Student Insights


I knew I would write for más+menos magazine long before I bought my plane ticket from Chicago to Seville last winter. I’ve always been meticulous – nay, neurotic – and I researched study-abroad programs tirelessly before applying for CIEE’s program in Seville. The chance to work on a bilingual magazine was one of the most alluring aspects of the program. I majored in journalism and Spanish in college and the magazine seemed like a perfect marriage of my two passions. But the benefits of working on más+menos surpassed what I could have expected.

As a disclaimer, the corresponding Editorial Projects course required an immense amount of reading, writing, and research – I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who likens a semester abroad to a five-month vacation – but the work was enlightening and brought new opportunities to meet people and see parts of the city that I otherwise would have glossed over in my semester as a sevillana.

The advantages of the experience have been two-fold: Since returning stateside last May, I’ve continued to hone the skills I developed while working on más+menos. To better illustrate my long-winded praise of program, here are a few examples of what you might stand to gain from contributing to más+menos:

STREET CREED, sort of. You’ve probably already been to a study-abroad orientation and heard the usual dribble about following current events in your host country. Have you been reading El Mundo? Is El País your new home page? Maybe. But probably not. I sporadically read Spanish newspapers before going abroad, but not with any regularity. When I found out that the unifying theme for our issue of más+menos was education, I thought, “Fantastic – a topic I know nothing about.” But researching the education system in Spain helped me develop my overall understanding of Spanish society, which helped me to better understand the culture. I also became more articulate when conversing with locals; I knew more about my host culture than merely how to order a glass of Cruzcampo at the bar.

LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE that you won’t gain anywhere else. Interviewing sources in Spanish (especially if you’re a non-native speaker like I am) is a challenge. Invest in a decent tape recorder; you’ll be glad you did. You’ll quickly abandon any lingering inhibitions about your spoken Spanish, if you haven’t already gotten past those after living with a Spanish host family.

HUMAN  INTERACTION – and not just with a cohort of American students. After I interviewed an elementary school teacher, he invited me back to his class to give a presentation to his 11- and 12-year-old students about my life in the United States. You’ll hear other peoples’ stories as you go about your reporting, but chances are, they’ll be interested in hearing your stories as well.

AN IMPROVED INTERNAL COMPASS. I avoided public transportation in Seville until a far-away interview forced me to look at a map and learn the bus system. I went from knowing two neighborhoods – the one where I lived and the one where I attended class – to knowing how to navigate the entire city.

A RESUME BUILDER. After graduating from college and jump starting my job search, I’ve spent ample time as an interviewee. Some employers perk up when they notice that I’ve worked on a bilingual magazine – it hasn’t directly landed me a job, but más+menos is a great conversation starter. It shows that you’re capable of synthesizing a culture other than your own (and that you’re capable of staying afloat when put to work in that culture). If you’re pursuing a career in journalism, you’ll also pick up an ever-valuable clip to add to your writing portfolio. Some of my peers in the class weren’t even journalism or writing majors, but they still gained priceless language experience and built up their resumes in the process.Of course, these are only a small handful of ways that I benefitted from working on más+menos. I encourage other más+menos alumni to post in the comments about their favorite or most memorable experiences while working on the magazine!

* Lauren Sieben is a Graduate in Journalism from the University of Iowa. She currently works as online journalist for the Press-Citizen of Iowa City. During the Spring semester of 2010, she contributed to más+menos 14 (Education) as a student of the Liberal Arts program. At the CIEE 2010 International Conference, held in Philadelphia, she received the CIEE Recognition Student Award of the year.