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Training Matters: Czech this out for work experience

ZofiaTwenty-five journalism students from De Montfort University have recently returned from a two-week internship at a magazine run by Charles University in the Czech capital of Prague. Second year journalism student Zofia Filipowicz, left, reports.

The DMU Global programme, enabling all students from De Montfort University to have “international experiences that push boundaries” was something I only glanced at during my first year of study.

Being an international student made me think I was pushing the boundaries quite enough already and going abroad, especially to a non-exotic country I knew well, was not necessary. This perspective changed as soon as I embarked on this opportunity and became an intern in Prague for 13 days.

In the world of journalism, a world that is competitive, busy and stressful, the word ‘internship’ can to be a tricky one, as it may have more than one meaning.

Anyone who has walked in a young intern’s shoes will know that it either means doing the few coffee runs to the nearest Starbucks, editing the paper’s most boring column, and only if you are both lucky – and daring – getting out there and grabbing stories.

Yet although I’ve done a lot of ‘interning’ already, I had no clue how I could actually benefit from this programme in Prague – even though I’m Polish, some of my family come from the Czech Republic and I’ve visited the country many times before.

But it was shameless triumph. Although there was some free time, we did a fair share of journalism work, both as a group and individually, and it was more eye opening and exciting than any other practical work I have done so far.

Being a reporter, a silent observer who sees, listens and captures either through words or photojournalism, is a lot more challenging on foreign ground than in places and cultures we are already familiar with. I still felt it, even though the Czech lands are not unknown to me.

The topics each of the students got given from the coordinators of Charles University’s international student portal, iForum, required a deeper, in most cases first ever, look into the Czech Republic and its capital – the history, the artists, events and people, who took part in them. It was tough but rewarding.

Apart from the articles we were assigned, we also enjoyed complete freedom of writing for our student website, Leicestershire Press. The privilege of writing whatever we felt like, made us all delve into our own tiny niches, places or issues we wanted to investigate.

Together, we created a kaleidoscope of emotions, stories and impressions, which allowed us get to know ourselves and the city better, or in my case, deepen and spread the knowledge I’ve already had and never used before. This culminated in a full-day Live Blog #onedayinprague, which was followed around the world and received nearly twice as many views as any other similar event that DMU students have covered on Leicestershire Press.

Alice Gibbs, one of my fellow students, summed up the experience like this: “Being in Prague has helped me develop the skills I’ve been learning on my course so that I can now practice journalism outside of the UK.”

I’ll second that. No matter if you are British or Polish, or, if you have travelled a lot or not at all, going somewhere new equips a reporter with a fresh pair of eyes and ears, and litres of fresh ink. Every second is an adventure worth writing about, every corner has a new story, waiting behind it to be found and told. What you learn is yours.

Prague may not have been a newsroom or a busy office, but taking part in this internship has been more rewarding and stirring than any other journalism practice I’ve had before.

The trip was part of the Leicester-based university’s DMU Global initiative, which has recently won the Outstanding International Strategy category of the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards.