By Kate Templeton
When most students imagine studying abroad, they probably picture exploring a foreign country and making lasting memories with new friends. However, studying abroad can actually help students gain professional connections and develop important skills that can positively impact their future. Last summer, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to study abroad. After what felt like months of researching different programs, countries and courses, I finally decided to spend six weeks studying in London. The program I chose was offered through the University of Oregon, and it provided me with an incredible opportunity to spend the summer with 60 other journalism and public relations students. While abroad, I gained valuable skills that have already greatly benefited my life as a PR student, and will help me reach my ultimate career goals.
Here is why you should consider studying abroad:
The professors in my London program were much different than the professors we have in the states. Two of my professors worked for the BBC, one in radio and one in television. Interacting with professors who are also working professionals from a different country with diverse experiences helps students gain new perspectives in the world of public relations. As students, we are advised to make connections and build professional networks. Having the chance to be in small, interactive and engaging classroom settings with professors who have their own unique professional connections opens up more possibilities for networking. One of my study abroad professors actually wrote me a letter of recommendation for a job!
My study abroad courses provided a great deal of experiential learning. We had amazing opportunities to attend a variety of theatre productions, dances, museums and sporting events. Through the classes, I learned how to effectively write news releases, news stories, critical reviews, blogs and features. I reviewed events and performances and learned how to critically and clearly explain what I had seen. Being a strong writer is important for PR professionals. Students who study abroad get the opportunity to dramatically improve their writing skills and become more compelling and effective communicators.
During my program, I had the opportunity to tour different businesses in the heart of London. I was able to see firsthand the role that public relations and journalism have in organizations like Chelsea Football Club, Ticketmaster, the BBC, the Olympic Games and many more. Being able to experience what it would be like to actually work in a communications field for these huge organizations opened my eyes to the many different possibilities that are out there for public relations majors. The hands-on atmosphere in studying abroad is key in showing students how professionals in these fields work and find successes.
While abroad, the classwork we did was very special. My program offered classes that required writing, photography and videography. Students left the program with multiple original pieces of work that showcased a variety of media platforms. The coursework created while abroad is extremely beneficial in differentiating and enhancing PR portfolios in comparison to other portfolios.
And finally, it wouldn’t be a study abroad experience without fully immersing into an entirely new and different culture. When students are able to say that they successfully lived in a new country while also taking classes, this demonstrates personal growth and perseverance. Study abroad students come back to their colleges and universities with a life changing experience that helps them mature personally, professionally and culturally.