Adventures in International Journalism


UWEC Communication and Journalism Students Ginna Roe, Rachel Debner, Rachel Minske and Chi Ab Vang; and faculty member Jan Larson on the steps to the Parcul Catedralei with the Arc de Triomphe and Moldovan flag in the background. The park has a 24-hour flower market along its borders and contains the city’s main orthodox cathedral and bell tower dating from 1836.

Take four CJ students, one faculty member and a former Peace Corps volunteer, add 50 pounds of cameras, tripods, audio recorders and lav mics, put them on an international flight  and you have the makings of another immersion experience in the eastern European country of Moldova.

Since 2011, Jan Larson, associate professor of journalism, has been taking small groups of students to the former Soviet Republic of Moldova to engage in service, journalism and media research. From May 20-June 10, 2013, CJ students Rachel Debner, Rachel Minske, Ginna Roe and Chi Ab Vang are working with Larson and Monika Hartsel, a former Peace Corps volunteer who spent three years in the Moldovan village of Giurgiulesti. The team is continuing efforts to build Radio Giurgiulesti, an online radio station. See “Hitting the Airwaves” to learn about an earlier CJ trip to Moldova.

UW-Eau Claire student journalists run workshops training young villagers in the principles and practices of journalism. Organizational communication students help develop an adult advisory board designed to build long-term sustainability for Radio Giurgiulesti.

In addition, the journalists report and write about Moldovan social and cultural issues and help research public perceptions of Moldovan media credibility. This year, the team has added an additional research topic: Patterns of Rural to Urban Moldovan Migration. (Moldova has a struggling economy and many families endure separation because parents and young adults must leave the country to find work to support themselves and their families). We hope you will follow their adventures and enjoy their insights as they explore a new culture, conduct research and promote democracy in a changing nation.

Jan Larson

Initial impressions

Navigating the city

Americans need to learn more languages. We are spoiled that so many people speak English. Monika’s Romanian is a definite plus. She and Jan know the capitol city of Chisinau well enough to get us around. We spent much of the day just exploring the city center and getting our bearings. We watched men play chess in the park, visited an artist’s piazza and stopped to view the statue of Stefan Cel Mare, the Moldovan’s national hero.   — Rachel Debner

Encountering new foods

Monika suggested we sample Moldovan fare at a local restaurant just off the main square. We tried mamaliga,  a polenta-type dish with sheep’s cheese; sarmalia, a concoction of rice, spices and ground meat wrapped in cabbage or grape leaves and pelmeni, a type of ravioli pasta filled with either chicken, lamb, pork or onion and potato. We passed the plates and pronounced everything delicious. – Chi Ab Vang


As in many countries, public transport is a bit of a mystery that takes time to unravel. In Moldova, bus drivers pack vehicles beyond capacity. Road lanes appear to be a suggestion rather than a definitive boundary. This afternoon we boarded a bus for an experience that soon became comical – if not slightly iffy. A bus designed to hold about 15 passengers became a rolling sardine can packed with nearly 40 passengers. Every time the bus stopped to let one passenger off, two more boarded. Soon Ginna was crouched on the floorboards near the door trying to stay out of the way. Jan was clinging to the dashboard alternately trying to avoid falling into the driver’s lap and being launched through the windshield as the driver lurched and bounced along the rough road. Moldovans believe that moving air, such as breeze from an open window, otherwise known as the “current,” causes sickness. At one stop, a woman got on the hot bus and immediately rolled up the open window. The Moldovans thought nothing of it, but as Americans from UW-Eau Claire, we could only stifle our amazement and frustration. – Rachel Minske

Making new friends

As we were leaving the little Moldovan pizzeria where we had dinner, some young Moldovan men made eye contact and tried to flag us down. We waved and said a friendly, “Hello,” but were on our way, or so we thought. One of the young men chased after us.  “Wait! Where are you from? We want to stay with you.” After we got over the initial shock of the statement we realized the young man was just eager to make friends and practice his English. After Jan vetted the group – which included a young woman, we spent the evening laughing, comparing stories and learning about Moldovan culture. Rachel Debner interviewed the group for her research on Moldovan migration patterns.  —- Ginna Roe

Keep checking back for updates from the group!



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