From JCU to UNESCO in Bangkok: Alumna Sara Gabai Tells her Story

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 Sara Gabai (left) with Dr. Susanne Ornager, UNESCO Advisor for Communication and Information in Asia at the Media and Development Conference in Myanmar

Sara Gabai (left) with Dr. Susanne Ornager, UNESCO Advisor for Communication and Information in Asia at the Media and Development Conference in Myanmar

Looking back on the years I spent at JCU, I can say that they were the best and most enriching years of my life. The diversity of students, the expertise of my professors, the feeling of community, and the friendships I made really shaped my personal and professional life.

In particular, I am very grateful to the JCU Communications Department simply because it was a school of life. Theory and practice were always combined and my professors/mentors were there to inspire and encourage me to always look beyond and find strategies to bridge classroom knowledge with real world issues. This is what I did and am still doing today.

Students must understand that in the competitive world we live in, they will be successful only if they choose what they are really passionate about – and JCU gave me the possibility to choose my field of study and unleash my creativity.

I am from Naples and went to an Italian public high school, but spent my fourth year as an exchange student near Chicago. I studied at JCU during 2007- 2010 and graduated with a Major in Communications and a Minor in English Literature. I finished in May and was accepted at the London School of Economics and Political Science for a Master’s in Gender, Media and Culture. My professors were there to give me advice and support at every stage of my transition from undergraduate to grad school and beyond. Indeed, this is what real learning is all about – building long-lasting relationships and exchanging knowledge within and outside the classroom.

After my Master’s, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an intern by the Communication and Information Unit of UNESCO in Bangkok. They needed someone knowledgeable in the field of media literacy, which is precisely my area of expertise. I must say that I would not be here today if it weren’t for Professor Antonio Lopez with whom I took an independent study on media literacy during my last semester at JCU. UNESCO itself acknowledged the importance of media literacy to encourage people worldwide to be fully aware of their rights of free expression, defend their access to information, critically evaluate content, and participate in decision- making processes. Once again, the importance of bridging learning and citizenship and bringing class knowledge into the real world to make a difference!

During this year in Bangkok, I have had the opportunity to travel throughout Southeast Asia, participate in events and projects related to the field of communications, media and development and meet many interesting people. I am very pleased to report that my paper “Promoting Intercultural Dialogue between East and West through Media Literacy and Pop Culture” has been accepted for presentation at the Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue Conference in Barcelona this May.

My advice to students is to always look within themselves and understand what their passions and talents are. Real learning is always a pleasure, and one must not separate personal life from academic life.

I also encourage students to talk more to their professors – they are the people who have the experience to guide them through their academic journey. From my experience, the most creative ideas emerged during after class conversations, meetings with my advisors and informal talks sipping a cappuccino at the Caffè Settimiano!