The University of Iowa

How studying abroad is allowing me to grow as a journalist

April 24th, 2018

One of the main reasons I chose to study abroad in Prague was because of the courses my program, CEA, offered. Anglo American University (AAU) had a vast list of journalism courses to choose from, so I knew that by studying there, I would not only be growing as a person while abroad, but as a journalist too.


The journalism classes I’m taking at AAU are Video Storytelling, Travel Writing, and Media in a Democracy. Each class has helped me hone invaluable skills that I’ll carry with me back to Iowa and beyond.


Videography has never been my strength as a journalist – I’m a writer at heart. So Video Storytelling has been a challenge for me, but one that I’m grateful to be experiencing. Each week in this class, we’re given a shooting assignment – these usually involve leaving campus, hitting the streets of Prague, and finding a story to tell. Using the university’s equipment like DSLR cameras, tripods, and different types of microphones, I’ve learned how to record better footage on site. By interviewing strangers on the streets of Prague, I’ve learned what it means to conduct a productive interview. 


One of the biggest challenges of interviewing strangers in Prague has been the language barrier. Many Czechs know English, and there are always tourists walking around, but when I’m looking for a subject to interview, a brief flash of terror runs through me when I say “excuse me?” and that stranger might look at me in that shrug of the shoulders, “I don’t understand you” way. On the other hand, it’s exciting to have no clue where the person I’m approaching is from. I’ve interviewed Czechs, Brits, Pakistanis, Koreans, and Danes – people I most likely would’ve never encountered had I not studied abroad. Expecting and overcoming the challenge of interviewing vastly different people has given me a new sense of confidence as a qualified journalist.


Travel Writing is definitely the class that I enjoy most this semester. It combines two of my absolute favorite things – traveling and writing! This class may sound straightforward, but I quickly learned that there’s much more that goes into travel writing than one may think.


So far, we’ve taken on multiple facets of travel writing – “how to”s, food articles, entertainment articles, event coverage, historical articles, itineraries, recreation articles, and more. We’ve tackled how different topics of travel writing take on different styles. I’ve had to stretch my mind and think of new ways to find article topics, and then new ways to write them. 

I’ve gotten to hear from an esteemed food blogger, a guidebook writer, and a travel photographer. It was so helpful to hear their real-life stories and advice (especially restaurant recommendations from the food blogger).

Hearing their stories introduced me to entirely new career options – I never even considered food blogging or a guidebook writing as possible careers, but hearing from these professionals showed me that there are tons of options out there that may be the ideal creative career for me. My mindset on journalism as an industry has opened up much wider since studying abroad, making me consider new possibilities for my future as a journalist.

Finally, Media in a Democracy has been an especially interesting class because of the perspective it’s given me on what it means to be an American. Many of my peers in this class are from other countries like Korea, Russia, Slovakia, and Pakistan, but much of the content we discuss in class comes from American events and politics. Hearing my classmates talk about the way they view events in the United States gives me insight into how the rest of the world views my country as a whole. I’ve learned that I take a lot for granted and have been given the privilege of (hopefully) becoming a journalist in the United States.


Even more than taking these unique classes, just living abroad has inspired me so much as a writer. I’m constantly witnessing and experiencing things I’ve never seen or done before, which gives me an endless amount of things to write about. I’ve written more in the past three months than I ever have in my life. Every day there’s an opportunity to write about a restaurant, a park, or even just a person I see on the street. Living in a different country has truly lit a fire inside me to write more.


I’ve grown leaps and bounds as a journalist since I’ve lived in Prague and been a student at AAU. I’m so thankful for the incredible opportunity I’ve been given as a study abroad student!


A cozy bookstore where I love to study

A tiny bakery where I splurge on croissants to get me through studying!
A tiny bakery where I splurge on croissants to get me through studying!

Studying essentials
Studying essentials

A beautiful ceiling in my school, Anglo American University
A beautiful ceiling in my school, Anglo American University

The famous John Lennon Wall
The famous John Lennon Wall


claire harmeyer

Claire Harmeyer is a journalism major pursuing a certificate in writing at the University of Iowa. A native of Des Moines, IA, she is studying in Prague, Czech Republic, at the Anglo American University. 

Interested in going abroad? Learn more about first steps