Journalism Student Reflection of WPNI

By Daniel Moore

During the spring semester, I was pulled in many different directions, part of many different groups and studying many different issues — all from one of the busiest, fast-paced cities in the world. But in the end, it was well worth it. I spent the past 14 weeks in Washington D.C. as part of the political science department’s Washington Program in National Issues (WPNI), currently one of the longest continuously running study away options at 40 years. I interned with the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit that provides free legal advice for high school and college journalists.

There, I worked for the publications wing, which manages the website and social media but mainly focuses on producing news content about First Amendment court cases across the country. In the office three days a week, I wrote an average of three to six daily news stories during that time span. I also contributed three magazine stories for the SPLC Report, which is published three times a year. Topics ranged from covering court hearings, free speech on social media, newspaper thefts, retaliation against journalism advisers for raising free speech issues, public records disputes, high schools censoring newspapers and yearbooks because they didn’t like the subject of a story or photo — all the way to a college trustee physically taken a recording device out of a student reporter’s hand in public. The stories were some of the strangest and most eye-opening I’ve ever seen, mainly because it’s hard to believe some school administrators think they can get away with breaking the law. First Amendment law  specifically, freedom of speech and freedom of the press — is so often overlooked, and that came as news to me. Most members of the American public will look at high profile speech cases like the Westboro Baptist Church protests. But “speech” can extend into so many forms and mediums today.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when people ask me if I think censorship is getting better or worse in this country, I will say, “I think it’s becoming more overlooked.” Because while society is becoming more progressive and free, we are also experiencing a technological wave, which changes the way we express and muddles the laws that have stood for decades. For example, I wrote a magazine story about “Confessions” pages on Facebook that trended this spring at high schools and colleges across the country. Students could submit an anonymous “confession” to a third party website like SurveyMonkey and an anonymous administrator could take it and post it to Facebook. Thus, the popularity of “Confessions” pages grew as students would “like” the page and read funny, embarrassing and sometimes serious messages that their fellow students were too shy to say in person. As a result of a generational disconnect, school administrators very often don’t see any benefit in having a page like this. Many didn’t understand how it was even speech or expression. Some tried, successfully, to shut them down on the grounds it was bleeding into school activity. But what they don’t understand is that although some of the messages were debatably “pointless,” as one administrator put it to me, and although some crossed the line into the area of “sexually explicit” or “threatening,” the confessions of those students are no less legally protected speech than the notes they used to pass each other as kids, or the anonymous messages they used to write on the bathroom wall. The concept is the same. The difference is in the technology, and the fact that when a confession is anonymously posted on Facebook it is both instantly permanent and worldwide. There is no teacher to intercept and throw away the note; there is no janitor to clean off the bathroom wall. So the question is often posited that because we have greater means of communication and expression and, therefore, greater means of reporting on the world around us, do the social norms, laws and regulations change as well? Is it enough to alter how we perceive and censor speech? Does it even alter our Constitution, the first right on our bill of rights? It’s an important discussion to have, and the answer likely lies in the gray area of compromise.

While on the topic of compromise, I’d like to end my reflection with a note about what I learned from living the city of Washington, from reading my subscription of the Washington Post every day, from attending briefings as part of WPNI every Thursday. I was always cynical about DC politics, but I think I managed to become even more so seeing it from the inside. I learned in my Public Policy class at Kent State that the success and failure of certain issues in politics are fueled by narratives — “stories of success” and “stories of failure,” primarily. An issue I was deeply impassioned about, reducing gun violence, died in the Senate last month. In short, the least offensive, watered-down legislation that had the approval of 90 percent of the American people — background checks — failed to pass because of a powerful pro-gun lobby and the lack of “political muscle” of the pro-gun control interests. Meanwhile, comprehensive immigration reform has found compromise, and therefore the lives of 12 million undocumented people living in the U.S. will likely soon change for the better. Although they don’t have the numbers, the fact that 20 dead schoolchildren cannot shake the rhetoric blanketing Washington is not a good sign for the issue in the future. The “nation of immigrants” story — a “story of success” — is much more powerful than the “20 dead schoolchildren” — a “story of failure” — in the eyes of politicians. They see economic benefits and job creation in highly-skilled immigrants rather than the tragedy in massacres. Of course, I see the world through politically biased eyes, too. But being in Washington during such a collapse of hope, it drove home my preconceived views of the city and of the federal government.

Study Abroad Tips for Geneva, Switzerland

  • Apply for all the scholarships you can.  If you are in the college of business they offer a generous scholarship for studying abroad AND if you choose to do an unpaid internship over seas, they have a generous scholarship for that too.  Do not miss those opportunities.
  • Expect to spend more than you previously thought. A beer cannot be purchased for under $10, a big mac value meal is $16, and a gym membership is $150 per month.
  • When thinking how you are going to get around Europe, you have two options.  You can either purchase the 3-month Eurail pass that works on all the trains for $1500 or you can book all of your flights separately.  If you buy the Eurail pass, PURCHASE THE INSURANCE FOR IT!  It is a small piece of paper, and if lost you are out of $1,500.  I lost mine 2 months in and paid dearly for it in booking expensive flights.  If you have a small group of people that you want to travel with and want to go to many different locations, the flexibility of the Eurail may be for you.  Keep in mind that a lot of the time you have to purchase reservations to sit on the trains EVEN WITH a Eurail pass.  If I had to do it over again, I would have just flown everywhere.  If you book your trips 2-3 weeks in advance you can get to all kinds of great destinations for less than $100 round trip.  If you are not one to plan things out in advance, it may be cheaper to buy the Eurail and then have the ability to take trips anywhere at the spur of the moment.
  • Enjoy the trip and hold onto your passport!  If you lose it, it’s not the end of the world either.  You can get a new one for $200.

Florence, Italy Semester

By: Leann Schneider

I’ve filled up an entire journal while studying abroad – a task I’ve been trying to achieve since the days when journal entries still started “dear diary” – and yet, I can’t seem to come up with enough words to fill two to three pages on what this experience has taught me. Maybe the words won’t come because once this essay is over and sent into cyberspace that means the semester is really over, and that is simply unacceptable. Maybe the words won’t come because the experiences, lessons, moments are too monumental to describe. Maybe when the words come, they sound trite and contrived, and these don’t do it justice. Yet, I suppose I have to try. Learning gained from my experience, as a student of Kent State University’s Florence program is not synonymous with the academic program itself. Though excellent, the most important lessons learned came not from within the confines of Palazzo dei Cerchi, but rather from the friends I made and even, surprisingly, from within myself.

While being fascinated with the world of the ancient Romans and renaissance Florentines at school, my extracurricular time was devoted to a different kind of discovery. Whether it be from trying my hand at cooking something I’d never tried for dinner, to spending time with someone I didn’t know, to traveling to a totally unknown destination, a most dramatic lesson learned was to make being out of my comfort zone my new comfort zone. I made it my mantra to try to exploit every possible opportunity and to find adventure everywhere. So what if I accidentally ended up on a train to Bologna at 3 in the morning without my passport or a ticket, with only five Euros to spare? I made a great friend, and that was certainly worth one sleepless night. I was robbed while shopping in the H&M in Florence. Well, I now know how it feels after long months of homesickness to see the stars and stripes of the American embassy rising up out of the haze of the Arno on my way for a new passport. We were trying to find Castiglione del Lago, we found Cortona instead. We walked to the top of the mountain and from there I saw the most memorable sunset I’ve ever seen, with colors so beautiful I thought about it every night before I fell asleep just to ensure it would be etched in my brain forever. Moments like these are what defined my time abroad.

Every time I chose to experience the different, I was rewarded with a better knowledge of my capacity for resiliency, adaptation, adventure; essentially I was rewarded with a better knowledge of myself. I learned that for me, home truly is where the heart is. I realized I have an intense interest in eastern European history, specifically, and the former East Bloc has moved itself to the top of my list of “to visit next” places. I knew no one when I went to Florence in January, I will go home with a motley crew of architects, journalists, communicators, and business students as friends. Ergo, I taught myself how to be friends with everyone, choosing enemies wisely. I learned that as lonely as it seemed, there would always be someone there to make me laugh, if I let them. Personal growth is an understatement – or just an inaccurate statement – for what I feel changed over the last four months, but again, there really aren’t words.

Academically, I gained a plethora of knowledge from thoroughly brilliant professors. I respected them all, idolized one, was in awe of another, and wished the third would quit taking himself so seriously. I’ve seen hundreds of priceless works of art in person, walked the same streets as Julius Caesar, admired the architecture of centuries of development: this is more than any student could ever ask for. Culturally the most unexpected lesson learned was that of how thoroughly western Europeans and Americans differ. For better or for worse, though we’re of the same background, an ocean is not the least of the boundaries, which distinguishes our purple mountain majesties from their rolling terracotta hills.

January 8, 2012 through May 4, 2012 was a time when so much happened, such subtle shifts took place in the fabric of my life, it really might have never happened at all. I won’t be sure until I’m back on American soil, with my American car and American cheese wondering how the shower is so perfect in pressure and temperature that I will look back and think, yes, I was there, I did those things. What I have now are memories, friendships, and photographs. I vow to never loose the passion for life, which studying abroad has re-instilled within me. So it goes, a two-to-three page essay on the learning experience that was study abroad KSU Florence, 2012 for one of its students. It’s probably stereotypical, possibly sentimental, potentially just what was needed, that’s my story.

Travel Tips for Leicester

By: Emily Brownlee, Spring 2012

  • Carphone Warehouse in the city center has phones for 5 pounds and if you are on the Orange network, you can get free movie tickets on Wednesdays.
  • Don’t be afraid to wander or get lost, you might discover something really great.
  • If you’re missing candy, cereal, or other snacks from home, check out the Americandy store in the High Cross in city center.
  • The food in catered housing is not spectacular by any means, but you will get to know your neighbors eating with them.
  • When you’re shopping, don’t convert your dollars to pounds. It will make everything seem astronomically expensive. Instead, take out the money you will need for the week from the atm and think in terms of how many pounds you have in your pocket. Using cash that you take out once a week will also help keep you on budget!
  • National Express and Eurolines are super affordable ways to travel. You can take the bus over night to Ireland or mainland Europe for a fraction of the price of the train.
  • Everyone wants to travel around Europe, but don’t forget to travel around the UK too. Get to know your host country!
  • If you can, visit a city either in the UK or the rest of Europe that your family is from, especially if it gets you away from big cities. It will be something you treasure.

Travel Tips: South Korea

By: Heather Eubank

1. Pack the least amount of clothing as you can. Clothes in Korea are super super super cute and stylish and everything you see you’ll want to own. They’re pretty cheap, too (for the cheapest shopping, check out the street or underground shopping markets). You might end up buying more than you expected.

2. BRING DEODORANT FOR THE ENTIRE SEMESTER! If you don’t, good luck finding your brand here, and if you do, it’ll most likely be unreasonably priced.

3. For the girls, if you have a personal preference for your, um, womanly necessities, bring enough to last the whole time. Don’t expect to find your brand here.

4. As far as other toiletries go, Home Plus has some major names (I’ve seen some over-priced Dove shampoo and soap), but if you need or just prefer something special, don’t risk it and just bring it with you. Better safe than sorry.

5. If you prefer over-sized towels, bring one with you. They have large towels at Home Plus, but they’re smaller than what I call “normal-sized” body towels. Not a terrible inconvenience, though.

6. Try to familiarize yourself with some of the Korean pop culture (music, dramas, variety shows) before you leave the U.S. or at least during your time in Korea. K-pop and K-dramas are a HUGE sensation and chances are you’ll impress your Korean friends if you’re able to list some bands or sing some songs. Also, they’re great conversation starters. Not only that, going to a karaoke room (called noraebang) is a common thing, so it helps if you know some of the music, although there is a ton of English music to choose from as well.

7. Go to every single ITS function and go on every single field trip. The ITS program is incredible and the people involved will be like your parents, your siblings, and your best friends. Don’t hesitate to ask the office any questions you have! They’re more than willing to help with anything and everything.

8. Food in Korea tends to be a bit spicy. Bring lots of Tums or other medicines if you think you’ll need them.

9. Experience a jimjilbang. Fully experience a jimjilbang. Yes, it might sound unappealing at first, but I’ve developed a great fondness for jimjilbangs. It’s one of the most liberating experiences you’ll ever have once you get over the initial uncomfortableness!

10. Participate in the English Clinic.

11. If you’re sick while abroad, go to the health clinic in the Student Union building. They’re magical.

12. Get a cell phone for your time in Korea. It makes life so much easier.

13. This isn’t necessarily a tip, more like a warning, but there is a curfew for the dorms at KU. The doors lock at midnight and don’t open back up until 5am. If you do miss curfew, you should be able to go to the library. However, during midterms and finals, curfew is lifted.

14. Turn in all of your ITS paperwork on time. It not only makes things less complicated for the ITS office, but there could a reward in it for you later on.

15. Take advantage of the Sky Cafe and the English Cafe.

16. Shipping things home by mail can get pretty expensive. Be prepared to spend over a hundred dollars for a twenty-pound package.

17. Bring enough money with you to get you through the first five to six weeks, because that’s about how long it’ll be about a month before you’re able to receive your alien registration card and set up a bank account and about a week or two after that for the financial office to deposit your flight refund money. I originally started with ₩450,000 but ended going through that quicker than I thought I would, but I was spending quite freely. I ended up withdrawing more than I’m willing to admit from an international ATM in Seoul.)

18. There IS an international ATM in Jochiwon. Take the shuttle bus to the train station and take the stairs across the tracks. Head toward Cafe Pascucci. Turn right before actually reaching the cafe and cross the street. Walk straight toward the shops. (If you look to your left, there’s nothing. Don’t go left. Go straight.) In that round-about strip, on your left, there is a Seven Eleven. Go in and head towards the back of the store, on the left. THERE is the international ATM. There’s another ATM in a bank farther down the main street, but I always went to the one in the Seven Eleven.

19. Beware of the traffic, especially those little motor bikes. They stop for nobody. Pedestrians avoid vehicles, not the other way around.

20. Bring something from home to give to your Korean friends. They’ll love that.

21. Just have a positive attitude. Things will be different. Expect it. Embrace it. Enjoy it.

Corrine Brothers Shares NYC Travel Tips

By: Corrine Brothers

  • Don’t hesitate to try new things, especially when it comes to food and food places! There is so much culture here, bringing great food from around the world and mixing it all into this one great big city! National chains, like Starbucks or Subway, seriously aren’t as good as they seem to be back at home; since they are constantly producing the same basic food products for the masses every day, it usually isn’t made as nice and doesn’t taste as good. By checking out smaller, unique dining locations, you’ll be able to get a taste for the local food and people living in whatever neighborhood you’re visiting, and often at really competitive prices!
  • Take the subway! It’ll get you wherever you want to go, and learning the various subway routes within the city, and even into the outer boroughs, will help to quickly orient yourself in the city. You’ll be able to explore way more than you ever could by just walking, and it is much more convenient and cheaper than a taking taxi. For helpful subway and other transportation directions online or on the go with your smart phone, use hopstop.com.
  • Walk briskly with purpose, and don’t make eye contact with strangers. If you’re a girl, weird guys may say weird things to you, but they are just looking to get a reaction. The best way to avoid this is to just ignore it. Walk on with confidence, look forward, and use your iPod!
  • Don’t try to pick up coins in the street! I don’t say this from personal experience, but I heard about it and thought it was kind of funny. Coins dropped in the street are usually ground way into the pavement from being repeatedly run-over and have become permanently stuck. So if you do try and pick one up, you’ll just end up stopping traffic and looking kind of silly.
  • Explore as much of the city as you can! Be sure to try and hit up each of the many different neighborhoods in Manhattan, as well as Jersey and the other boroughs. There is something unique to every neighborhood in Manhattan – food, shopping, sites, etc. There are also so many great places to visit in Brooklyn, Queens, and Hoboken. So just go out and explore!
  • Wear comfortable shoes! New Yorkers do not wear heels on the street; they wear other comfy street shoes bring their heels along in a bag to change into upon arrival. Don’t try wearing heels on the street, it ruins your shoes and your feet – it seriously isn’t worth it.
  • Use the internet! When you aren’t sure where to go or what to do, look it up! There are so many great websites and blogs that detail great places to go in the city. These can be great resources for when you need some advice about anything, from grocery stores to clubs.

A Semester in South Korea

By: Heather Eubank

This is mHeather Eubanky last week in South Korea. I’ve been here for the past four months, living what seemed (and still seems) to be a very surreal life. Having been interested in—if not obsessed with—this country and its popular culture for years beforehand, I came into this study abroad experience with a positive attitude and good expectations. Surprisingly, almost all of those expectations have held up, but of course I have encountered things I never even thought to expect.  I thought I knew all about Korean food, music, TV, etcetera, but I realize now that I had so much more to learn, not only about these subjects but also about the aspects of Korean culture that I hadn’t been previously been interested in! Before living here as an exchange student, I knew very little about this country’s rich history and culture unrelated to the popular music and television industries. One of the things I didn’t expect was how many new things I would learn about Korea! Better than that, I was able to personally experience this amazing culture, which before I could only experience through television, the Internet, and the occasional trip to the Korean restaurant about an hour away from my hometown.

The great thing about Korea University, one of the top three universities in the country and the school I had the honor of attending, is that it offers a variety of courses taught in English (which was wonderful because my understanding of the Korean language is less than basic). In fact, students and faculty alike generally seem to be quite adamant about learning and understanding English. In Korea, students start learning English in elementary school and continue throughout high school, and apparently college as well. Korea, in general, is a very globalized country and teaching English is one of the most important aspects of the education system. Almost every person I’ve encountered here, excluding the older generation, of course, knew at least a little bit of English, and that made communicating with others incredibly easier. I studied a foreign language in high school, but I never really understood how valuable common language is in communication. Having expected to have more than a few communication issues, and then experiencing just a small number, really made me appreciate English and spoken language as a communication tool! It also encouraged me to study Korean more seriously, since it seemed as though everyone spoke my native language well but I hardly knew theirs.

There are many differences between Korean culture and American culture, as one would expect. Honestly, I could spend days writing out all of the culture differences, big and small, that I’ve observed over the past four months and still be nowhere near finished, so I’ll try to pick the ones that left the biggest impact. For one, the United States is a country full of people from different ethnicities, but Korea is a homogenous society. This in itself is a major culture difference, but it spurs an uncountable number of other differences. For example, we Americans tend to value individualism, uniqueness, and nonconformity. Koreans, on the other hand, generally feel that it’s better to blend in than to stand out. There is one standard of beauty here, and it seems as though every female Korean is trying to reach this unattainable image. Plastic surgery is incredibly popular in Korea, especially eyelid and jaw surgery, and one of my Korean friends estimated that over half of the women in Korea have had some type of plastic surgery in their lives. As an American, I was outraged by this concept. In the United States, there is a very obvious and well-spread perception that everyone is beautiful the way they are and one shouldn’t have to change herself to meet the outrageous beauty standards created by the media and fashion industry. However, I saw no evidence of such a notion in Korea. In fact, there were plastic surgery commercials on the university’s own television channel!

While I disliked some aspects of Korean culture, though, I found other aspects amazing and coveted them in my own culture. For example, Korean culture has its roots in the principles of Buddhism: education, familial piety, and respect. Koreans tend to value education above anything else, which, as a future educator, I agree with wholeheartedly. They also believe in being a good child and taking care of their parents as their parents had cared for them. Not only that, one cannot deny the amount of respect people in Korea generally have for each other. In fact, respect is built right into the language! There are two ways to speak Korean: with the formal language, called jondaemal, and using informal language, called banmal. One can speak to his or her friends or peers in banmal, but when speaking to a stranger, a superior, or anyone older than oneself, he or she must use jondaemal. Therefore, respect is a part of the Korean language itself and is thus immersed into the culture.

As I mentioned before, I could write a hundred pages about the culture differences between Korea and the United States, and that might not even be enough to adequately express everything I’ve experienced, learned, and felt. Nevertheless, I truly believe that both Korea and America have a lot to learn from each other, and as I analyze the differences between our two cultures, I can’t help but think, “What if we were to put together the all the good aspects from both of these cultures?” I know that learning about and actually experiencing another culture has made me recognize the good and the bad in my own, and I want to use this knowledge to become a better person overall.

Personally, I feel that I have already grown immeasurably as a person throughout this whole experience. Knowing that I only had four months to experience as much as I could, I took on this new outgoing personality that was quite unlike my usual self. I believe that I’ll come back home carrying this new trait with me, not just for the rest of my college career but also for the rest of my life. I also find myself feeling more comfortable in situations that I wouldn’t normally feel comfortable in, like when meeting and interacting freely with people I am unfamiliar with. I believe that my positive perspective throughout this entire experience has helped me enjoy myself more than I ever could have otherwise, and as much as I miss home, I’m not ready to leave Korea. But, of course, I’ll never really leave this; the memories will stay with me for the rest of my life.