What do the following people have in common: a Macedonian studying at an American university in Prague, a girl from Kazakhstan determined to help revive her country, a Canadian-Belgian woman living in Serbia who’s sampling journalism for the first time, and a wide-eyed American still a year away from graduation?
An insatiable passion to travel, to see, to do, and to know. This desire brought us all together in the city of Prague for Transitions Online’s Foreign Correspondent Training Course in January 2006.
We were obviously all quite different, but it was comforting for me—the wide-eyed American—to find others who shared my itching desire for something international. Since my first trip overseas as a high school student and a study abroad program with my university two years later, I have been searching continuously for new ways to live and study abroad. As a student, I am fortunate enough to have opportunities not just to travel but also to gain invaluable experience and resume perks along the way.
The 10-day workshop would teach me how to pursue my love of traveling beyond the realm of a student and into the professional working world. And all it took to be accepted into the program was a 500-word essay and resume.
Transitions Online, or TOL, is an online magazine based in Prague that covers news events in former communist countries. Each summer and winter, TOL offers a training course designed to teach the ins and outs of the business of being a foreign correspondent. The course would benefit any fledgling writer considering news, feature or travel writing for supplemental income or for an excuse to live abroad.
International print, radio, and television journalists who spoke to us lead exciting, if not dangerous, lives. Two had spent time reporting in Russia—one having been permanently deported from the U.S.S.R, the other a post-communist Kremlin “insider.” Several presenters had experience covering the war in Iraq.
Aside from their exciting if not somewhat unbelievable stories, the kind of practical information the journalists provided was invaluable. They discussed the basics of breaking into the business, finding those golden contacts, and even getting around that pesky problem of visas. Their one-on-one advice, encouragement, and tips made us excited for our future career possibilities.
The final days of the program were spent writing our own internationally focused piece. Although this task was intimidating, we gained insight and tips on improving our writing.
The program takes place over 10 days, seven of which are devoted to lectures and writing, while three are for sightseeing and free time. The schedule was relaxed and flexible.
The directors of the program, husband and wife team Jeremy Druker and Alice Drukerova, accompanied us in the classroom and to many events.
For just over $1,000 we were provided with hotel accommodation, breakfasts a 15-day public transportation pass, a guided tour of the city, and an array of cultural events.
Not only has the course shown me that a life abroad as a foreign correspondent is possible, but it also has culturally enriched my life like no other travel abroad program has before.