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Virginia Tech students publish online magazine about their summer study abroad


   

Junior communications major Allison Postlethwait (left), an Honors student from Northborough, Mass., and senior communications major Amber Finlay, a senior from Lincoln, Va., work on articles for Maderni in the garden outside of Villa Maderni. Junior communications major Allison Postlethwait (left), an Honors student from Northborough, Mass., and senior communications major Amber Finlay, a senior from Lincoln, Va., work on articles for Maderni in the garden outside of Villa Maderni.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 9, 2009 – Armed with travel journals and digital cameras, students in the Department of Communication's summer study abroad class chronicled their travels throughout Europe in an online magazine. Their stories, photos, and video provide readers with a taste of what they might experience if they visit Virginia Tech's European campus center based in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.

Required to take a minimum of two out of the three courses offered during the summer session, 20 students had the option to study international public relations, magazine writing, and/or photojournalism.

Individuals enrolled in Assistant Professor Jenn Mackay's magazine writing class were required to submit at least one story for the online publication, Maderni , named after Villa Maderni, Virginia Tech's 200-year-old Swiss villa where students may live and study. In addition to their roles as writers and editors, some of Mackay's students obtained leadership roles based on their prior experience in Web design and photography.

Sara Spangler, a senior from Raleigh, N.C., double-majoring in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and visual communication design/graphic design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, was appointed photo editor; and Jenna Nichols, a senior from Honaker, Va., majoring in communication and executive editor of Planet Blacksburg, was named webmaster.

The student journalists wrote travel-writing style stories about their adventures, their fears, and the excitement of living in a new country. A useful resource for students interested in studying abroad at Virginia Tech's Center for European Studies and Architecture, the articles provide information on Villa Maderni and the classes taught there, restaurants and cuisine in Riva San Vitale, and various activities to do in the region. In addition, students' publications touch on their journeys and experiences outside of Switzerland, including a story about a student's brush with British guards while she tried to enter the gates at Buckingham Palace and an article about a student coming face-to-face with a drug search dog on a train.

According to Mackay, the publication built a sense of community by creating a shared experience. It also benefited the study abroad students academically in several ways. "It motivated our writers to compose a story that people would want to read, allowed them to learn more about writing through peer editing, and taught them how to determine the types of photos that are appropriate for a journalistic story."

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences encourages students to participate in educational abroad opportunities and awards 10-15 scholarships each semester. Students typically earn credit for courses taken abroad.

Written by Lindsey Love, of Stafford, Va., a 2009 graduate who received a degree in communication from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.