A trip across the pond: learning about British media markets

By Beth Hatcher

While many college students hit sunny beaches and locations further south for Spring Break 2022, students in the “MEJO 447: Media in the UK” course hopped across the Atlantic during the break in classes for a week of media site visits in London.

The in-person global immersion— reinstated this year after a two-year pause during COVID-19 — is a fixture of the course, which introduces students to the British media market.

“Immersing in international media markets can help students understand cultural differences and the dynamics of another country’s news and communication,” said Interim Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Associate Professor Lucinda Austin, the course’s instructor. “And as London is renowned as a global center for international news, the London market provides a look at the international media and business landscape beyond the UK alone.”

During the program, students had the opportunity to tour a variety of London media and strategic communications agencies including FleishmanHillard UK, Octagon and APCO Worldwide — plus the Chelsea Football Club to learn about press relations and the business of UK football. Students also met with professionals from CNN International, Netflix UK, Bloomberg News and Sundance London.

For many in the course, the London program marked their first time traveling abroad as Hussman students.

“I always wanted to study abroad, but because of COVID-19 I wasn’t able to,” said Charity Cohen ’22. “This class was a great way to get that study abroad experience, and I’ve always wanted to go to London. It was perfect. Many of the media organizations and advertising agencies that we met with … worked closely with offices in the US and other countries.”

Cohen, who hopes to write for print or television after graduation, called traveling internationally crucial for her craft: “Understanding different cultures helps your storytelling, because it helps you be more sensitive to different cultures,” she said, noting side trips to places like Bath and Stonehenge that were both fun and educational. “The city of Bath was what I imagined England to look like.”

Photos below are "MEJO 447" students in London. Left to right: Charity Cohen poses in front of Stonehenge, Jospeh Laird stands with other students in a football (soccer) stadium, and Izzy D'Alo takes a picture in front of  London's famous landmark clock, Big Ben. Photos courtesy of Cohen, Laird and D'Alo. Photo at top right of story, showing "MEJO 447" students in front of Buckingham Palace, is courtesy of Lucinda Austin.

Liana Pinner, Hussman’s director of global, immersive and professional programs, called the global programs important professional development tools.

“We’re thankful, after some creative virtual improvising during the pandemic, that the school can now resume in-person study abroad programs that open doors and minds for our students about the possibilities of working abroad,” Pinner said.

That’s what happened for journalist and film festival consultant Wendy Mitchell ’96 when she studied abroad in England as a UNC journalism student in the 1990s. Now the producer of the Sundance Film Festival in London, she was one of the professionals who met with students during the trip. She has lived and worked in England for the past 17 years. “As someone who studied abroad in London nearly 28 years ago, it really changed my life. It opened up my world view and introduced me to different cultures and ways of working and became a great professional benefit to me later in life,” Mitchell said. “I loved hearing about the students' experiences. They are already so impressive in navigating a new world of content and working across disciplines, and they all seemed very open-minded about how their careers could progress from here.”

Izzy D’Alo ’22 said the program bolstered her own career hunt. “We got to meet so many amazing people in very different industries and hear how they got to where they are. As a current senior, it gave me a lot of motivation to keep going with my job search and helped reaffirm that what’s meant for me will come my way,” said D’Alo who aspires to film industry work as a writer and producer. D’Alo also noted how the trip illuminated differences between US and UK media markets. “The biggest difference I noticed was that the people had a lot more trust in the media, and it didn't seem as polarizing as it is in the US,” she said. “For example, there, they have BBC and Sky News, and those are well-respected and trusted. Here, there is a plethora of media outlets, with many ongoing debates about credibility due to bias.”

Of course, the global immersion program wasn’t all about business. A favorite activity of Joseph Laird ’23 during the trip? Attending a football (or what Americans call soccer) match at Chelsea Football Club. “The atmosphere in their stadiums is unlike anything in American sports, from the unique songs everyone sings to the extremely harsh language used towards opposing players and the referees,”  said Laird, who hopes to work in sports marketing after graduation.

Students also got a chance to network with students from the City University, London during the trip. “Just being on the ground in London with these incredibly talented, curious and professional students was a major highlight for me, and a fantastic reminder of both how great our students and the importance of in-person engagement and connection for the learning environment,” Austin said.

After a long pause in all University-related travel, the University Provost’s Office also approved plans for two other MEJO global immersions in 2022: the “MEJO 584: International Projects” course trip to the Galapagos Islands and the “MEJO 437: Media in Asia” course, which typically travels throughout East Asia during a two-week break but has been condensed into a 10-day program through Singapore for 2022.

“Whatever industry our students go into, they’ll be working in a world that’s increasingly globalized,” Pinner said. "They need to think globally, both as storytellers and communicators, and these immersive experiences help prepare them for that.”