Victoria Slater (Class of 2016)

photo of Victoria Slater

  • junior double major in Journalism and English/Professional Writing
  • from Columbus, OH
  • associate editor of The Miami Student
  • received an International Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Kosovo during summer 2014
  • visited Dubrovnik, Croatia, which stands in for King's Landing from Game of Thrones
"Take advantage of the amazing faculty here—build relationships with your professors, visit them during office hours, email them, go up to them after class."

Why Miami?

"When I first visited Miami as a junior in high school, I knew I loved it here already. I could feel more of a community here than other schools I’d visited. Miami is smaller than some, but it's also big enough that you have tons of opportunities and can enjoy a more intimate relationship with the faculty. There's a sense of security, knowing that the faculty and your fellow students are all there for you, and I think that's one of Miami’s unique qualities.

"The first year at college is always kind of scary, since you're in a brand new environment with a lot of people you have not really met before. Everyone is in the process of figuring out who we are and what we do. It's really been an amazing experience that left a good impression on me. During that time I decided not to join a sorority and instead determined to find a place of my own. I found that in the journalism program and The Miami Student newspaper.

"I started as a Journalism and Creative Writing double major because I've always wanted to be a writer. Even when I was in first grade I wrote stupid little stories about puppies—they were always about puppies! I got involved in my high school newspaper and realized that this could make a pretty good career. At Miami, I soon discovered that the professional writing program includes a visual rhetoric and design course, which gave me the opportunity to do writing and design at the same time, and that's why I shifted from creative writing to that major.

"My professional writing major allows me to take as many electives in creative writing and literature as I want. It also has an editing track, which overlaps with journalism, and this made a lot of sense to me, especially since I'd love to be an editor and get exposure to all kinds of writing: academic, journalism, speech, formal, persuasive. All of those are important in any writing field, and a professional writing/journalism double major was the perfect fit. I can make it into whatever I want.

"Many people see journalism as strictly objective, black and white, getting the facts—but I also enjoy using a bit of my creative side to tell the story. A good, honest news story can still contain more description, jokes, figurative language—the kind of stuff that make writing more believable and enjoyable to read. I think the best journalists are the ones that can not only tell a true, solid story but also make it a better story."

Best Miami Experiences

Miami students (mostly Journalism, International Studies majors) pose beside the highest peak in Prizren, Kosovo.

"I love being part of The Miami Student. It's allowed me to communicate with so many people. Getting involved in any organization is one of the most valuable things you can do while you're in college. Whether it's a sorority or fraternity, sports team, any of the hundreds of organizations that exist on campus—really dedicating your time to that gives you a lot of experience in many different areas.

"As the associate editor, which is a managing role, I work one-on-one with section editors and new writers. We've been making a big transition to a brand new website and an app. It's really exciting, but we really need writers to produce our content! I go into English and journalism classes and say, 'Come write for us!' I'm also there to help edit the content before it goes online.

"The Media, Journalism & Film department and faculty, particularly Dr. Richard Campbell and Patricia Newberry, have been really supportive of The Miami Student. It's a learning environment, and as student journalists, we're in a place where we can learn and make mistakes, all in the effort of becoming better, professional journalists. We've even heard from numerous people in the community that we are the main source of news that they go to. That's really amazing to hear."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Knowing how to write is underrated, and people don't think it's as important as it needs to be. Miami taught me how important it really is. Being able to write well, especially on a resume or a cover letter, tells an employer, 'This is what I'm good at.' If you don't know how to write well, you aren't going to represent yourself well, and this is a key skill you learn in the liberal arts.

"Some of my best writing classes have been Creative Writing [ENG] 226, which forces you to get out of your shell and helps you talk to each other about becoming better, more confident writers. Another is Journalism [JRN] 318, which covers feature writing and allows us to do longer, more in-depth, more creative stories.

"The liberal arts pushes you to know more than just your specific major, of course. My Astronomy [PHY] 111 class was great, as it made me appreciate science so much more, and after watching the TV show Cosmos later it was incredible to realize how much I had learned. Microbiology [MBI] 111, which covers bacterial diseases, was another one—it made me understand that I must vaccinate my kids someday. All of these courses are perfect for a future journalist, since I know I'll be prepared for anything."

The Path of a Journalist, from Miami to Kosovo

A typical Kosovo street view features hilly terrain and red-roofed houses.

"The Miami Student gave me one of my first journalistic experiences at Miami. I was given a writing assignment about the construction going on around campus and, being new, it was tricky since I was still orienting myself here. It forced me to get out of my comfort level very early on and lose my inhibitions. I was then assigned to the Associated Student Government section of the paper, which required me to go to ASG meetings every Tuesday. I learned how government works, how bills are passed, and to make an entertaining story out of it every week for 6 months.

"When I was still a first-year student I became a senior staff writer at the paper, and soon after that an editor! Handling writers, especially those who are older than you, forced me to really work hard. I finally moved up to associate editor, in which my number one role is to recruit new writers as people graduate or their semester workloads change.

"The idea of going to Kosovo for study abroad actually began when I was still in high school and visiting Miami for the first time. Because I'd always been interested in journalism, I made an appointment to meet Dr. Richard Campbell. I remember waiting outside his office, where I could see a flyer that said, 'Journalism in a brand new democracy: Kosovo 2011.' I didn't even know what Kosovo was back then, but upon realizing it was for a study abroad program I immediately fell in love! Dr. Campbell talked to me about it and said, 'You're going to fit in great.' He's the main reason I received my International Gilman Scholarship in Spring 2014 and made sure that wherever I wanted to go, he'd get me there, no matter what.

"I learned that Kosovo is a very young country, having gotten their independence from Serbia in 2008—but they'd been working for that democracy for a very long time. There is a whole new generation of kids there in a whole new education system, learning all of these ideals that we Americans have been taking for granted. Being a small nation north of Greece, in what used to be part of Yugoslavia, Kosovo has an incredible amount of history involving thousands of years and a plethora of cultures: Turkish-Ottoman, Byzantine, Greek, Albanian, Serbian, German, British, American. It's become a good representative of where a lot of countries are headed, so Miami sends student journalists there to report on Kosovo's progress in documenting its own history.

"Upon arriving to Kosovo for the start of my 8-week experience, I was struck with how modern and developed the country actually is. The international media has often neglected this area of the world since the war ended, so a global audience has been left with only images of a war-torn, antiquated, rural region as representation. Pristina, the capital of Kosovo and where we lived for the summer, is far from the ravaged city some might think—it's bustling with cosmopolitan activity, high-rise buildings, teenagers strutting about in trendy clothing (about 75% of Kosovo's population is under the age of 30!), and Top 40 American music blasting from the windows.

"It's such a quirky, intriguing place because you can see touches of various cultures at every turn. In an effort to gain international recognition, Kosovo is trying to meld its own, unique culture using bits and pieces of all these different ones. It is really quite amazing.

"In Pristina I took 8 credit hours of college classes in journalism and international studies, and I also interned as a reporter at KosovaLive, an online news agency that was founded during the war. I spent afternoons there on the prowl for a scoop, talking to local Kosovars about their thoughts on governmental and societal issues. It struck me that Kosovars, especially those around my age, were so willing to talk openly about their thoughts and opinions. They told me this is because they rarely are given the opportunity to speak out, and I felt honored that I was able to help them.

This Croatian fortress (in Dubrovnik) stands in as Kings Landing in Game of Thrones.

"My favorite and most successful story I wrote during the internship focused on the inadequate sexual education in Kosovo and the people who are attempting to improve it. Writing about sex in a country that has been conservative Muslim for centuries was quite the challenge, but it has the potential to make a unprecedented difference in Kosovo's development.

"Along with my journalistic work, I was also able to travel quite a bit this summer. I managed to make it to 3 other cities within Kosovo—Peja, Prizren, and Podujevo—and 5 other countries—Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Turkey. My favorite of these was beautiful Dubrovnik, Croatia, where jagged mountaintops meet an endless blue ocean. The entire city is encapsulated within the walls of an ancient stone fortress, which is where much of the show Game of Thrones is filmed. It was stunningly quaint and peaceful, despite it being peak tourism season."

Advice to Students

"Embrace all your classes, even the required ones. Taking them seriously and approaching them the same way you do for the classes in your major will get you more out of them.

"Also, take advantage of the amazing faculty here—build relationships with your professors, visit them during office hours, email them, go up to them after class. Getting to know them as people and becoming more involved in classes will help you make friends and become a better writer. Have fun and don't limit yourself.

They say these are the best 4 years of our lives, and they're also the times you will grow the most, so don't hesitate to try new things, including study abroad. Miami has many programs, and the experience you get when traveling and studying abroad is priceless. Right now is when you can do it—you don't need to worry about a full time job, so now is the time!"

[September 2014]