By David Ertischek ’01
Emerson College’s Global Pathways programs are more than just study abroad programs. Students are immersed in cultures never seen before, into different ways of life, and learn in real world contexts.
“It’s not just a group of Emerson students hanging in another country. It’s quite the opposite actually,” said Paul Mihailidis, associate professor of Civic Media and Journalism, who led the Global Media Academy program in Salzburg, Austria. “Young people from 25 countries are in residence together working living and eating together. They are exposed to inspirational people doing impactful work in places like Bangladesh, Syria, and Palestine.”
With this year’s theme of The Cost of Disbelief: Fracturing Societies and the Erosion of Trust, students in Salzburg heard from Bangladeshi photojournalist and activist Shahidul Alam about vulnerability, trust, and courage through the medium of photography, as well as Naja Nielsen, digital director of BBC News, about journalistic responsibility, impartiality, and the freedom of speech.
At the end of the 17-day program a digital publication, [re]BUILD: InteractiveLearning Experiences for Media Literate Societies, is produced. The project features six approaches that push the boundaries to journalistic practices for engagement, innovative and accessible technology use, and inclusive storytelling.
The spirit of learning about different cultures was the raison d’etre of the Global Communication and French Language program, taught by Cathryn Edelstein, senior executive-in-residence in Communication Studies and faculty director for the Global Pathways Paris program. Through French language classes at the Sorbonne, excursions, guest lectures, and firsthand experiences, students got past initial discomfort from living in a new culture, Edelstein said.
“What I loved most about the program was the ability to distance myself from American culture and completely immerse myself into a different way of life,” said Theatre and Performance major Anna Kosiarek ’22. “I cannot count all the ways it opened my mind in regards to politics, sexuality, love, manners, art, and friendship.”
The learning experience is certainly not just rewarding for students, said Performing Arts Professor Maureen Shea and Mirta Tocci, assistant professor in the Institute For Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies, who both led the Art, Theatre and Culture program in Barcelona.
“We love introducing Emerson students to the contemporary, largely political aesthetic that is manifest in the outstanding work of major European and international theater and visual artists,” said Shea.
Theatre major Katie Taylor ’21 loved experiencing unique types of theatre that they wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to in the United States.
“As a class we saw interactive pieces, avant-garde pieces and shows in foreign languages as well as shows without any dialogue. There wasn’t a single show I disliked because they all challenged and surprised me in different ways. As a result, I learned a lot about who I am as a theatre artist which was very inspiring,” said Taylor.
Shea and Tocci encourage students to use their Spanish experience as both a window and a mirror, to show them another culture, but also enable them to get a clearer view of themselves.
Media Studies major Ann Zhang ’20 really loved the small student group size, and that the Barcelona program is built around cultural experiences, adding, “Instead of being tourists, we were travelers, and I am really proud of that.”
Along with being enlightened by cultural experiences, students’ natural talents are allowed to blossom in programs such as Writing Place and Distance: Art and Environment in the West of Ireland, led by Writing, Literature and Publishing Professor Daniel Tobin and Christine Casson, senior writer-in-residence.
“What excites us most about the program is introducing students to the remarkable landscape, geology, and history of the Burren; a sampling of the rich literature of the West of Ireland through classic and contemporary writers; and seeing how their own writing evolves over the course of their time here,” said Tobin.