Why PR students should study abroad

13 Nov

As students, we often find ourselves making all kinds of excuses to not study abroad: “It’s too expensive” and “It won’t fit into my degree plan” are just a few of those myths circulating the university world. (Rest assured, money can be found, and you will find a way to make it fit.)

The past six months, I have been studying journalism at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Like many others, I had never thought about going abroad as a practical venture–until, that is, I spoke to several PR professionals about doing it. Those who hadn’t gone wish that they had; those who had gone told me it would be the most amazing experience of my life. Well, they were definitely right, but now having been abroad as a PR student, I think EVERY PR student should do it.

See things like a giant clam in the Great Barrier Reef

Top 5 reasons why PR students should study abroad:

News travels fast:  Go abroad and get a feel for news in other countries. Whether you decide to go abroad to an English-speaking country or not, you will realize that news travels fast, around the entire globe. With social media news-breaks and up-to-the-minute updates via news websites, even the smallest companies in the smallest cities can become international news, especially during a crisis. PR professionals need to know how to navigate through the news world beyond the borders of their country.

The Quantas strikes affected people all over the globe. International journalists were interviewing people from around the world.

Interact with different cultures: I had the chance to work for a news publication on campus, upstart Magazine. Learning how to write for an Australian audience opened my eyes to the world of british english, cultural slang and Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) style of writing–yes, not everyone in the world follows AP style. I also got to interview an Australian journalist and found that journalism exists without boundaries. What this means for PR is that you could be dealing with journalists from all around the world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could refine your foreign language skills or learn the cultural subtleties of a different English speaking culture?

Gain international perspective: Understanding the international impacts of your client’s business is essential to Corporate Social Responsibility, but in order to really access that, you have to be able to look through the eyes of a different culture. Alternatively, your client could have a major business opportunity within a different country and not even know it. When I was abroad, I quickly came to realize that friends’ company, SOLO Eyewear, would gel perfectly with the culture and ideals of Australians. Being able to identify those kind of opportunities is going to be increasingly important for business survival in the coming years with the continual globalization of information.

(Credit: SOLO Eyewear) Understanding an international culture could open up new opportunities for PR and marketing.

Take your education into your own hands: Studying abroad means that you may be able to take classes outside of your major and still get credit for it. For example, I was able to take Online Editing and Publishing in Australia as an elective, whereas at SDSU I would not have had the pre-requisites for that course. Aside from that, though, you get to educate yourself about the world. Assimilating into a new culture allows you to learn a lot about other people, and a lot about your own culture at home. It is an enlightening experience, a learning experience, that no one should forego.
Finally, see the world before you settle into a career: Honestly, so many working professionals regretted not going abroad as a student. It is a chance to get out there and open your mind, expand your horizons. As a PR student it is important to get an international experience. As a person, it is essential! The most intelligent people are the ones who have travelled and seen the world. It will change your perspective on life. But don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself!

Sydney Bridge at sunset. See it for yourself!

6 Responses to “Why PR students should study abroad”

  1. bonkasaurus November 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    I encourage everyone to travel! i wish i could do it more but now that I am in college I find it hard to travel. My problem is I want to study abroad, minus the studying haha. Glad you had a great time! now come back to SD.

    -Bianca at http://theinbetweengirls.wordpress.com/

    • Samantha Afetian November 20, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

      Traveling in itself is also a great way to become more worldly. Studying abroad is just a good way to do it for long periods of time.

  2. Taylor L. February 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Hey Samantha,
    I’m just starting to looking into Studying Abroad for PR and Marketing, and I’m wondering what made you choose Australia? There aren’t any Business specific programs at my school, but they do offer Direct Enrollment with TONS of different Universities. I have already done some traveling before I started school (South America and Japan), but am not sure where I want to go next. I know I want the option to be able to travel to other surrounding countries (ideally on the cheap of course :]), but I also want a great program. Do you have any suggestions on where I could start? Thanks!


    • Samantha Afetian February 9, 2012 at 12:59 am #

      Hi Taylor.

      I am not sure what your university offers in terms of study abroad options, but for me Australia seemed the right place to go with my major of journalism with an emphasis in public relations. The media in Australia is a lot like ours here in the U.S. The standards of writing are different, but their freedom of the press and their style of reporting is much as it is here. The big thing about going to Australia is that they are huge consumers of U.S. media and I found that I was learning about our country in a completely different light, especially as a journalist.

      My suggestion to you is to start by talking to your study abroad office. Usually, though not always, you can tell them exactly what you’re looking for in a program and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

      To be frank, I have not met one person who has disliked their study abroad experience, whether they went to Australia, South Africa, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Etc. The main thing is that you go and learn about the world through the perspective of a different culture.

      I hope this answers your question! Let me know if I can help in any other way.


  3. Lester July 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Hey Samantha, thanks for the blog. It is very reassuring and affirms my will to pursue an education abroad. I am from India, and am also thinking of a career in Public Relations. I have some knowledge of Spanish and am taking classes to advance to higher levels. I am hoping my foreign language skills would be of use in PR. I am not sure if I should study in an English speaking country or Spanish speaking, any suggestions?

    • Samantha Afetian July 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      Hi, Lester!

      I think this is a great question. It’s not easy choosing where you want to go and you are right to think strategically about it. I think the answer depends on where you might want to end up practicing PR. Here in California, for instance, Spanish-speaking PR professionals are in high demand because our hispanic population is growing and many PR firms do not have the language skills to cater to that demographic; however, if you are staying in India or want to go to Europe, you may not find that Spanish is as in demand (except in Spain, obviously). I think it is best to look at your desired career path and see what the demand for Spanish-speaking professionals are in the location you would like to end up. Learning another language can never hurt your chances of employment, though.

      As a side note, I congratulate you in wanting to study abroad! So many people do not and I think it is critical for any type of media professional to have that experience.


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