Dr. Mike Dorsher can attest to the transformative power of studying abroad. He went to London as a senior in university on a study abroad program. “It opened my eyes and changed my life,” he said.
Now, as executive director for The Institute for Education in International Media (ieiMedia), Dr. Dorsher is helping to transform the lives of other students. For those interested in studying journalism, ieiMedia is sponsoring opportunities to take classes abroad, to practice real journalism, conducting interviews, compiling and editing videos, and engaging in academic experiences through multiple disciplines.
Dr. Dorsher, executive director for ieiMedia, said that the programs improve participants’ skills as both students and journalists.
“The journalism students who study abroad with us come back as better students and as better student journalists,” he said.
IeiMedia offers eight study abroad programs in seven countries, including Norway, Spain, Italy, and Peru. Enrollment has been growing, but Dr. Dorsher said that ieiMedia is aiming to bring more students into the programs. “For 2019, we’re offering eight programs and aiming for over a hundred students,” he said.
The students themselves are drawn from all across the U.S. and Canada, offering a diverse experience to participants. Moreover, ieiMedia is making efforts to increase the economic diversity of the students who participate. “Any student who qualifies for a Pell Grant can also apply for a Gilman study abroad scholarship,” Dr. Dorsher said. Students have good odds of success as well; 28 percent of applicants who apply for a Gilman scholarship receive one. “This year, we had five Gilman winners, eight applied.”
For students, the experience often leads to things they were not expecting. “About half of our students have never been outside of North America.” Dr. Dorsher said. “What students expect is often quite different from what they find.”
A large part of that difference, according to Dr. Dorsher, lies in the fact that studying abroad, while often thought of as tourism plus classes, is actually much more involved than that. “We’re doing reporting every place we go, we’re talking to people and interviewing people.” Students get the opportunity to interview people from other countries about American culture and politics. Students also get the opportunity to work with language interpreters, and many students find that speaking a foreign language with native speakers is very different from using it in a classroom setting.
All of the programs are excellent, but students in the upper Midwest may find the Norway program particularly interesting. “We have a lot of students from the upper Midwest with some Scandinavian background,” Dr. Dorsher said, “We get students from all across America, and across Canada too. There’s a lot of diversity.”