Maymester in Singapore
By Beth Hatcher
In a world where ideas and work jump continents and oceans over the internet in a matter of seconds, the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media provides a number of opportunities for globally minded students.
“MEJO 490: Media in Asia” is one of them. The Maymester course, taught by Associate Professor Joseph Czabovsky, visited Singapore May 15–26, 2022, where 15 students learned about the Asian country’s media markets, visited a range of media professionals, met with alumni and took in the country’s history and culture.
Located in Southeast Asia, near the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is a multiethnic society with significant populations of Chinese, Malay and Indian ancestry. English remains an official language in Singapore, once a British colony.
Those factors add up to making Singapore an excellent global destination, said Czabovsky, who has led previous Maymester students on trips to China. Maymester courses are two-week intensive courses held in May designed to be immersive, fast-paced and hands-on.
In-person global immersion trips were reinstated this year after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below: At left, student Julia Aminzadeh stands in front of a sign in Singapore. At right, "MEJO 490" students enjoy local cuisine in Singapore.
“Traveling helps you understand the world better, and ultimately understand people better, especially if they’re from a different culture than you,” Czabovsky said. “Within every discipline at Hussman, we’re creating storytellers, and the best storytellers feel comfortable in a variety of cultures.”
Whether they interact with international cultures in-person or from the U.S., the ability to think globally will be critical in students’ future careers, said Liana Pinner, director of the school’s global, immersive and professional programs.
“Hussman students will be required to conduct their career with a global mindset whether that is reporting on stories that have an international angle, working with global communities or working with global brands,” Pinner said. “Short-term programs like ‘MEJO 490’ increase students’ understanding on how countries operate differently, such as the variations in press freedom around the world.”
Danley Stone ’03, executive client director of Superunion, is one of the alumni students met with on their trip. Ten years ago, she moved to Singapore to join her now husband there after only having been to Asia once previously.
“It’s admittedly intimidating at first to adapt to working in a new country, although once you find your footing, you realize that unique life experiences you bring to a foreign workplace can actually give you an advantage in certain scenarios,” Stone said. “Traveling abroad is much more than just a geographical experience — it’s an adventure of independence, exposure and opportunity. It’s important for students to see that there is so much life and opportunity beyond their immediate campus, friends, families and world.”
Earlier this year, Hussman students in the Spring 2022 “MEJO 447: Media in the UK” course visited London, England, on a similar networking trip and “MEJO 584: International Projects” students created a multimedia documentary in the Galápagos Islands.
For many students, these course-related trips offer their first chances to travel abroad.
“I wanted to take [MEJO 490] because I haven't had many opportunities to travel outside of the United States. Going to Asia has always been a dream of mine that finally became a reality,” said Julia Aminzadeh ’23, who hopes to work as a public relations agent in the music industry. “I've learned that many Asian media markets have similar communication strategies and tactics compared to the United States. In Singapore, they prioritize having a proper work-life balance. Having a proper work-life balance is very important to me.”
Aminzadeh also enjoyed the activities provided during the trip’s downtime, which included bungee jumping on Sentosa, one of the islands that comprise Singapore.
“I've also loved meeting new people on this trip that are in the Hussman school, and I hope to stay friends with them long after the trip is over,” Aminzadeh said. “This will be a trip that I will talk about for the rest of my life.”
Czabovsky knows firsthand the impact of international travel as a student. He did film work in China and the Philippines as an undergrad at California’s Chapman University, leading into a lifelong interest in Asian culture that he weaves into his teaching. He also teaches a “MEJO 437: Media in Asia” course during the spring, which doesn’t include an in-person visit to Asia but teaches students about a range of Asian media markets from the classroom. This fall, he created and taught “MEJO 490: Asian Entertainment Media and Marketing,” a course that explores the marketing strategies surrounding popular Asian films and television shows.
“Learning about different cultures has taught me so much about myself,” Czabovsky said. “Experiencing a different country’s culture challenges your perceptions about the world and ultimately about yourself. It is one of my greatest joys as a professor that I get to share these international experiences with our students.”