Programs at the School of Journalism emphasizes that even though students take classes and have professional opportunities through its plethora of programs, most of the learning experience is in the form of life lessons as students coordinate living in brand new places with different types of people. 

“Students come back much more open minded, a little more critical of what they’re hearing in their own media and in their own communication circles and families,” Dumas said. 

Business and pleasure

Considering the extent of planning, traveling and lodging together, the tour group had a lot of time to adjust to the foreign environment together. Assistant Professor Kathryn Lucchesi was one of the faculty members on the trip. 

“Because you’re going to so many places in a short period of time, you have to get close and build up that trust from day one,” said Lucchesi. “It’s what made the experience so fun overall, getting to be that close and work with students and getting to know ones I wouldn’t have gotten to meet before.”

In addition to the educational and networking aspects of the trip, they also had the opportunity to enjoy a number of centuries-old sites and streets, elaborate foods via fine dining and multiple different languages. 

Some of the sightseeing locations the group got to experience included The House of European History in Brussels, Vatican City in Rome, and the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. 

From the many highlights of the trip, one of the most memorable for the cohort was spending its first night in Europe celebrating New Years Eve in Prague, after disembarking an eight hour flight. 

“It was a long night of trying to navigate numerous different challenges,” Duffy said. “Getting to celebrate New Years in Prague was genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was so cool to be brought together with total strangers by a holiday.”

Bonds were also formed among the cohort while in Europe. Prior to the trip, Lucchesi and Porter knew each other in passing and professionally when working at the J-School. Because of the journey abroad, Lucchesi and Porter both say they’ve gotten to know each other better as a result. 

“Going with another professor that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know that well was really rewarding for me,” Lucchesi said. “We don’t cross paths enough. I’m very thankful for our time together.”

Updated: March 15, 2024

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