Course Spotlight: Covering International Festivals, Iceland

Published on Feb 02, 2016

By Keisa Reynolds ('15)

Covering International Festivals: Iceland is a course within the Radio department. In the course, the students produced a radio documentary, which aired on WCRX on January 9th. You can visit their blog and their Iceland 2015 page to look back on class blog posts during their Fall semester trip. Is Iceland calling you? Read on for more info from the instructor, Althea Legaspi

Why should students study abroad in Iceland?
I think one of the advantages is it's an immersive, fast-paced course, which gives students the opportunity to cull multiple platform portfolio pieces and where students have the opportunity to learn new skills and experience a unique culture without having to be gone for an extended period of time. Since we go to Iceland for about a week, students can still enroll in Columbia courses the same semester. So, they get the benefit of studying abroad while still taking other courses and can continue working at current jobs, etc.

Which majors would benefit from this opportunity?
It is open to any major and any major can benefit as the stories they produce are ones they pitch that interest them (so the pitch can be related to their major). Strong writing skills and being deadline-oriented are important, but the majority of students who've enrolled in the Iceland course previously are not writing majors.


What was the day-to-day experience for students?
We literally hit the ground running. It's an overnight flight with not much time to sleep (5.5 hours) and we land around 6 a.m. I give a walking tour of Reykjavík and orientation immediately after we check into the hotel to stave off jet lag. We visit all the music venues scattered around the capital, pick up our festival passes, we try an Icelandic hot dog, we swim in the oldest indoor swimming pool, Sundhöll, in Reykjavík, and visit the hot pots and sauna there. Swimming in their geothermal pools is a popular pastime in Reykjavík.

And then it's time for music. Students run around the city to go to their assigned shows to review concerts and meet a midnight deadline every night we're there. Aside from the required nightly concert blogging on deadline, each day there are different tasks to accomplish, from producing a during audio story with two in-person interviews culled and published on our blog while in Iceland to the additional three in-person interviews they each also conduct there for the final radio documentary we produce when we return (we're in the process of putting that together now). They write first draft final documentary scripts for each of their stories and we begin to shape the final documentary while we're in Iceland, too.

Plus there are network industry meetings, excursions to the countryside and blue lagoon, chasing the Northern Lights, visiting the flea market and trying a variety of local food. 

How will studying abroad (in Iceland, or generally) prepare them for a more competitive job after college? How will this experience help build a stronger portfolio?
They learn how to professionally reach out to industry people and secure interviews, conduct deep research, come up with intelligent questions for their interviewees, communicate effectively with their writing through shaping their stories, time management and scheduling, work under pressure, work on a strict deadline, behave and interact professionally in an industry work setting, work independently as well as collaboratively, and learn about SEO and CMS from the blog component.

After the class is completed each student should have completed four individual audio stories they have written, voiced and produced themselves, along with several published on-deadline blogs, and they will have participated in two collaborative final radio documentaries that demonstrate their ability to work on a team.

Covering International Festivals: Iceland 2015

What is your favorite aspect of the trip?
I mean for me, the whole trip is exhilarating. I've been personally covering Iceland Airwaves since 2007, so obviously I'm enamored with the country, its people, culture and the festival. Class-wise, it's great seeing how they fall in love with the experience, too. I love hearing how their interviews go and about their successes in pursuing and shaping their stories. For many in the class, it's their very first time producing audio, interviewing people, and writing journalistically and analytically, so to see them grow and develop those new skills is pretty awesome. It's great seeing them all come back as fans of Iceland and its rich musical landscape. I enjoy seeing their excitement at embracing new ideas, new food, new culture, new experiences.

Read Andriana Bozovic’s interview to check a student’s perspective!