In Experiential Learning, Journalism

Communications student Rachel Keeler shares how an experiential learning opportunity has enhanced her time at BYU

There’s five minutes until midnight and your final paper is uploading to Learning Suite. Just then, the computer crashes. First, there’s panic. Maybe a loud “No!” yelled at the screen. Then, your sense kicks in and you begin to think, ‘What can I do to make this situation better?’ And somehow, you do.

That panicked feeling, use of critical thinking and success is exactly what I experienced last spring.

During spring term, I had two unbelievable inspired learning experiences — a field study in French Polynesia and my capstone project in China. When I was asked to be a part of these study abroad programs, I couldn’t not go! It has always been my dream to be a National Geographic Explorer and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to put my skills to the test and see if this was truly what I wanted as my career.

In French Polynesia, I conducted interviews and shot B-roll for the 175th anniversary of the first missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arriving on the island of Tubuai to preach the gospel. I learned how to do interviews through a translator, which later helped me while I was in China, and used my knowledge of video production from my Comms 312 class. 

The communications team interviews President Worthen about experiential learning on the Great Wall of China. (Steve Fidel)

For my capstone, I toured with and reported on the BYU Spectacular in China. While I was interviewing President Worthen on the Great Wall, he emphasized that some of the most important learning experiences happen outside of a formal classroom setting — and I couldn’t agree more.

In a standard classroom, you know what assignments you have, exactly what your professors are expecting and when those assignments are due. But these trips were nothing like a typical classroom setting.  

Some of my greatest learning experiences came from things I hadn’t expected and I feel more confident in my abilities because of them. I realized that I can produce content quickly, accurately and under pressure, all while in a foreign country. And it reaffirmed for me that this is the career I want to pursue when I graduate from BYU.

We had so many unexpected situations pop up and we had to react in real-time — our own version of the computer crashing. I am grateful for the preparation I have received from the School of Communications. When these moments came, I was ready to take them on.

The publication of student articles allows the College of Fine Arts and Communications to highlight the experiential learning opportunities and behind-the-scenes experiences of students and faculty and tell stories with a unique voice and point of view. Submit your story at

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