Ford Sanders (JEM ’20) participated in the Going on Assignment in Prague program during summer 2019. A junior at the time, we checked in with Sanders, now an on-air reporter with the Nexstar Media Group in Nashville, to hear about how this program re-ignited his passion in journalism.
Learn more about CCI’s Going on Assignment in Prague summer 2021 program.
What was one of the first things you did in Prague after arriving?
Right after we arrived in Prague, we had this welcoming lunch at the Prague Castle. It was actually one of my favorite memories. I just think that set the mood really well, like we were there for 12 hours and already eating inside of a castle on top of a hill overlooking the entire city. And then, we were encouraged to start taking photos and documenting the event, like we jumped right into photojournalism. It just made me realize that this program was going to keep going up and up and up.
What made this program so unique from CCI’s other summer programs?
The Prague trip is a little different from some of the other study abroad programs. For the first two weeks, we worked in partnership with Transitions Online News, TOL Education, and Thomson Reuters, which is one of the most iconic journalism companies in the world. So, we were at their headquarters every day and in addition to seminars and lectures, we had guest speakers from AP, the New York times, the BBC, etc. We were guided by not only our professor from UT, Dr. Mark Harmon, but also a couple of journalists from Reuters and AP, too. In addition, during those two weeks, we worked alongside other students from around the world – Georgia (the country), Switzerland, Canada, etc. Then for the third week, it was just fully UT and more independent. But every day, we would have class and a guest speaker and then go out and work on our stories. We hit on writing, broadcasting, video production, photojournalism – all of it.
What sort of journalistic skills did you develop while participating in this program?
Prague was really, really, really beneficial to my career. The class I took abroad was a lot about building packages and actually applying journalism to stories and building stories. Although this was study abroad, I was in Prague, somewhere I’ve never been and doing real-life stories that were getting published by TOL Education/TOL News. I think the biggest thing I learned was paying attention to detail, making sure my editing was correct, making sure my writing was correct, and having scripts, having web stories, having visual pieces. I think as a journalist, it really showed me how serious I can be and just how fun you can have with the experience of doing a video or writing a story. It was a really great opportunity to apply everything I learned in the classroom.
What was the most challenging part of studying abroad for you?
I think one of the most challenging parts, but the most real-life applicable parts, was that our first section was only two weeks long and we had to turn three stories. There were times that I was in crunch mode. But, to be honest, that was something that by the end of the trip I was made into so much more of a stronger journalist because now I love that whole deadline aspect and working under pressure.
How did traveling in and around Prague relate to what you were learning in class?
Prague is really rich in history, and a lot of that history comes from their relationships with other countries. I was doing stories in Prague and then went to Budapest and was like, “Ok, now let’s compare and contrast how the people are doing to react.” How journalism is, like, if it’s respected or not in that country because you know sometimes it isn’t. Also, two weeks prior to traveling to Budapest, we had a photojournalist as a guest speaker, so it was super cool being able to see everything that he had taken pictures of first-hand. Also, I traveled to Dresden, Germany, which was maybe a two to three-hour train ride from Prague, and I was able to apply some things that I had seen in our PowerPoints. It was really cool to not only learn in the classroom, but continue learning while we were out and about.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Studying abroad is something that has multiple positives that come with it. You get to travel internationally, you get to do work, you get to still be in school and get credit while kind of living your best life. But it’s also a great resume booster. There are just so many positives that come out of the experience. It’s a really good time to kind of find yourself, too.