By: Kate Foster | Photos Contributed by: Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication
At the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, students are reminded that outside learning experiences are often more essential than course work. Even the college’s dean, Charles Davis, agrees that there is nothing quite like real-world journalism experience to encourage a student’s talent. “[Internships] are at least as important as class, maybe more important than class, frankly,” he says. “I’ve always looked at class as the gateway to the experiential stuff.” Perhaps the two most respected and immersive ways to gain that “experiential stuff” are studying abroad and completing internships, through which thousands of students over the years have reaped numerous journalistic career benefits.
Students looking to both broaden their journalistic horizons and explore the world for a much cheaper rate than usual should consider studying abroad. Grady offers a number of study abroad experiences for those interested. On an international level, one can visit China, Prague, Cannes, Costa Rica or London, but there are a number of domestic options as well: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington D.C. “I think it is so important for us to remove ourselves from the local, to understand people, religion, culture, politics in a global context,” says Kelly Meyer, Grady’s Study Abroad and Distance Learning Program Coordinator.
Cody Schmelter, a spring 2013 Grady graduate who completed the Grady @ Oxford program, is a big proponent of the study abroad experience. “To take a kid from South Georgia – letting me go to Oxford for six weeks – was just an incredible experience,” he says. “The biggest takeaway for me was being able to tour some of the ad agencies, the BBC and keeping an eye out for how different cultures approach advertising.” Clearly, Schmelter’s experience was both enlightening and worthwhile: he is now a staff photographer at the Marietta Daily Journal.
A number of Grady students have found internship experiences equally eye-opening, the ideal way to gain first-hand knowledge about the industry from real-life editors and writers at some of the world’s most prestigious publications. Ryan Carty, the university’s Director of Experiential Programs and a Grady alumnus, stands behind the internship experience. “It’s one thing to learn about the industry and different methods and theories,” he says. “But [internships] are a way of adding experiential learning so that you can be prepared for challenges in the real world that you couldn’t necessarily learn in a classroom.”
Meredith Dean, a spring 2014 graduate now living in New York City, is one of Grady’s best internship success stories. As a result of internships at media outlets such as CNN International, she scored a job at Inside Edition after graduation. Now that she’s on the other side, she fully understands the value of internships. “I would say [having at least one internship] is mandatory,” she says. “I personally wouldn’t want to hire anyone that had never had an internship, had never had to report to a boss, didn’t have the initiative or motivation to want to be in the working world after four years in college. To me, that shows something about the student.”
Other students value internships as a means of figuring out what they don’t want to do after graduation. Allison Morrow, a senior graduating in May, was thrilled when she was offered an internship at the Today Show last summer. Ever since she was little, she had watched the program, dreaming of one day becoming Katie Couric. And while the internship was certainly an exciting experience, it ultimately wasn’t the right work environment for her. “I decided morning television just wasn’t the place for me,” she says. “I realized I’m more of a hard news girl.”
Whether students choose to study abroad or complete an internship – or, if they’re really lucky, both – one thing is for certain: getting out of the classroom and into a working journalistic environment is an essential part of the Grady experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a study abroad advertising experience in Hong Kong or an internship at Vogue in New York City. It doesn’t even really matter if the student enjoyed the experience or not. At the end of the day, it’s about receiving a global education and figuring out what kind of career trajectory will fully satisfy the student later in life. “I learned so much more about myself as a journalist,” says Morrow. “Now, I just need to start blazing a trail and let the pieces fall as they may.”