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Scripps study abroad trip to Ireland engages students from four schools

Stephanie Gort | Sep 20, 2012

Kelly Matousek

Enjoying the scenery, Sonya Paclob, a photojournalism student in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University, sits atop stone structure overlooking Horns Head in County Donegal, Northwest Ireland. Photo by Kelly Matousek

Scripps study abroad trip engages students from four schools

By Stephanie Gort

Twenty Scripps College students from four of the five schools within the college collaborated abroad for six weeks this past summer to produce four documentaries outlining cultural traditions within Donegal, Ireland.

Students were divided into four teams and developed stories while learning the basics by taking courses in Documentary Storytelling and Production with an emphasis on Irish literature, culture and history. The teams produced documentaries that ranged in length from 11 to 23 minutes each.

Cross collaboration throughout the college was one of the main goals both professors had in mind in order to have a successful program.

“A lot of what Sam is teaching in Visual Communication overlaps with what I’m teaching in Media Arts and what others are teaching in Journalism and Communication Studies too,” said Professor Frederick Lewis, who co-directed the program with Professor Sam Girton. 

One student that went on the program enjoyed collaborating with other students within the Scripps College. Senior photojournalism major Sonya Paclob said, “It was an opportunity to engage with students from different schools. We had to work together as a unit to create one documentary piece. It was a challenge, but I was able to take away an experience I could apply to my future job.”

Before the trip, students participated in eight orientation sessions and two video conference sessions during Spring Quarter. Steering the students toward certain subject matter and developing substantial research for story ideas was crucial before the trip began.

“You can’t just show up the first day of the program and suddenly find a topic,” said Girton,  a co-director of the program, about the preparation work before the trip.

In addition to making these documentaries, all 20 students were required to serve as volunteers during the annual Errigail Arts Festival in Donegal. They also traveled to Derry, Belfast and Dublin as part of the program and attended lectures by several Irish filmmakers, including internationally known John T. Davis.

Now that the trip is over, Lewis and Girton believe all the students did an exceptional job with the assignments.

“It hit on all cylinders, to tell you the truth,” Lewis said about the success of this summer’s program. “Our goal was to teach them the basics of documentary production, and they all came up with pieces we were all proud of. There aren’t any we are disappointed in.”

Lewis said the students also grew and learned a great deal about Irish culture during their stay. Lewis will return to Ireland next summer to lead a screenwriting and film studies program based, once again, in County Donegal. For more information on that trip, students should contact him at 

Three of the completed projects and two other multimedia pieces related to this summer's program are available to view on Vimeo:

•Trailer/Behind the Scenes of “Made In Donegal”:

•“Tory Go Braith,”

•Isolated Inspiration: The Arts in County Donegal:

•A behind-the-scenes piece on the program:

•Real People, Real Festival