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Apply by Oct. 4 to be one of 2,800 winners of a Gilman scholarship for study abroad

Sep 22, 2016   //   by Michael Dorsher   //   Awards, Blog, Contest, Internships, Istanbul, Turkey, Norway, Oslo, Resources, Scholarships  //  No Comments
Mike Dorsher, Ph.D., is the executive director of ieiMedia. A journalism professor emeritus for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Dorsher was a Fulbright Scholar at McGill University in Montréal, 2008-09, and a founding editor of, 1996-2000.

Want to study abroad but think you can’t afford it? Think again, says Rachele Kanigel, who wrote this blog post as the co-director of ieiMedia’s new program in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the best ways to raise money for a study abroad program is to apply for a scholarship from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. This federally funded program offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad.

Several students have won Gilman scholarships to study abroad with ieiMedia. This year, Amy Venn, a student at Valley City State University in North Dakota, won a Gilman scholarship to study in our Oslo, Norway, program, and you can see several of her blogposts here. In 2013 Taylor Gilman a journalism student at Metropolitan State University, won a $4,000 Gilman scholarship to study with ieiMedia in Istanbul. Kat Russell, a student at California State University, Northridge, won a $5,000 Gilman scholarship to study in Istanbul in 2011. You can read about her experience in this piece she wrote for MediaShift.

The Gilman program is designed to “broaden the student population that studies and interns abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints,” according to the program’s website. It aims to “support students who have been traditionally under-represented in education abroad, including but not limited to, students with high financial need, community college students, students in underrepresented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities.”

This year the Gilman program will award more than 2,800 scholarships of up to $5,000. Award amounts will vary depending on the length of study and student need; the average grant is $3,000. About 27 percent of students who apply win Gilman scholarships.

The program is open to students from public and private institutions from all 50 states; Washington, DC; and Puerto Rico.

To be eligible for a Gilman Scholarship, an applicant must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States; 
  • Be an undergraduate student in good standing at an accredited institution of higher education in the United States (including both two-year and four-year institutions);
  • Be receiving a Federal Pell Grant or provide proof that he/she will be receiving a Pell Grant during the term of his/her study abroad program or internship;
  • Be in the process of applying to, or accepted for, a study abroad or internship program of at least two weeks for community college students and four weeks for students from four-year institutions, in a single country and eligible for credit from the student’s home institution. Proof of program acceptance is required prior to award disbursement;
  • Plan to study in a country not currently under a travel warning issued by the United States Department of State. (ieiMedia never holds a study abroad course in these countries when they are on the travel warning list.)

Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process and must use the award to defray study- or intern-abroad costs. These costs include program tuition, room and board, books, local transportation, insurance and international airfare.

The Gilman Program offers two summer application cycles for summer programs. The deadlines are Oct. 4 and March 7. People who apply in October will find out in late February; those who apply in March find out in May. 

All applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight Time on the date they are due. The online application system will close at this time and no more applications will be accepted. This deadline also includes uploading official transcripts from your current college or university and any transfer institution listed in your application. 

Here are some tips for applying to the Gilman program:

  • Before you begin the application, contact the appropriate offices at your school to determine the correct study abroad and financial aid adviser(s) who must certify your application. Some institutions designate a specific financial aid or study abroad adviser to certify all Gilman Scholarship applications.
  • Submit your application at least a few days before the due date to ensure that you do not miss the deadline as a result of technical difficulties or because of heavy traffic on the Gilman website. Make sure your application is complete!
  • Some institutions require a written release of information form before your advisers can certify your application. Failure to submit a written release of information form to your adviser, if required by your university, will delay the processing of your application.
  • The Gilman application requires two essays: the Statement of Purpose Essay and the Follow-on Service Project Proposal. When writing your Statement of Purpose essay, stress what you hope to gain from the program and how it will help you fulfill professional and personal goals. For more information about the essays, visit the Gilman program website. (
  • Eligible programs must be a minimum of four weeks (28 days)— or two weeks (14 days) for current community college students — in one country and can be as long as one academic year. Students who are interested in ieiMedia’s Kyoto program should also plan to participate in the optional three-day Japan English Model United Nations Conference immediately before the international reporting program, so that study-abroad experience will meet the 28-day requirement.

If you do not qualify for a Gilman scholarship, contact your financial aid office and study-abroad office to inquire about other funding opportunities.

ieiMedia announces new executive director, 2017 sites

Aug 14, 2016   //   by Michael Dorsher   //   Announcements  //  No Comments
Mike Dorsher, Ph.D., is the executive director of ieiMedia. A journalism professor emeritus for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Dorsher was a Fulbright Scholar at McGill University in Montréal, 2008-09, and a founding editor of, 1996-2000.
Mike Dorsher was a senior in college before he stepped onto a plane – and then flew from Minneapolis to London to study abroad. That course taught him the meaning of independence, culture – and bangers and mash.
New ieiMedia Executive Director Mike Dorsher, Ph.D., at this month's AEJMC convention in Minneapolis. Photo by ieiMedia Oslo Program Director Steve Listopad

New ieiMedia Executive Director Mike Dorsher, Ph.D., at this month’s AEJMC convention in Minneapolis. Photo by ieiMedia Oslo Program Director Steve Listopad

Today, Dorsher, a professor emeritus and former Fulbright Scholar and Washington Post editor, takes the helm of an organization that leads an average of 100 students a year through 10 study abroad courses on five continents.
Dorsher becomes just the second executive director in the 12-year history of the Institute for Education in International Media.
ieiMedia President and Founder Andy Ciofalo chose Dorsher to direct the institute because they both are committed to delivering study abroad courses that inspire in-depth communication among students and people around the world.
Ciofalo, professor emeritus at Loyola University and online professor at Gonzaga University, has been running programs abroad for communications students since 2001. ieiMedia is unique in its dedication to communication programs in partnership with other universities, Ciofalo said, noting it has ongoing relationships with the University of Jamestown, James Madison, Rutgers, Colorado State, the University of Baltimore, Winston-Salem State, Cal State-Fullerton, San Francisco State, Hebrew University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.                                                     
“Dr. Dorsher has the energy and experience to direct safe and affordable study abroad programs that prepare students to be world citizens and communication professionals,” Ciofalo said. “A strong writer with excellent digital skill sets, Mike will be leading us in some new directions that will expand our mission, develop our social media outreach and create a more compelling digital presence.”
At a time when the world is in turmoil over terrorism and North Americans are seeking new leadership, ieiMedia is uniquely positioned to help students make sense of it all, Dorsher said. “We don’t do tourism. We use journalism and other forms of communication as the vehicle for our study abroad students to have meaningful conversations with people where they live and work. Then we communicate what we’ve heard to audiences back home, using whichever media fit the story best.
“Our motto is ‘telling the world’s stories,’” Dorsher added. “For us, journalism is a window on the world and a doorway to democracy.”
This summer and for the past two years, Dorsher directed ieiMedia’s program based in Nice, France. All of his students returned to North America safely before last month’s deadly truck attack in Nice, but ieiMedia has now suspended its operations in France – and Turkey – due to foreseeable terrorism possibilities there, even though the threat to small groups of students is minimal.
Instead, ieiMedia is opening new multimedia journalism programs for the summer of 2017 in southeast Australia; Kyoto, Japan; and Bologna, Italy. The institute is also announcing its first program to be held in January, during most campuses’ winter break, and its first in North America – in Cuba.
“We chose these sites because they ranked high with our partner campuses in North America and in a survey we conducted among our student alumni, professors and social media friends and followers,” Dorsher said. “We are committed to providing the broadest range of safe and accessible communications study abroad programs.”
ieiMedia is also continuing its playwriting and journalism program in Armagh, Northern Ireland, along with successful multimedia journalism programs based in Urbino, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Oslo, Norway; Jerusalem, Israel; and Split and Zagreb, Croatia.
“The strength of ieiMedia is its program directors,” Dorsher said. “We have a student to staff ratio of just 5 to 1, and among our program directors and faculty we have hundreds of years of collective teaching experience and hundreds of years of professional journalism experience, including two Pulitzer Prize winners.”
As executive director, Dorsher will work with ieiMedia’s program directors on recruitment of students and faculty, along with coordination of admissions, budgets, curriculum and assessments. He also will be the editor of a new website that serially features the journalism of ieiMedia students throughout the year and offers their stories for free syndication.
Dorsher served as ieiMedia’s admissions director this year after taking a budget-cut buyout this January from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he was a full professor of journalism and communication. He taught new media journalism and media ethics courses at UW-Eau Claire for 16 years, co-authoring a leading media ethics text along with many articles and presentations that premiered at AEJMC conferences.
He never lost the wanderlust instilled as an undergraduate during that first flight to London, he said. “I always remembered how great it felt to meet people and go places that had just been names on a map on my bedroom wall.”
Dorsher returned to the Twin Cities, completed a B.A. in journalism from the University of St. Thomas and launched an award-winning 20-year career in news, capped by four years as a founding editor of In between, he returned to graduate school twice, to earn a master’s in public administration from the University of North Dakota and a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Maryland.
He made his travel daydreams come true for dozens of others after becoming a journalism professor and earning grants to take students to England, Peru and France. Dorsher also earned a Fulbright Fellowship that let him spend the 2008-09 academic year crisscrossing Canada to research its media. Now he is capping his career as ieiMedia’s executive director, combining his passions for travel, cultures, languages, journalism and education.
“Not all ieiMedia students will have the opportunity to become foreign correspondents or even working journalists back home, but they all will have the opportunity to become better world citizens – in a safe, fun and affordable way,” Dorsher said. “My job is to make sure of that.”

Urbino students convey stories through multimedia

Jul 13, 2016   //   by Steve Anderson   //   International Reporting, Multimedia, Multiplatform Journalism, Urbino, Italy  //  No Comments
Steve Anderson is a professor of converged media in the School of Media Arts & Design at James Madison University. Prior to entering academe, Anderson was an environmental reporter and weathercaster for KCNC television, a network O&O station in Denver, Colorado. His reporting often involved in-depth examination of local and regional environmental issues and an explanation of the science behind them. He also worked as a news photographer, weathercaster and news reporter in other markets. Steve earned his Ph.D. from the University of Denver. He is ieiMedia's Program Director for Urbino, Italy.

Students in the 2016 Urbino, Italy program worked on some great interactive elements this year, including a before and after photo slider, a set of Google Map placemarks to highlight art installations, an audio clip from an orchestra rehearsal, and some amazing video pieces. 

Here are some of the elements students worked on:

Danica Feuz (James Madison University): An interactive slider showing Urbania, Italy immediately after the WWII bombing contrasted with today. See her story, When Terror Fell from a Friendly Sky, at:

Gabriella Flamini (Rider University): An interactive map containing placemarks of art installations in the countryside around Urbino.  See her story, Thought is Faster Than Action, at:

Bridgette Windell (Colorado State University): Embedded audio of an amateur orchestra. See her story, The Violin Maker of Pesaro, at:

Lea Peck (University of Illinois): Besides winning honors for the best overall multimedia package (text, photos, video), Lea Peck (along with Danica Feuz) created one of the best video stories of the summer about a farmer who went to extreme measures to protect his sheep from wolves. See the story, Fighting Not Dancing with Wolves, at: You can watch her video directly below.

Fighting – Not Dancing – with Wolves – Lea Peck from ieiMedia on Vimeo.

Matt Boselli (Colorado State University): Video story about those unique and beloved Ape (Ah-pay) vehicles you see all over Italy. See his story, Ahhhhhhhh-pay!, at: or watch his video directly below.

BOSELLI_Urbino2016 from ieiMedia on Vimeo.

Florence Hip Hop magazine

Jun 12, 2016   //   by Andy Ciofalo   //   Florence, Italy  //  No Comments
Andy Ciofalo (ieiMedia Founder and President) is professor emeritus of communication/ journalism at Loyola College Maryland, where he arrived in 1983 to found what is now The Communication Department.

dancing“Hip Hop Meets the Renaissance” magazine was produced by students in ieiMedia’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy in the summer of 2015. The program included students from Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina Central University, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and the University of Maryland, College Park.

The magazine features articles and pictures about Hip Hop’s expression in Florence, including an original theatrical production written and produced by students.

Students in the project included Jonathan Able, Taylor A. Bishop, Shannon Clash, Courtney Herring, Jaquel Horne, Diyana Celeste Howell, Veniscia Jones, Devin M. Laws, Dysheada Reid, Katrina Q. Robinson, Sabrina P. Robinson, Sheldon Mba, Ashton Jefferson, Destini Mewborn, Daja Middleton, Lewis Amir Miller, Charleston Parham, Saundrina Smith, Chelsey Wiggins, and Brandi McMcIver.

Download the PDF here

Tips to maximize your summer Europe travels

Mar 16, 2016   //   by Andy Ciofalo   //   Advice From the Pros, International Reporting, Study Abroad  //  No Comments
Andy Ciofalo (ieiMedia Founder and President) is professor emeritus of communication/ journalism at Loyola College Maryland, where he arrived in 1983 to found what is now The Communication Department.

Traveling to a foreign country on your own is scary, but in a good way. We always learn more when we’re pushed away from our comfort zone, and a study or career opportunity in Europe will shape your future for the better. Although you probably can’t help but feel intimidated by the lengthy solo travel to a city that you know almost nothing about, here we’ve outlined a few tips in the hopes of dispelling any fears of your summer Euro travels.

Stay on top of your health insurance
Before making the big trip over there, Travel Zoo reminds you to update your vaccinations as well as any prescriptions you may have. In addition to that, you’ll also need to review coverage policies on overseas emergencies. Consider supplemental insurance if your provider doesn’t cover international medical expenses.

Consider your banking options
Most people who are on an exchange or internship program this summer will probably set up local bank accounts to avoid charges on foreign exchange and withdrawals. But Go Overseas suggests that you call your bank prior to your travels to check for partnerships with European financial institutions that allow you to withdraw from their ATMs free of charge.

Embrace public transportation
While you may be used to taking cabs back home when you go to and from the airport, doing so abroad will quickly cause you a lot of unwanted expenses. Most airports have numerous alternatives to overpriced airport taxis that are ready to bump up their rates for tourists. Flying into a major international hub like Heathrow, airport parking aggregator Parking4Less assures visitors that they have plenty of transport options to get into the city, with express trains available as well as the Tube connecting them to central London. Additionally, if visitors are getting picked up by friends or relatives, short stay parking options provided by the airport will give them the ideal option for a quick exit, and a more cost-effective method of parking while waiting for your plane to arrive.

Do as the locals do
The point of studying or working in Europe is to expand your horizons and experience more than what the typical tourist would. Living like a local will help you get acclimated with your temporary home much faster, and by “do as the locals do,” expect to shop and eat at family run businesses, ditch the normal collegiate wear for something a little more stylish, learn the language, and only reserve the backpack during travel times. As the Independent Traveler says, a backpack of any size may mark you as a tourist.

Good luck and happy traveling!

Empathy and Imodium: advice from foreign correspondent Frank Viviano

Dec 1, 2015   //   by Susan West   //   Advice From the Pros, Blog, International Reporting  //  No Comments
Susan West is an award-winning writer and editor who launches and advises magazines and websites. With an M.S. in science journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia, West started her career as a staff writer at Science News and Science 80. In 1986, she co-founded a popular health magazine called Hippocrates (now known as Health and owned by Time Inc.), which won four National Magazine Awards during her tenure.
Frank Viviano interviewing in Iraq

On assignment in 2005, Frank Viviano (center, rear) interviews young Iraqi men following a suicide bombing. At left, in a white shirt, is his fixer Yerevan Adham, an Iraqi Kurd. Photo courtesy of Ed Kashi.

Frank Viviano has reported from one corner of the world or another since 1977. Working first from Central America and Asia for Pacific News Service, the Far Eastern Economic Review, Mother Jones, the San Jose Mercury News, the Register and Tribune wire services, and the San Francisco Chronicle, he later served as the Chronicle’s chief European and Middle East correspondent.

Among many other world events, he covered the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, the collapse of the Soviet Union, organized crime in Sicily, and immigration crises and conflicts the world over. He’s the author of seven books, including a memoir about his Sicilian heritage, Blood Washes Blood (Simon and Schuster, 2001), and, among many honors, is a two-time recipient of the World Affairs Council’s Thomas More Storke Award for Achievements in International Reporting.

Now a resident of Italy, Viviano has most recently been covering archaeology in the Caucasus, Southeast Asia, and Italy for National Geographic. He graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his long career as a foreign correspondent.


IeiMedia: Why did you decide to become a foreign correspondent? How did you prepare to take on your first post?

Frank Viviano: I decided that I wanted to be a foreign correspondent—to travel abroad and write about what I saw and experienced—when I was 10 years old. That’s when I began reading National Geographic magazine, where I wound up four decades later after serving overseas for many other publications. 

My first serious assignment abroad was Central America in the 1970s, the civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, for Pacific News Service, a small independent wire operation. I read everything about the region and its people that I could get my hands on prior to departure, which in those days meant combing the shelves and periodical files of libraries. I also interviewed refugees (there were thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I then lived), NGO aid workers, and Latin American academics at University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford.

But to be truthful, nothing could have adequately prepared me for my first encounter with the work of government death squads set loose on a rural village. I’d say much the same thing today, more than 20 wars and insurrections later: Nothing can immunize you against the emotional trauma of witnessing carnage.   


IM: How do you prepare yourself for a story?

FV: Reading, above all. It’s the best way to harvest background facts and begin a personal education in the history, geography, political structure, culture, customs, and traditions of the place and people who are to be your subject.

The rest of your education comes after arrival, of course, in constant engagement with those people. They are the teachers who most count. As you acquire professional relationships, it is also valuable to share information, contacts, and impressions with other journalists, especially local journalists.


IM: What was your most difficult assignment?

FV: All foreign assignments are difficult, as they all entail finding a way inside of a world that is often very different from your own. What varies is context, the surrounding circumstances.

In that respect, Iraq at the height of the war between 2003 and 2005 was extraordinarily demanding. Among other things, the violence was so pervasive and arbitrary that you came to expect it every waking minute of the day.

Another factor was the specific targeting of journalists. National Geographic photographer Ed Kashi and I were identified by name in anonymous phone calls warning officials not to agree to interviews, because various sectarian groups planned to liquidate us. Anyone nearby would pay the price for “collaboration” with the Western media. 

Next most difficult, perhaps, was China in and around the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989. I was on the run from the state security police for several weeks, due to unhappiness with my reporting, and in a 2,000-mile journey before my eventual capture and expulsion, I never knew who among those who offered to help me might be government informers. In the end, clearly, somebody did betray me.


IM: What was your most rewarding assignment?

FV: An impossible question to answer.

You learn something on almost every assignment, some profound lesson in human nature, its strengths and its weaknesses. The most rewarding lessons for me have to do with those strengths.

Above all, I count myself very lucky to have met people who maintain their decency, their generosity—their breathtaking courage and commitment to others—at enormous risk.

In 1994, a few miles outside the ruined Bosnian city of Mostar, I stumbled by sheer accident onto an underground refuge, hidden amid the shattered remains of a bombed apartment building. It was full of small children, hundreds of them, overseen and cared for by half a dozen aging nuns. No one knew what had happened to the parents. The children were found wandering alone in what was left of Mostar, and brought to the refuge in the middle of night by a clandestine network of supporters, along with supplies of food and medicine, to avoid detection by the lethal militias that haunted Bosnia in the ‘90s. I asked one of the nuns if the kids were Catholic. It was, after all, a highly sectarian war. She smiled and said, “Who knows?” God told us that children are innocent, she continued. “He never said anything about their religion, and we never ask.”


IM: What would you say are the three to five most important attributes of a successful international reporter?

FV: Number one: empathy. A willingness to try to imagine the world through the eyes, and experience, of the people who animate your articles.

After that, in no precise order, I’d list the following: unlimited curiosity about life in all of its enormous diversity; a love of words and writing; Ernest Hemingway’s famous “shock-proof s**t-detector”; and, alas, subjecting other vital considerations—personal relationships, for instance—to the demands of a profession that is emotionally and intellectually all-consuming.


IM: You and I once talked about the importance of having a “fixer.” Can you discuss who fixers are and why they are so vital to foreign correspondents? And how do you find a good one?

FV: Put simply, you can’t work abroad without fixers. They are local hands, often indigenous journalists, who speak the language of the land in every sense: they know its nuances, its makers and shakers, its mentality, its secrets. They can save you from your own follies, and in several instances in my own career, a fixer has almost certainly saved my life. In assembling a file of contacts prior to leaving for an assignment, no item has more importance than pinpointing and lining up the best possible fixer.

How? Two ways, overwhelmingly: tips from reliable colleagues (other foreign reporters) and recommendations from trusted NGO staffers, who also depend heavily on fixers.


IM: Are there particular tools that a foreign reporter should be sure to take along on assignment?

FV: A portable clothesline and mini-clothespins. I’m not kidding. A hidden supply of cash, in US dollars or (less satisfactory) euros. Imodium.

Far more important is what not to take. Always, always, travel lightly. I haven’t checked a bag on an airplane flight in 40 years. The rule of thumb is that you need the same amount of clothing in your luggage for five months or five days. No matter how much you cram into a suitcase, that’s usually the most you can go without need of laundering something. So why burden yourself with more than a five-day wardrobe?


Magic carpet: Q&A with travel writing pro Todd Pitock

Nov 2, 2015   //   by Susan West   //   Advice From the Pros, Blog, Craft of Writing, International Reporting, Travel Writing  //  No Comments
Susan West is an award-winning writer and editor who launches and advises magazines and websites. With an M.S. in science journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia, West started her career as a staff writer at Science News and Science 80. In 1986, she co-founded a popular health magazine called Hippocrates (now known as Health and owned by Time Inc.), which won four National Magazine Awards during her tenure.


Todd Pitock

For veteran travel writer Todd Pitock "writing became a kind of a magic carpet."

Todd Pitock is a seasoned travel writer whose stories have taken him from the Arctic to the Antarctic and from South Africa to Morocco.

In those far-flung destinations, he reports about science, sports, politics, and culture for national publications including Salon, The Atlantic, Discover, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. I had the great pleasure of meeting Pitock when I was the launch editor of a travel magazine named Afar; he wrote the cover story, about the Berber culture of Morocco, for Afar’s premiere issue.

Based in Philadelphia, Pitock has won awards from the American Society of Journalists & Authors and the American Society of Travel Writers, as well as the Simon Rockower Award for investigative reporting. His work is regularly included in anthologies and collections such as Best American Science and Nature Writing and Best American Travel Writing. Last month, Pitock was named the 2015 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year by the American Society of Travel Writers.

Because several ieiMedia programs—like those in Urbino, Italy; Croatia; Spain; and France—cover travel writing, we thought it would be helpful to hear from a pro what it’s really like to report from the road.


IeiMedia: At the University of Pennsylvania, you studied English and concentrated on novel writing. What led you to journalism and how did you prepare yourself for that field?

Todd Pitock: I didn’t think about journalism as such, and I knew very little about it. I just wanted to write, and like most people I intended to write fiction, and I was pretty naive and high-falutin’. I was, though, blessed in having limited skills and no other talents at all, so even while I was getting beaten down with a lot of rejections I just had to keep at it.

My first job was an editorial assistant at New York book publisher. But I was miserable sitting in a cubicle, where my main task was to type out rejection letters to other aspiring writers, and I really wanted to see the world. It was not, though, a vague or passive desire. It was more like a gnawing, existential need.

From the time I was very young I’d look at maps and wonder what different places might be like. I was also blessed with a horrible landlord in Brooklyn, and after a judge wrested a small monetary judgment from him, I had a wad of cash to go overseas. My plan was to be away for a year. That year became five, the first two in Israel and the last three in South Africa. The latter was during the transition from apartheid and there was a lot of interest in the place, and I started writing for publications there and in the U.S. So, in short, I kind of fell into it.

I also want to point out that that’s a biography of my first 25 years in roughly 200 words.


IM: What led you to travel writing?

TP: I had two completely contradictory views of what it meant to be a writer. One was working in isolation; the other, I don’t know why, was roaming or roving all over the place. The writers I read complained about sitting still but always seemed to be doing it in a new place.

As a child, I had this picture of myself writing in northern India. I don’t know why northern India, just that it was the other side of the world I guess, and I often had the feeling that I wanted to be half a world away from wherever I was. Then, a few years ago I was in northern India, writing in my hotel room, and I was like, “Oh, wow, I’m here!” And I would have felt really content that I’d arrived except that I was in a miserable hotel with a horrible rancid smell that made it hard to concentrate.

Anyway, I got to “travel writing” because I was traveling and wanted to travel more, and writing became a kind of a magic carpet. Moreover, in its best moments it was fulfilling in a way that nothing else is, enough to endure its frustrations.

For me, an experience only really matters if I’ve written it down and made some sense of it. To write is to notice, and I was never a traveler who just wanted to tick off places I’ve been. I wanted to really know them, and writing—meaning the process of gathering the information, the interviews, the experience of a place in order to write it down—was a way to do that, to really get inside a place. In fact, that’s how I often feel as a traveler, as if I’m moving inside of a story, ready to find out what happens next.

Along the way, I read some books that helped me see the possibilities of “travel writing.” Paul Fussell’s book Abroad, about British travel writers between the World Wars, gave me a long reading list to get through, and some of those models—Graham Greene, Robert Byron, Sybil Bedford, Evelyn Waugh, V.S. Naipaul; many whose names and work I can’t even recall right now—gave me a new framework to think about what it is I envisioned myself doing.


IeiMedia alumna earns international TV job

Oct 29, 2015   //   by Susan West   //   Alumni News, Blog, International Reporting, Istanbul, Turkey, Study Abroad  //  No Comments
Susan West is an award-winning writer and editor who launches and advises magazines and websites. With an M.S. in science journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia, West started her career as a staff writer at Science News and Science 80. In 1986, she co-founded a popular health magazine called Hippocrates (now known as Health and owned by Time Inc.), which won four National Magazine Awards during her tenure.

This summer in Tel Aviv, Cathy Shafran, director of ieiMedia’s Jerusalem Program, ran into Léa Bouchoucha, a 2014 alum of the Istanbul Program. Shafran learned that, in part because of her Istanbul internship, Bouchoucha is now working for an international TV station. This is Shafran’s report.

Léa Bouchoucha landed a job at an international TV station in Israel.

JAFFA, ISRAEL—French-born Léa Bouchoucha was an inquisitive child. As long as she can remember, she wanted to be a private detective or an investigator.

By the time she was college age, the desire to be an investigator turned into a passion for journalism. But not just any journalism—international journalism. 

It took more than ten years, ten internships, and hands-on experience with an international reporting program to realize that dream. But within months of Bouchoucha’s study-abroad experience at age 32, she finally landed an overseas TV position. Bouchoucha says it was her resume, her “clip reel,” and international experience from a 2014 month-long study-abroad program with ieiMedia in Istanbul that finally helped her dream come to reality.

“The program in Turkey allowed me enough time to immerse myself in the country,” said Bouchoucha. “But I came to Turkey very serious about the program. I was already pitching my story ideas before the program started. I scheduled my interviews in advance.”

Bouchoucha describes herself as the student in the program who came knowing what she wanted before she arrived. She had already spent the past decade studying at the Sorbonne University in Paris and working diligently at internships at Euro News Channel, Le Figaro magazine, and CNN-Paris hoping to get a leg up on her career.  While none of that landed her a job, she says it made her more passionate about international reporting as her future. 

“The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be a journalist,” she said. “I realized I wanted to be a journalist, but I didn’t have any skill. So I applied to grad school, and was accepted at NYU’s school of journalism.”

It was at New York University that she learned of the month-long study-abroad option through ieiMedia. She struggled with whether to attend ieiMedia’s program in Istanbul or in Jerusalem. She knew she wanted the opportunity to work as a hard news journalist. She chose the Istanbul program because of a personal connection with an old Turkish boyfriend. 

It turned out to be the experience she had been seeking for more than a decade.

“It was all organized to prepare me to be a good journalist,” said Bouchoucha. “IeiMedia gave me the space to grow my skills. At NYU there was no time for long-form journalism. IeiMedia gave me the opportunity to write about what I really cared about.”

Bouchoucha says the program was structured to meet both the needs of a student with mild interest in the topic and those, like herself, who came with a commitment to the field.

“In Turkey I was assigned to one professional. She edited my story and gave me advice. I learned about the challenges of working in a foreign country with a foreign language. I learned that the best way to make contact where language is an issue.” With a great deal of self motivation and the assistance of her mentors in the month-long program, Bouchoucha completed two video pieces about Syrian refugees escaping into Turkey.

“When I finished the program, it told me, ‘Yes! This is what I want to do,’” said Bouchoucha. “I was very happy. I knew this was the kind of work I wanted.”

Three months later, after completing her work at NYU, Bouchoucha began a job search with her “reel” from the ieiMedia program in hand.

A friend told her about an opportunity at the i24 News channel in Tel Aviv, and that week she was on a plane to Israel for an interview.

“They told me they were impressed with my resume. They were looking for someone with internship experience. They said it showed I had the ability to adapt in a foreign environment.”

Executives at i24 News called her later that week and offered her a position as a News Editor. She eagerly took the job, and now coordinates daily live newscasts on the international 24-hour news and current affairs television channel based in the Jaffa port of Tel Aviv, Israel. Bouchoucha works the French desk at the news channel that broadcasts in English, French, and Arabic.

“Finally, after 10 years!” Bouchoucha exclaimed with a broad smile. “My first real job in an international newsroom.”

While busy on the desk, Bouchoucha still dreams of being in the field reporting. She says a mentor in the ieiMedia program gave her a leg up in that direction as well.

Mary D’Ambrosio, the director in Turkey, really helped me,” Bouchoucha said. “What was most helpful was that she told me about Women’s E-News, a smaller publication reporting on women’s issues around the world. Before that, I wanted to work in big media. I realized with small media you have much more opportunity to do longer meaningful pieces.”

And so Bouchoucha’s time in Tel Aviv is busy, working the i24News desk during the day and freelance writing for Women’s E-News at night.

She reflected on her accomplishments since the 2014 ieiMedia program as she walked past the clattering sound of reporters and anchors filing their stories in the i24News newsroom. She looked up with a knowing grin.

“After a lot of work, this is finally my beginning,” said Bouchoucha.

The Armagh Project: a haven for writers

Oct 28, 2015   //   by Terri Ciofalo   //   Armagh, N. Ireland, Blog, Creative Writing, Study Abroad  //  No Comments
Terri Ciofalo is an Assistant Professor of Stage Management at the University of Illinois and the Assistant Production Manager at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. An expert logistical manager, Terri has toured nationally and regionally with a variety of theatre artists and dance companies as a Production and Stage Manager. Terri is Program Director and an instructor for the Armagh Project.

Each summer in Armagh, Northern Ireland, students come together to work on refining their writing skills and creating work to add to their portfolios. They leave as not as students, but Writers–ready to engage the world through the stories they tell. In the video below, participants in Armagh Project 2015 share their experiences.

Urbino grad gets a dream job

Oct 20, 2015   //   by Susan West   //   Alumni News, Blog, Journalism Education, Urbino, Italy  //  No Comments
Susan West is an award-winning writer and editor who launches and advises magazines and websites. With an M.S. in science journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia, West started her career as a staff writer at Science News and Science 80. In 1986, she co-founded a popular health magazine called Hippocrates (now known as Health and owned by Time Inc.), which won four National Magazine Awards during her tenure.

Urbino Program alum Autumn Morowitz recently began working for NBC Olympics.

Urbino Program Alum Autumn Morowitz (2013) has just landed a plum position: Production Assistant for NBC Sports, covering the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Says Autumn:”I’m falling more in love with the job each and every day.”

If you’ve met Autumn, it’s easy to understand how she wound up at NBC, her first “real” job since graduating in May from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Autumn majored in Media Arts and Design at JMU with an emphasis in Corporate Communication and a minor in Human Resources and Development—a practical curriculum that would have given her many options in the job market. But she also loves sports, and through a summer internship at Hersam Acorn Newspapers in Connecticut; more than two years at MadiZone, JMU’s online sports outlet; and an internship at a Harrisonburg TV station, she found she had a knack for sports news and a passion for broadcast.

 In Urbino, Italy, she showed a determination, focus, and resourcefulness that quickly overcame the cultural, language, and logistical barriers that can often stymie students in the program. Armed only with the information that the best peaches in the region reputedly come from an area near the town of Montelabbate, she made her way to the town by local bus without the help of a translator and talked to anyone who would listen until she found a family of fifth-generation peach farmers. Then she returned, again and again, to flesh out their story and bring it to life.

Her multimedia story package about the Marchionni family won a 2013 Raffie Award for best text and was nominated for two other categories. The Urbino faculty knew that Autumn was destined for great things. Now, though her contract prevents her from discussing the specifics of her new job, we thought she might have some advice for others who would like to follow a similar path.

IeiMedia: What do you think are the most important skills or experience for media students to acquire?

Autumn Morowitz: The most important skill for media students to acquire is storytelling. Whether you are a cameraperson, director, producer, editor or broadcaster, your main goal is to tell a story. The audience needs to be engaged, needs to feel something, needs to care about what is being said all through your actions and your decisions. If there is no story, there is no reason for anyone to watch. Take those English courses seriously. Take journalism courses when you can even if that’s not your major because sharpening those skills will matter all throughout your life.

IM: Have any of the skills you worked on or acquired in Urbino come in handy?

AM: The skills I was able to work on in Urbino would come in handy for any position. You work hard in Urbino and pour your heart and time into the pieces you create so that you are very proud of your final product. Being in a different country provides obstacles that you have to overcome and in turn makes you a stronger worker. It is such a great experience!

IM: Anything else you want to share with aspiring ieiMedia students?

AM: Challenge yourself and take that obstacle head on. Even though a task may seem daunting, you’re going to come out on the other side as a better worker. Every little challenge is a step, and every little step gets you closer to your goal. You don’t just wake up one morning at the top of the ladder, you have to take each little step to get there so make those steps count and enjoy them at the same time.

See what other ieiMedia alums are up to.



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Students Say...

Coming to Urbino was the best decision I ever made. Learning how to function as a journalist in a foreign country while overcoming language barriers and new cultural norms is something that helped me grow in my future profession and life. Aside from that, the city in itself gave me the abroad experience I always wanted and more. From watching World Cup games in the Piazza, to walking up and down the Saturday market, Urbino has left its mark in my life.
by Chris Raimondi, Kennesaw State University, Urbino Project 2014