When I transferred to UF’s College of Journalism and Communications as a student, I did so under the impression that an immersive, professional-level photography study abroad was still happening. It wasn’t, but it was also my fifth year of undergrad and I just needed to finish school already.
So, after I graduated and eventually joined the College’s communication department as visual coordinator, I was lucky enough to also be able to dip my toes into the extracurriculars of mentoring and teaching students. As someone who went through the program and had an idea of what was missing, I wanted to provide current students with an opportunity to experience a new place and stretch their creative storytelling abilities in ways they typically aren’t asked to on other study abroad programs. My hope was that students would see a real return on their investment and come back better and smarter than when they went in, while also producing something they were proud to show off when they returned.
After sharing the idea with a new friend and colleague in August 2016, the idea finally made its way to paper and we got things rolling several weeks later. We gained final approval by the end of the year and began recruiting the last week of January 2017. From 40+ student applicants, we narrowed it down to 17 in a week’s time. The next few months until May consisted of planning and researching story ideas until we were all on the ground in Cuba.
Cuba: Outside In was turned in just over two weeks, and I’m damn proud of it. We actually went on to place 2nd in our category of the Hearst Awards at the national level for team multimedia reporting — not bad for a first attempt. The individual student video pieces also ended up together in a 30-minute package made for television that aired on the local PBS network.