Reporting from Bologna

A once in a lifetime travel experience for aspiring journalists.

Photo Credit: Leona Juan

For the second summer in a row, SC&I’s Department of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) is giving students the opportunity to enhance their reporting and writing skills by studying abroad in Bologna, Italy. This unique program is run by Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Mary D’Ambrosio and Associate Professor Regina Marchi, and accepts 12 to 15 students per session. Students can take a three-credit International Reporting course where they will learn to work as foreign correspondents by covering stories about Italy and the European Union, a three-credit Travel Writing course where they will learn to develop interesting stories about Bologna’s rich history, food, and culture, or take both courses for a total of six credits. Students also attend a course in basic conversational Italian each morning, in order to help them communicate with the public.

When asked about why the city of Bologna was chosen as the study abroad destination, Professor D’Ambrosio said, “Bologna has all of the right ingredients: it’s a very authentic Italian city, without too many tourists, so students get a real taste of a different culture. It’s a progressive city, at the forefront of many Italian social justice initiatives, and therefore a good fit with our department’s strong social justice focus. It’s a gorgeous university city, and region, full of young people, music and things to do. And finally, we were offered a chance to develop a terrific partnership with the University of Bologna’s Department of Interpretation and Translation.” D’Ambrosio, a dual U.S.-Italian citizen, also expressed how she thought it was important for student journalists to experience what it’s like to live in a culture that differs drastically from that of New Jersey. One of the biggest culture shocks for many students was the lack of cars in Bologna, where many citizens solely rely on biking or walking to get around.

Although Monday through Thursday is reserved for learning and reporting in the city, students are free to travel on the weekends. Junior Gianna Bruzzese participated in the Bologna program last summer, and she visited Florence, Venice, Rome, Vienna, San Gimignano, and the Apennine Mountains in her free time. “I think it’s important to travel any chance you get. This program advanced my skills as a journalist and also taught me completely new things about living and working abroad,” said Bruzzese. One of the highlights of her travels was going on a wine tour in Florence, where she visited multiple vineyards and was able to try authentic Italian wine with her classmates.

While in Bologna, students are given the opportunity to exercise both their written journalism and visual storytelling skills through various assignments based on what they find most compelling. “During our time in Bologna, we were broken up into small teams in order to complete two projects: one written piece and one film,” explained Mason Plotts, who also participated in the program last summer. “My team, in particular, decided to focus on the culture and tradition of Italian cuisines as western influences began to trickle into the ‘food capital’ of Italy.” Ultimately, they created a documentary about the historical pilgrimage to the Porticos of San Luca, one of the famous Catholic sanctuaries.

Plotts also said it felt liberating to use what he had learned in class, in real life interactions with local citizens. “During the first day of the program, a few students and I traveled into the busier part of the city and sat down to eat a small local restaurant, but little did I know we would eat there multiple times over the next few weeks. Right from the start, the owner of the restaurant took interest in us since we were not from the city. He did not speak English, but we were both excited to communicate with one another. Over time we were able to practice elementary Italian enough in class that we were able to finally have a conversation with him,” Plotts said. “It is fun to look back on what I learned, who I met, and all the conversations that were had over traditional Italian dishes at this restaurant.”

Professor Steven Miller, coordinator of undergraduate studies, is a strong advocate for the Bologna program and believes students should take advantage of any travel opportunities they have available to them while still in school.

“One of the things that people forget about college is curiosity,” Miller explained. “We want you to be curious about the world, we want you to explore and travel because education does not just stop at the classroom. By going to foreign countries you are going to become more educated about the world and the people that live there. I’ve found that students who have studied abroad are more curious, and isn’t that what a journalist is supposed to be?”