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Bellisario Student Travels To Estonia, Interviews Prime Minister For International Reporting Course

Each year, the Bellisario College of Communications sends a group of student journalists abroad over spring break to experience news reporting in a foreign country. The class, international reporting, challenges students to complete semester-long research, then report and produce a newscast that focuses on an aspect of life in another country.

This year, Professor Katie O’Toole took her students to Estonia, where one student had the interview of a lifetime.

Hannah Markovich, a third-year student majoring in broadcast journalism, originally applied for the course in the fall of 2022, not expecting to be accepted.

“When I heard I was accepted for the class I was over the moon,” Markovich said. “I was so excited that I began doing research about Estonia over winter break.”

When the course finally began in the spring, Markovich knew she wanted to pitch a story about female empowerment in Estonia.

“I was fascinated by the fact that [Estonia] had a woman president in the past, and currently has a woman prime minister,” she said.

In the weeks leading up to the trip abroad, Markovich and her classmates learned everything they could about Estonian culture, politics, language, and more. They were constantly researching locations and contacts for their newscast, which is how Markovich connected with HK Unicorn Squad, a nonprofit organization in Estonia that provides young girls with the knowledge and skills to pursue careers in engineering, robotics, and natural sciences.

Courtesy of Hannah Markovich

She knew this was the perfect organization for her story. When she visited the Unicorn Squad’s class over the break, Markovich found that the students were extremely excited to learn about the news industry.

“The Unicorn Squad class specifically picked their lesson for me, which was awesome to see,” Markovich said. “They had a green screen, and the girls learned how to set up the lights and cameras to put on skits.”

The most exciting part of the trip for Markovich was interviewing Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of the Estonian Reform Party. Kallas is the first woman to serve as prime minister of Estonia.

Despite her being a “nervous wreck” the day of the interview, Markovich knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I just figured ‘why not?’ If it’s a country this small, I think everybody, including myself, had the opportunity to at least try to interview the prime minister,” she said. “Going into a different country is intimidating, but I just thought ‘why not try?'”

Courtesy of Hannah Markovich

Markovich got the interview with Prime Minister Kallas through a contact she created within the Reform Party. The interview was held at the Reform Party’s political election event, where the party won the majority of Estonia’s Parliament seats.

“My contact gave me three minutes to interview [the Prime Minister], which I had prepared for. Myself and my classmate got to ask her two questions,” Markovich explained. “When she came over I think she was a little shocked that we were American journalists. I was very nervous because this was probably going to be one of the most influential people I’ll ever interview, but she was so kind and gracious.”

Because of the nature of Markovich’s story about women’s empowerment, she inquired about the determination it takes for women to reach significant political roles.

“I asked her about what she would say to younger women that want to be like her one day. She talked about having courage to be in the position she’s in and how she worked her way up to prime minister,” Markovich said.

Markovich described traveling to Estonia as the best experience of her life.

“It’s an experience of a lifetime, and the fact that our college is able to give an opportunity like this — I don’t know how you could pass that up.”

Courtesy of Hannah Markovich

One of the greatest lessons Markovich learned on the trip was perseverance. She said it took tenacity to create contacts, set up interviews, and get the chance to talk with the prime minister.

“If someone doesn’t answer, you just had to keep trying until someone said yes,” Markovich said.

The full international reporting newscast will be available to the public in May.

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About the Author

Ava Brendgord

Ava is a senior from Houston, TX majoring in broadcast journalism. She loves coffee and bagels, traveling, and keeping a healthy balance between watching the news and reality television. Follow her at @avabrendgord on Instagram or email her at [email protected].

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