It’s a bit hard to have one exact starting point when talking about my experience covering nature and society in Costa Rica. Sure, it’s a clichéd way to start a post like this, but there’s just so much I could talk about and so much that I experienced that I can’t set a point where it all started. I think everything we did, subtly or not, connected in some fashion. If there were anywhere I could take this exposition, it would be elaborating on the connections between everything, as opposed to one specific event.
As I had mentioned in one of our previous meetings, I remember three things I was told to expect as an international journalist: 1) Don’t expect anything you planned to actually happen. 2) Don’t expect anyone you need or plan on talking to are going to follow through and 3) Learn to adapt. I feel we encountered all of these aspects during our trip to Costa Rica. With number one, there certainly were things on the agenda that we never ended up doing, like not going to a Tilapia farm, for example. Now, while we never really seemed to run into the issue of not being able to talk to someone we had to, I feel that rules one and two are pretty intertwined. I think it is sometimes easy to forget, when one is going to a foreign country, that you are entering their space, on their terms. They all have their own cultural difference of timeliness and organization, so if one is to go into another country with the attitude “they’ll adjust to my schedule,” it’s an easy recipe for failure. However, I think it all comes together with rule number three. When going abroad, good journalists need to be able to adapt (pretty fast) to the new environment they are in. If they don’t, that’s a story they lost and money the outlet wasted trying to get them there. For both the benefit of the journalist, and the people they are working for, I think being flexible and adaptive to the story they’re pursuing is top priority. I feel that we did express this during our trip: if someone fell out on a story idea (again, tilapia farm), then we found something else. Even in the more positive spectrum, if we found a story idea, we went and saw what we could get. I believe being flexible applies just as much to positive situations as it does negative ones.
I’ve always said when it came to studying abroad, in general, that one is only going to get the real experience by actually going to the country of their desire. Going to a classroom and simply listening or reading about a country will only do so much as to the actual comprehension of the place. In that same vein, going out and getting real world reporting experience is going to make anyone that much better of a reporter than those who will choose to stay in, say, Columbia. Being out in the field and having to learn, fairly quickly, on how to get the perfect photo, the right levels for audio and asking the right questions when you only have a half-hour with someone are lessons that I will only learn by thrusting myself into them. How else do I expect to be able to go into a country and adapt if I have never had to do so before? Even though my previous study abroad experience was more on the academic level, having a pure journalistic study abroad trip has molded me into more of what I wish to become: someone who can go anytime, to any country and do a damn good job at reporting in the process.