It’s almost time to say goodbye to Italy and while I’m quite homesick, it’s still going to be tough to leave. Every day here has been filled with visual and intellectual thrills, from the incredibly preserved Roman ruins to the painting-perfect villages built on the sides and tops of so many mountains. We’ve covered a lot of ground through Hofstra‘s SCOinRome program, in no small part because of Professor Randy Hillebrand, whose love and knowledge of this country give him ample tools to craft an amazing schedule of places to be, things to do and people to meet.
Of course, what truly made this program special were our 11 students, a mix of public relations and television production majors, who spent half their weekdays in class and some afternoons on various sites working on behalf of our Rome-based nonprofit client, Shoot 4 Change. It was a real-world, professional experience for them–held in another part of the world. In addition, the excitement they’ve expressed as they have visited and toured famous Italian landmarks and exquisite natural landscapes has made our voyage priceless in so many ways. Not to mention that most of us climbed to the top and walked the entire circumference of Mount Vesuvius (above photo) and lived to tell the tale!
Lastly, I’ve enjoyed engaging with and working alongside several of this country’s natives. Experiencing Italy through their eyes made my vision clearer. I felt less like a tourist and more like a person who has lived here for a while.
Among its many descriptions, public relations can be defined as moving messages effectively from a source to a targeted audience. There can be no better way to understand how to do so than by living in your client’s environment. The SCOinRome program has spent almost four weeks dwelling, working and playing in Italy, and it’s been an educational experience like no other.
L’Aquila’s history is an essential Italian story. Located in Central Italy, the town was constructed in the first half of the 13th century and quickly became the second city of the Kingdom of Naples. In the 16th century, it was taken over by the Spanish and its ancient privileges for freedom were revoked. The city was later sacked by the French in 1799 but became part of unified Italy in 1861.
Earthquakes fill L’Aquila’s past. Serious and sometimes deadly tremors were recorded in 1315, 1349, 1452, 1461, 1501, and 1646. In 1703, more than 3,000 people died and almost all the churches collapsed; an earthquake in 1786 took 6,ooo lives. There was a minor quake in 1958 and then there was April 6, 2009: Thousands of buildings were damaged, 308 people were killed and 1,500 were injured. Eight college students died when their dorm collapsed.
Now, seven years later, L’Aquila is still rebuilding and its damaged buildings remain mostly vacant. Preposterous circumstances including blatant government corruption and incompetence, plus accusations of organized crime have left the city limping and abused, and little is being done to help. Last Wednesday, our 11 Hofstra “SCO in Rome” students joined Shoot4Change, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating social awareness through the power of images, and toured L’Aquila’s ravaged neighborhoods. The students shot photos and video footage of the town and interviewed Shoot4Change volunteers and one of the earthquake’s first responders. It was a visually and emotionally devastating experience that our students and I will never forget.
Our four-week Italy visit has been filled so far with visits to extraordinary places, and a schedule heavy with sightseeing and experiential learning opportunities. But nothing will compare to our time with Shoot4Change in L’Aquila. Working with this dedicated group of photographers and videographers has been priceless, and our students will continue their efforts to help this organization promote and represent their mission during and after our stay.
Nonprofit organizations need assistance with their public relations efforts, especially because they too often lack resources to competently handle media relations, web sites, social media, and more. Our students have a unique opportunity in Italy and they’re truly making the most of it. Your thoughts?
My first week in Italy with Hofstra’s SCOinRome program, a four-week study abroad program featuring class time and touring time, has been both wonderful and exhausting. SCOinRome is designed to enhance the participating students’ learning and life experiences, and I can honestly say it’s done both for me already.
We met with representatives of Shoot4Change, a nonprofit organization based in Rome dedicated to creating social awareness and action through the power of the image, first in our classroom and later at its headquarters in an old warehouse. This wonderful group of photographers and videographers are truly dedicated to their cause, but recognize they need help to promote and represent their mission more effectively. Our students will work with S4C to improve its web site, enhance its social media activity, improve the Italian-to-English translation for three short documentary videos, and also create new video content for its various platforms and media outlets. Next week we’ll head to L’Aquila, an earthquake-ravaged city in which students will find ways to tell the stories of how residents are managing after six years of ineffective government assistance.
If I thought all of this was exciting, getting to know Rome with its ancient history and rich religious culture has been fascinating. So far, I’ve only had five days there but I’ve already figured out how to get around the city, and I’ve learned much about the history of its ancient ruins plus where to get the best sandwich on the planet.
But there was more: This weekend was filled with new discoveries for me, visiting places I never had on my bucket list but places to where I’d like to return. Being in the city of Sorrento and its active nightlife has been a revelation. Positano is positively the most visually stunning city I’ve ever seen. And the island of Capri was — if I may be corny for a moment — absolutely magical.
There’s much more to see and to do, and we’ve got less than three weeks left to do it. It seems every coming day will bring more stunning revelations and experiences. Your thoughts?
“Nothing of any importance could be undertaken anywhere in Europe at the time (the Renaissance) without first travelling to see what the Italians had lately been up to and what they had recently discovered or invented.”
Thus wrote Luigi Barzini in his famous 1964 treatise The Italians: A Full-Length Portrait Featuring Their Manners and Morals, which I’ve been reading as I prepare for my own big adventure: a month in Italy as a faculty leader in Hofstra’s “SCO in Rome” study abroad program. Hofstra University’s Randy Hillebrand and I, along with 11 students majoring in either public relations and television, will begin our travels next weekend for a unique learning experience.
We’ll be working with Shoot4Change, a Rome-based nonprofit organization, described as “comprised of both professional and amateur photographers, designers, artists and other dreamers who share part of their time for shooting humanitarian reportages for non-government and other social organizations which connects stories and storytellers.” The group uses social networks and new visual communication tools as “weapons of mass storytelling to raise awareness on local social issues through the engagement of our community.” Shoot4Change also runs free educational programs for “those who cannot afford it (refugees, homeless, disadvantaged people, etc.) because everybody should have a chance to learn how to express himself and unleash creativity for social change.”
Our students will serve as a public relations and production agency for Shoot4Change by creating content for its website and social media, and working on special projects within fascinating locations.
Every student I’ve known who has studied abroad has come back with a much-broadened world view and a life experience that many say has changed them forever. Having never been to Italy myself, I’m expecting the same result. The opportunity to connect and work with colleagues in a different country is a thrilling prospect, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’ll be tracking and blogging about our work in the coming weeks, as well our students. Like the quote in Barzini’s book, we, too, want to learn what the Italians have been up to lately. Your thoughts?
People see the new year as a time to resolve to make certain changes in their lives. A well-publicized survey by GoBankingRates.com showed that while “losing weight” is a top priority for many this year, it ranked number three and a related resolution, “live a healthier lifestyle,” was number two. The top resolution was “enjoy life to the fullest.”
I agree with numbers two and three. Having lost 17 pounds since Labor Day, I’m going to try harder by adding exercise. However, I’m tweaking the survey’s number one resolution to read “enjoy life to the fullest by making the most of every opportunity.”
Professionally, I’m planning to make the most of the regional conference Hofstra’s PRSSA will be staging in March, and will be seizing an opportunity to teach in Hofstra’s “SCO in Rome” study abroad program in July.
Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter was chosen among 300 student chapters to present a two-day regional conference on careers in public relations. “Start Spreading the News” will be held March 18-19 and will focus on options in entertainment, fashion, food and hospitality, technology, nonprofit, and international PR. There will be panel discussions on Spanish-language PR and an interactive session on problem-solving. The conference will include two networking events with PR practitioners, a visit to the Museum of Public Relations plus a couple of social gatherings. It’s my goal to help our students maximize this opportunity and stage the best regional conference ever.
“SCO in Rome” will take place July 1-29, offering Hofstra School of Communication students the chance to study abroad. Students will earn three credits by working for an Italian nonprofit organization to create publicity materials and video over a four-week period. Weekends will be spent touring Rome and some of Italy’s great cities. I will be teaching and travelling with colleague Randy Hillebrand, and we’ll all be making the very most of this wonderful opportunity.
I’m looking forward to what should be a terrific year, and I hope all my students and colleagues can and will make the most of their opportunities in 2016. Your thoughts?