Students learn travel writing and photojournalism in Italy
Imagine traversing a windy, snow-covered crater more than 1,500 meters above sea level, photographing a piece of the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. This isn’t just any old mountain—it’s Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
Every spring semester, for 10 days, students in this unique UMass Amherst journalism class experience the breathtaking landscape, friendly people, captivating history, and fantastic food of Sicily. The trip is Journalism 391R: Travel Writing and Photojournalism, taught by Richard Newton and Carol Connare.
This year marked the thirteenth time Newton led a group of UMass Amherst students to Sicily and over the years he has developed special relationships with its people and places. The trip’s native Sicilian tour guide has a gift for storytelling that makes the experience unforgettable for students. The driver is a virtuoso at navigating narrow roads and mountain towns. Gangivecchio, a 14th-century Benedictine abbey, opens for visitors only when Newton’s students are in town, while residents of Castelbuono and other small towns vie for student attention.
Why travel writing and photojournalism? “There aren’t any other classes specifically on travel writing/photography. It gives a real world component, which is great,” says Kellie Quinn ’12. Newton adds, “It gives students a short international experience and a better world view without committing to a whole semester.” The lucky students meet twice weekly, studying the fundamentals of travel writing with Connare and photography with Newton. Jeremiah Patterson ’93 joins the group with his students from the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford.
While traveling from San Vito lo Capo on Sicily’s west coast to Taormina on the east, students keep a daily journal and photograph the people and landscape. Back in Amherst, they write travel articles or produce photography portfolios. “I like the atmosphere of the class,” says Krystina Konop ’13. “It is much easier to write a great piece when you have spent a week traveling with your teacher and peers because you can really bounce ideas off of each other.”