10 Things I Learned on the SJMC Study Abroad Trip

Story by SJMC Study Abroad graduate student, Aisling Niestroy:

Twenty-nine inspired students. Three encouraging faculty members. Two historic countries. One unforgettable experience. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication sponsored a Study Abroad trip to London and Paris in June, and SJMC graduate assistant Aisling Niestroy shared what she learned during her time abroad.


The best thing about the SJMC Study Abroad program was that the majority of “book learning” was completed prior to leaving the country. We attended classes, conducted research, read articles and turned in assignments the week before beginning our journey. This afforded us the opportunity not only to learn from the scheduled media organization visits, but from the unforgettable experience of spending time in another country.

  1. Customs are different, but not necessarily foreign.
    You might be in a foreign country, but you don’t have to act like it. Respect that people do things differently. If you ask your server to split the check multiple ways, you are likely to receive a dirty look. Pay attention to how people interact, how they carry themselves in public, and try not to stick out like a sore thumb.
  1. People don’t hate Americans.
    If they do, they hide it well. While the French might have been annoyed with my crummy accent, they seemed appreciative I was making an effort to speak their language. The majority of people I met were really nice, especially when I dropped my wallet at the hotel in Paris, or when I left my phone in the back of a cab in Dublin. Both were returned to me. It helped that I tried to hold an honest conversation with every person I came into contact with. When you’re kind to others, they’re usually kind to you.
  1. Conversion rates will get you.
    Believe me when I say you can buy too many souvenirs. It is unfortunate for both your wallet and your luggage. Although the things you buy may seem less expensive, they usually aren’t in the long run. As for the British Pound, say goodbye to half of your money.
  1. The best plan is a flexible one.
    I received this same advice before attending SXSW Interactive. Going with the flow is one of your best options when exploring a new city. You can plan a day down to the minute, but something might happen to derail it, or something better might come along and change your mind.
  1. Tour, but don’t stick to the tourist places.
    I went on a different kind of tour in every city – a bike and boat tour in Paris, a self-guided walking tour in London, and an evening bus tour in Dublin. Tours are a great way to learn about the history and culture of a place, and tour guides are the perfect people to ask for city suggestions. I turned to my tour guides for recommendations of non-tourist spots, and they did not disappoint. Another good way to discover local hangouts and restaurants is to wander and get lost (but not so lost you can’t find the way home).

Becca Silvas, my study abroad roommate and fellow graduate student, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Fat Tire Bike Tour around Paris. The Eiffel Tower was my absolute favorite sight.


  1. Try everything.
    As a picky eater, I promised myself I would try absolutely everything before deciding I didn’t like it. So I did, and more often than not, I enjoyed it. However, this doesn’t just extend to food. Not a fan of museums, but they’re free in London? Go. You never know what you’ll fall in love with.

The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History was so interesting (and free). I discovered it while walking around alone in Dublin.


  1. Being abroad with friends is fun, but spending time alone is so good.
    I spent my last two days in Dublin by myself. At first, being alone made me nervous, but then I started to enjoy it. Because I didn’t have to coordinate my plans with anyone else’s, I was able to visit more sights and take more time appreciating what was around me.
  1. People love to share their passions with you.
    After listening to the employees at PR firm Weber Shandwick talk so highly of their jobs, I contemplated switching career paths. Even my various tour guides made me envious of what they do. Talking to people about the things they love is a wonderful way to turn strangers into acquaintances.

Weber Shandwick put on quite a presentation for the group during our visit to their offices in London.


  1. Writing is a required skill for any media job.
    Someone mentioned the importance of writing and communication skills at every business visit. It didn’t matter if the company was focused on journalism or public relations. Good writers make better employees.
  1. Everyone has pride for where they come from.
    And they are not afraid to tell you all about it. They’re also often curious about where you’re from (even more so if it’s a recognizable place like Texas). I swapped hometown pride stories with many people I met throughout my trip, including the three Irish Aislings I found in Dublin. They practically convinced me to never come home.

For the most part, I was pretty confident I knew what to expect when I arrived in Europe. Thankfully, I was wrong. The study abroad program changed my life, and I am confident it can do the same for you.


Taking a Tour: BBC in London

Story by SJMC Study Abroad graduate student, AJ Arreguin:

The British Broadcasting Corporation is one of the most recognizable, highly creditable news organizations in the world. From local to worldwide news coverage, the BBC brings the highest quality of news from journalists that reach outlets such as radio, television and social media. Unlike some news companies around the world that are owned by the government, BBC operates by an annual licensing fee, which citizens of England pay in order to run radio, television broadcasts and premiere shows such as Doctor Who, The Office (English version) and many more. corporation

Courtyard at the BBC

Courtyard at the BBC

The BBC headquarters is located in London (between Portland Place and Langham Place) and contains the BBC Broadcasting House with television studios, radio studios, the main newsroom (where some of the BBC program is recorded), and a small theatre boasting concerts held by A-list musicians.

Our Tour
After getting through security and getting our backpacks and purses scanned and checked, we waited in a lobby that showcased TARDIS, the Doctor Who famous telephone booth, in front of a small gift shop overlooking the BBC Newsroom. Our tour guide first provided us a brief overview of the history of the BBC and its mission statement toward the people of Britain and viewers from around the world. During this brief lecture, we stood in front of a wall made of glass that overlooked the hundreds of employees and desk of the BBC Newsroom. As the tour went on, the guide paused and mentioned that a live weather report was happening. Sure enough, we saw the weatherman a few feet away and on the tube. Finally, we traveled from the newsroom to the studio station, which was in another building that had radio and television sets. Along the way, we passed through historical pieces from the longevity of the BBC, from the microphone used by Edward R. Murrow in World War II broadcastings, to all the memorabilia from celebrities. Walking through the Broadcasting House was a mass communication history lesson in itself.

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After viewing the theatre, radio and television studio, it was time for us to have a bit of fun. The tour allows participants to take part in a newscast and small, scripted play. After it was all said and done, the BBC tour was a must-do if you catch yourself in London. It does not matter if you’re a journalist major, advertising major or public relations major, there is something to learn and grasp from the BBC.

Studio One Panoramic

Studio One Panoramic

For more information on how to book your tour in advance for the BBC Broadcasting House, please visit their website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tours/.

Cultural Enlightenment and International Connections

scholarsDr. Cindy Royal traverses Europe, works with journalists, attends ICA:

As a college professor, I often get to attend academic conferences, which can take place at many locales around the globe. This summer, I chose to attend the International Communication Association (ICA) conference in London. Since I was going to travel so far, I decided to make a trip out of it, both personal and professional. The first two weeks were mostly for fun. I had an amazing visit to Italy, with a stop off in Paris before heading to London for the professional part of my journey.

It was my first time in Italy, and I was enthralled by the beauty, culture and food of each city. Rome is a thriving metropolis integrating modern and ancient in unexpected ways. My hotel was right next to the Pantheon, one of the oldest buildings in continuous use in the city. I visited the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and Ruins and the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. I even got to see the Pope as he greeted the crowd before a public mass.

In Florence, I enjoyed the Uffizi and Accademie galleries, where I saw many wonderful works including Michelangelo’s Statue of David. I walked the steps of the Boboli Gardens and Piazzale Michelangelo. From Florence, I was able to take a quick train trip to Lucca, where I rented a bike to tour the city’s enclosed walls. All the walking and biking helped to work off the delicious pizza, pasta and gelato I enjoyed every day.

Venice was incredibly beautiful, every square inch of it. The colorful buildings surrounding the canals make for a spectacular landscape. It was fun to explore and get lost along its alleys and byways.

After Italy, I made a stop in Paris, which required a new language and a change of cuisine. In Paris, I visited the Musee d’Orsay, Montmartre and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. I had the opportunity to meet with scholars Sylvain Parasie of Paris Est University and Eric Dagiral of Paris Descartes University who do research in the area of interactive news. They are both in the sociology departments at their respective universities, and I enjoyed sharing the details of our shared interests.

My next and final stop was London. I spent 12 days in the UK, continuing some sightseeing, but moving on to the professional part of my trip. While in the UK, I visited with Jonathan Hewett and George Brock at City University’s Interactive Journalism Master’s Program, Thanassis Tiropanis and Leslie Carr in the Web Science Program at Southampton University and Eric Meyer and Ralph Schroeder at Oxford University’s Internet Institute.  I took great inspiration from their progressive and interdisciplinary approaches.

I also had the opportunity to work at the Guardian with their Interactive News team. I spent three days working with Rich Harris, Jonathan Richards, Robin Beitra and others. While there, I assisted with debugging a Web scraping program and attended meetings on the Firestorm multimedia project and best practices in Web development. It was definitely a valuable and enriching experience for which I am grateful.

The personal highlights in London were visits to the Tate Modern Gallery and the David Bowie Exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I also loved walking around Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Soho. And I got to see the London production of Book of Mormon and attended a concert by the U.S. band The Breeders at the London Forum. I also got to spend time with Alex Hering, a 2010 Texas State graduate now working and living in London.

The final stop on my trip was the conference. ICA brings together scholars from around the world covering all aspects of communication. I attended panels on data and multimedia journalism, attended the launch of the new Digital Journalism academic journal and got to spend time with friends and academic colleagues Amy Schmitz-Weiss (San Diego State University), Alfred Hermida (University of British Columbia), Carrie Brown Smith (University of Memphis), Corinne Weisgerber (St. Edward’s University), Margaretha Geertsema-Sligh (Butler University), Andrea Hickerson (Rochester Institute of Technology) and more.

You can see more pictures from my trip at cindyroyal.tumblr.com.

Now that I am home, things are a bit of a blur, and I am trying to organize my thoughts around all these new and enlightening experiences. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to explore these beautiful places. I will be spending the next few weeks teaching summer school and prepping for the Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford, starting in September.