A half-dozen BYU communication students got to go back to high school, only this time in Santiago, Chile. However, this high school was closed and had been taken over by high school students protesting for reform of education laws that had not changed in over 40 years.
Once the BYU students navigated through crowds of reporters and police officers to reach the fence of the high school, they spoke in Spanish with the high school students through the gate. Suddenly, unlike the dozens of reporters and police officers before them, the protesting high schoolers admitted the BYU students and gave them a glimpse into the lives of the protestors.
Students from all emphases of the communications major have the opportunity to participate in mentored learning trips that take them from Illinois, Idaho and California to places outside the country in Central Europe, Chile and Ecuador among others.
“It doesn’t matter where you do it,” said Quint Randall, a news media professor who participated in two mentored trips to Peru and Chile in 2015 and 2016. “It’s just about giving students experiences in the field and creating articles and videos that they couldn’t get elsewhere.”
Not your typical study abroad
While most study abroad trips include dozens of students and span several months, these mentored trips have few students and last less than two weeks. The short time span stretches students who spend long hours collecting stories in the field by day and writing stories in hotels by night.
“These are definitely not vacation trips,” said Ed Carter, director of the School of Communications. Carter first started organizing the trips in 2010. “On my first mentored trip, I took one student to England where she covered the BYU Ballroom Dance Company in Preston, BYU study abroad students in London and even a Beatles history story in Liverpool. It was a whirlwind tour.”
These trips receive funding through special ORCA grants and other multimedia journalism grants. Students gather information on stories in order to create long-form articles, videos, infographics, photo essays and more. These programs usually highlight the good that other BYU groups do worldwide like BYU engineers in Peru or the BYU Ballroom Dance Company in Chile.
“BYU does so much good not only here in Provo but around the world too,” Carter continued. “BYU claims that the ‘world is our campus,’ so I asked myself, ‘why aren’t we covering it?’ And that’s how these mentored trips were born.”
Experiences that go beyond resume changers
Despite the planning, travel and hard work, many students find the experience worthwhile. Often students use the experience to go on to newsrooms, Ph.D. programs and other jobs throughout the country. Donovan Baltich, who went to Peru in 2015 with a group of students led by Randall, describes the experience as a resume-changer.
“It had encompassed all aspects of what I was learning, including writing, photography and video,” said Donovan Baltich (BA ’15). “Since graduating, every time I have applied for a job, every interviewer mentioned how impressive the project that I had done in Peru was.”
Though many of the multimedia projects to come out of these trips have won awards nationwide, Randall says that the most rewarding aspect of the trips is watching students be pushed to their limits and create great work wherever they go.
Even if that means going back to high school.
Writer: Trevor Hawkins
Disclaimer: This article was produced as part of the COMMS 425 lab.