Travel Writing Through Asia

The Spring 2013 semester is marking the start of a really cool adventure for me and Kim Bruce, my colleague in West Texas A&M’s Department of Communication. We’re taking a travel writing class to Asia! Check out our poster — we’ve been cartooned.

We’re preparing to take a group of students to Seoul and Tokyo for a two-week study abroad experience in June. The class will focus on travel writing. Here’s how we’re planning to prep for it.

During the spring semester, we’ll be teaching a one credit hour course on Thursday evenings. The class will put a heavy emphasis on how to write travel journalism, and we’ll spend a good bit of time introducing our students to the Korean and Japanese cultures. Eventually, students will have to turn in a “Pre-departure Story Planning Document” that includes the types of stories they hope to write, what story elements they plan to include, and justification as to why these particular stories would be interesting to a wider audience.

Even though English is common in both cities (particularly in Seoul), Kim and I thought it would be fun to also teach the students a little bit of Korean Hangul and Japanese Hiragana. You know, just enough to be able to read the subway signs and learn a few polite expressions.

At the time of this writing, I only know of one student planning to go who has already been to Asia. Everyone else is going to be an Asia newbie. And, most of the students will be new to international travel. So, for one of our graded assignments, students will turn in what we’re calling the “Packing Plan for Two Weeks in Asia” assignment. Kim and I both have spent extended periods abroad, so we know the value of packing lightly. We will be “encouraging” our students to pack what they really need in carry-ons and leave everything else at home. Right — easier said than done.

Kim and I are also incorporating Twitter into our class assignments. Our Mass Communication students need to be familiar with Twitter — there’s no way around that. They’re going to be required, as part of their grade, to tweet news and information related to South Korea or Japan. It’s a way to help them get familiar both with Twitter’s functionality and with what’s going on in our study abroad destinations.

That’s basically the plan for the spring semester. Kim and I are now starting to work with airlines and finding places for all of us to stay. It’ll be a terrific adventure.

By the way, for anyone reading this who has taken students on a study abroad excursion, I’m always interested in learning about your successes and “non-successes.” Feel free to tweet me at @ButlerCain to share your insight.

2 Responses to “Travel Writing Through Asia”
  1. faeriehazel says:

    So glad you got the green light for this, Butler. ^^ I would be so excited to take this course!

  2. Butler Cain says:

    Thanks, Hazel! Perhaps I can recruit you as a cultural guide one day while we're there?

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