Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Every other summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals across the United States. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora.
The next project is scheduled for the summer of 2020 and will focus on deforestation in Eastern Africa.
The time is coming to a close and I feel like I have neglected the end of the process, between not feeling well and home life consuming my attention. I am bummed out that I have been unable to spend time working on the film because the part I was looking forward to the most about this experience was the assembly of the film. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about going to Africa and the experience there was absolutely amazing but I have been interested in editing a major film for almost the same amount of time that the other students on this project have been alive. For me, this was a big step towards that dream.
I am very thankful that I have been able to be a part of this experience. I know that those who study aboard is a small portion, only 10% of US graduates, and I am certain that the percentage of non-traditional age students studying abroad is much, much smaller. For me, the meaning of being on the home stretch is loaded and I greatly appreciate the understanding of John, Carol, and Tim.
Africa was an experience left better described in images because words are unable to describe the feelings that soar through you as you’re there. For me, images speak louder than words because it is left more open for the individual to interpret what is going on.
As you can see from just a handful of images, Africa is a beautiful place where in comparison people live a hard life. I traveled with a great group of people, even though I often felt that I had brought all my children with me, we had fun and learned a lot.
I would highly recommend the FLPA program to other non-traditional students. I understand that making the arrangements to attend can be a real struggle. Speaking from experience the return home and getting everything to fall back into place is just as challenging if not more challenging, but what is gained from the experience more than makes it worth it.
It feels like I never left, I need a vacation, sigh. The complexity of life has already hit full force and the memories of the trip seem like they are from a distant past. Short of feeling sick still from the trip, it feels like visiting Africa happened months ago. Summer break is coming…right?
Being back is bittersweet. On one side, I am thrilled to have a hot shower and a variety in my diet. I am most pleased to spend time with my lovely partner again, I missed her. On the other hand, I miss Africa. I miss the simplicity of it, the sounds and the smells.The experience was amazing. It opened my eyes and gave me a whole new understanding of the world in which I live. I encountered so many new things, especially the first couple of days that we were there, it left me unable to really form a complete thought to express it in words. Even now, trying to describe my experience, I am at a loss for words. I don’t know where to begin or end when telling others about my trip. The easiest way would be to start at the beginning and walk someone through day by day, but beyond the length of time that would take, there is no way to describe everything I took away from Africa.
The best way to describe my experience is wrapped up in my sketches. They are simple moments loaded with meanings. From the excitement of looking out the plane window, building new relationships, exploring the landscape, and simple pleasures in life, to the dark moments of life and death in the stories we heard during the interviews and the observation of a cat playing with a dead mouse.
Now that we are back, it is time to take those experiences and make a short documentary as a group to tell the stories of not just our experience in Africa but to share the stories of those who live there. It is time to get back to the grind of everyday life, but taking with us these amazing experiences to help shape our lives and others into a more positive environment.