Caitlin Szikora ’16
Upon completion of my BA, I became interested in Laurier’s English MA, a program that fuses English and Film Studies for an in-depth look into nation, gender, and media. I majored in Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto for my BA, and minored in both English and History. When I found out that there was an MA program that essentially combined these fields into one coherent year of study, I knew it was the right program for me. The courses offered included a practicum option, which offered a course credit in exchange for a six-week practical placement at the end of the program.
To me, this was the perfect opportunity to see how the skills developed in my MA program would benefit me in a workplace setting. I have always been interested in careers working with film production and writing, but my knowledge up until the beginning of my placement had been theoretical. As much as I love analysis and academia, I was eager to try and learn more hands-on production skills.
For six weeks in the spring, I worked for Laurier International primarily on producing a series of videos about safety for international students along with another student coworker and one of Laurier’s special constables. As a result, I was able to learn skills in a wide range of areas. I helped to write the content and scripts for the videos, using the writing skills gained throughout the MA English program as well as learning about how to write in new formats. I also was involved in producing the videos, and learned about cameras and cinematography to a great extent as well.
As this project was relatively large in scale, my coworker and I decided to set up a volunteer team that would be able to work together as a production crew. Much of my time at Laurier International became devoted to the organization of this group, and we were able to build a team of around fifteen students – the majority of whom were either international students or film studies students – who had indicated an interest in learning about media technology and in helping future international students be informed. We met several times a week for meetings, during which we would plan our videos by writing and storyboarding together along with having in-house lessons on cameras and how to use the video equipment. We also met weekly for production days, on which we would shoot our videos. We were able to work in a variety of spaces around campus and produce collect a wide amount of footage on these days, giving students a chance to act in the scenes as well as to operate the equipment we had on set. As a result of the scale of the project, it is still ongoing. What started as a small group designed to focus on safety videos grew into a larger team that my coworkers and I hope will be able to continue making films for Laurier International for the rest of the summer and into the next academic year as well. We are currently thinking of coming up with a name for the team and turning it into a more permanent student club, in which students are able to take control of the video production process and to find new ways to tell their own stories based in international learning experiences. The establishment of this group was a large part of what I worked on during my time at Laurier International, and I have informed the group that I will be able to continue on as a volunteer when I am able! Organizing and facilitating meetings with this group allowed me to further my skills as a leader within a team-based environment.
Aside from the video project, I did several small writing-based tasks as well, including working on a conference program and going through Laurier International’s websites to look for information that needed to be updated. These smaller-scale tasks kept me busy on the days on which we were not working on our videos. Overall, I found my placement at Laurier International to be an extremely positive experience, in which I was able to learn many skills I had been interested in and gain plenty of experience in my field. I am very glad that the MA program offers the practicum option as it was a fantastic way for me to be able to experience first-hand what I am able to do as an English and Film Studies student in a workplace setting, as well as allowing me to consider my future.