Kent State students study abroad in London


Jack Gazdik performs at open mic night while classmates support his British debut. A crowd favorite was “Remix to Ignition” by R. Kelly. Gazdik said he firmly stands by his belief that it is the best song ever. Photo courtesy of Natalie Moses.

Natalie Moses

Editor’s note: Natalie Moses participated in the Kent in London trip.

While most Kent State students were ready to head home for the summer, students in the Global Advertising and Public Relations class were packing for a different destination. On May 10, a group of 24 Golden Flashes arrived in London for a very unique study abroad experience.

This was the maiden voyage for Kent in London, an idea that was born over a year ago. Assistant professor Danielle Coombs of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication said she was conducting qualitative research on study abroad programs.

During a chance encounter late last summer, Coombs was discussing the class with JMC professor Michele Ewing.

At this time, Ewing said she was mourning the death of colleague Von Whitmore and considering things like fulfilling life and self-satisfaction.

With that in mind, Ewing said she decided to pursue one of her “someday wishes” of participating in a study abroad program and told Coombs she’d love to be involved if there were enough students recruited for the class.

Students were drawn to the trip because of its timing and duration, which was a little more than two weeks at the very end of the semester.

“Not all of the class time was in London,” Coombs said. “We met during the semester, then traveled, so there was plenty of time for touring.”

The academic aspects were also appealing because the class was tailored to an individual’s interest. Coombs and Ewing were not only instructors of the class, but also mentors for each student’s area of expertise.

The concept was to become experts on a topic in America, do the same while in the United Kingdom, and then compare the two perspectives in a final presentation.

“The comparative research project helped students understand how cultural differences may influence the strategic approach in a communication program or marketing campaign,” Ewing said.

The class was a mix of students from the entire College of Communication and Information. With so many different personalities and areas of study, the class was designed so that each student’s research project was a topic of his or her interest.

“You research what you want to research, said Coombs. “It’s your gig.”

Topics ranged from cosmetics to music festivals and everything in between. The students related their topics to advertising or public relations and became experts in these areas by means of primary and secondary research. Each student conducted interviews with professionals in their chosen fields, providing information sources as well as networking opportunities at the same time.

Additionally, everyone in the class created an individual e-portfolio site. Coombs said she wanted these projects and sites to play a part in developing the careers of the young professionals. They ran deeper than a simple research presentation: “This cultural understanding is going to give students an edge when they interview for internships and jobs,” Ewing said.

For one participant, Katy Caduto, this became a reality. As a music lover and fan of British bands, Caduto said she chose publicity tactics in the music industry as her area of expertise.

When interviewing with Warner Bros. Records Inc. for an internship, she mentioned her project. When Caduto found out she landed the internship, she knew that the project was definitely a deciding factor.

“Now I’m working in, of all things, publicity and media relations for Warner Bros. Records,” Caduto said. “I’m able to incorporate the things I discovered through my London class, but I’m also learning even more while I’m there. It’s seriously wonderful.”

In addition to individual projects, the class as a whole was exposed to many workplaces in London in the advertising and PR fields. These included Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm; ActionAid, a non-profit organization; We Are Social, a social media firm; and the public affairs office for Parliament. The class also toured the University of Oxford and networked with students in a guest lecture at the London College of Communication.

Though the trip was professionally and academically beneficial to students, it wasn’t all work and no play.

“I think we can safely say that we all had the time of our lives,” junior advertising major Kacey Hocking said.

This was evident one night during the second week when the entire class cheered on senior advertising major Jack Gazdik as he made his London music debut with nothing but a microphone and a borrowed guitar.

Ewing said these experiences offer lessons that are difficult to teach in the classroom. By living in London for two weeks, successfully navigating one of the largest cities in the world and meeting people from all over the globe, students gained self-confidence while growing both professionally and personally.

Though this class chose the motto “YOLO” (“you only London once”) to live by, students and instructors said they hope Kent in London is not just a one-time thing.

Contact Natalie Moses at [email protected].