View from across the world: SJMC grad teaches in China, writes for Des Moines Register

Kirsten Jacobsen (SJMC 2011) has been teaching in China since February and blogging about her experiences for the Des Moines Register. / Photo provided by Kirsten Jacobsen
Lainey Tick

A small classroom filled with some 70 Chinese teenagers is a typical sight for Kirsten Jacobsen, a 2011 University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication graduate. Jacobsen, who speaks barely five words of Mandarin, has somehow found a way to not only survive while teaching in a new culture but also to turn her adventures into stories for The Des Moines Register.

Jacobsen had worked at the Register five months before departing to China in February 2012. She teaches English at a public school and also writes monthly blog stories for the Register about her experiences in a small southern prefecture of Yongzhou, Hunan province.

Jacobsen credits SJMC in preparing her for this adventure.

“If I hadn't had the opportunity to study in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, I would never have landed the job at The Des Moines Register that led to my current position,” Jacobsen said. “J-school is a lot more than learning about the Iowa Dozen in depth or practicing headline writing, though those are both very important things to have at your disposal.”

Jacobsen’s zest for adventure came through in the Writing Across Cultures course in 2010, said Meenakshi Gigi Durham, professor and Collegiate Scholar at SJMC, one of Jacobsen’s instructors.

“Kirsten was a dedicated reporter,” Durham said. “She really had a passion for reporting and writing stories and she always wanted to venture into unknown territory, exploring issues and places that were new and unfamiliar.”

Jacobsen’s goal has been to write blog posts from areas within and around China once a month, for 12 months. She wants to show her “fellow Iowans that this little city, similarly placed in the middle of a vast country and also known only for agriculture, is not as exotic, fearsome or censored as we might think,” she said.

To do that, Jacobsen sometimes relies on humor to convey what it is like to indulge in another culture – one so far from home.

“Just because the device was made in China doesn’t mean it works here,” Jacobsen wrote in one of her blog posts. “I came to Yongzhou with an Android-equipped smartphone, a working hair straightener, and a very reliable battery recharger. I will leave China with several fried electronic devices.”

To read more on Jacobsen and her adventures in China, check out her Register blog at:

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