FDU’s Global Young Voices speak up

GYV founders 3

The founders of the Global Young Voices blog and website, Camilla Curnis and Edy Semaan, both spent a year studying abroad at FDU. They're seen here on a trip to Washington D.C. in 2013. (Photo by Pierre Krebs)

By Kenna Caprio

Their voices — echoing from Spain, Venezuela, Egypt, Italy, the United States, Tunisia and more — are united by one goal: to report on life in their country.  

At Global Young Voices, blog and website contributors, all of whom study or studied at Fairleigh Dickinson University, are attempting to connect with audiences across the globe to share personal observations and daily realities.

The writing project started about a year ago, with two exchange students, Edy Semaan of Beirut, Lebanon, and Camilla Curnis of Bergamo, Italy. The two friends, now collaborators, envisioned creating a forum for “fellow international students to express their thoughts,” says Curnis.

“As we move forward in time, our countries’ histories will be ever more entangled,” she says. “For this reason it is important, now more than ever, that students gain thorough awareness of national affairs and global occurrences. Global Young Voices is a great opportunity to discover and share.”

They took their idea to Bruno Battistoli, assistant professor of journalism, and Jason Scorza, vice provost for international education and professor of philosophy and political science, both at the Metropolitan Campus. Battistoli had become a mentor to Semaan during his year abroad at FDU as he studied journalism, and consults on the news operation side of the website. Scorza agreed to fund the project through the Office of Global Learning.

GYV logoThe website launched in February 2015.

“As the editor, I welcome stories and ideas of any kind from the writers: hard news, features and even op-eds or essays,” says Semaan. “I am hoping that our readers will gain political, economic and cultural knowledge about important issues that young citizens like us are facing in different places of the world, to comprehend our commonalities and differences, and to get introduced to both the advantages and problems of other cultures and lifestyles.”

Curnis, for her part, built the Global Young Voices website and manages its social media accounts.

“Writing is a powerful way of sharing experiences and ideas,” says Curnis. “Most contributors are not journalism majors. We have engineering, IT, tourism, finance and business majors. We wish to create a network built by students for students. We want to become a source of authentic information for all our peers.”

They’ve recruited writers through Facebook and word-of-mouth. Most are friends looking to make their voices heard.

“When you are young, maybe you don’t feel people are listening and you may have trouble finding your voice,” says Scorza. The Global Young Voices website, he says, is “a way of discovering one’s voice.” And through that discovery, these students and former students are engaging in “independent, critical judgment and learning to articulate and convey that judgment.”

Contributors are tackling both “little but interesting stories” and “big, existential and important national issues,” according to Semaan. On the website now, readers will find these articles and more: “Lebanese Smokers on Board With New Traffic Law?” by Semaan, “No Egypt Without the Nile” by Noha Elmessiri, and “Fitness Craze in the Netherlands” by Ilse Wijnen.

This project, says Battistoli, “demonstrates the breadth and reach of FDU’s commitment as a center of global learning. This site is a living example of that commitment, featuring more than 25 students from 25 different countries around the world, all of whom have attended or graduated from FDU.”

He adds: “We’re dealing with international graduates and students who, as they pursue their professional lives, wish to continue an active and interactive connection with FDU. It’s very meaningful.”

This summer, now that the semester is over for most contributors, Semaan and Curnis are hoping to work at a faster pace and publish new stories more quickly. The two are also playing with layout, considering adding photo and video content and trying to grow their readership.

“It’s all about becoming part of the global conversation,” says Battistoli. “That’s what successful web-based journalism does. You have to be actively linked into the conversation through your website and social media. You have to link to other sites and journalists have to be linking to you. That’s how you build credibility and start appearing on major sites.”

They’re also still recruiting writers to cover more countries. Semaan calls the project “open-ended” and says that he wants to “keep working on it for years to come” as it expands and grows. Eventually, Semaan and Curnis plan to hand over the platform to other “ambitious young students.”

“In an age when the large networks are closing foreign bureaus and it’s harder and harder to get information from other parts of the world, except though stringers and independent journalists, I think they have an incredibly unique product,” says Battistoli. “These people are boots on the ground; they’ll get insight from all around the world, from insiders — fact-based observations, corroborated by other sources.”

“Global Young Voices is a real reflection of the thoughts and ideas of many students around the world. The website unites many different people and sets an example of beneficial communication and mutual understanding, assets that the world needs now more than ever,” adds Semaan.

Find Global Young Voices on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.