by Erika Riley
For Kayla Dwyer, the decision to study abroad during her junior year was a given. She knew she wanted to go abroad, and decided on the SIT Morocco: Field Studies in New Media and Journalism program after one of her friends who had recently finished the program recommended it to her.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I applied, was accepted, and I would never go back on that,” Dwyer said. “I wouldn’t change my decision.”
Dwyer wanted a program that would allow her to improve her French skills, while also going outside her comfort zone. While abroad with SIT, she did both of those things, speaking French to her host brother while slowly accommodating to the Moroccan lifestyle.
“My host family was great, they treated me like a daughter or a sister, but in the sense that they were very loving and gracious but also included me,” she said. “It was challenging … transitioning from a hyper-fast American lifestyle to a relaxed, slow, ‘maybe we’ll do this, maybe we’ll do that, don’t know when’ style of living was quite the adjustment, but it really calmed me down after a while.”
For her independent project, Dwyer wrote a story on prostitution in Morocco. That experience of living alone and travelling, interviewing different people throughout the country, both solidified her love of journalism and proved to her that she had the guts to be an international reporter.
“In my professional life I now kind of use it as a measuring stick of what I’m capable of doing, ‘It’s just small potatoes compared to what you did in Morocco, just do it.’ No regrets there.”
While she loved reporting abroad, Dwyer decided to pursue local journalism after graduating from college, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper during her senior year. After applying to several jobs across the board, she was hired by The Morning Call in Allentown, Penn., where she had interned the summer before coming to Morocco.
“I think that there’s this stigma that international reporting is the most high caliber and most important thing you can do in journalism, but I disagree,” Dwyer said. “I think they’re all great, they all just serve different purposes.”
According to Dwyer, reporting in Morocco and learning about the restricted freedoms that the press and public have in the country opened her eyes to how much good one can do with journalism in America, where the press is granted more rights and freedoms than they are in Morocco.
“I kind of learned that I had the guts to be an international reporter, but I’m not sure that it is my cup of tea, I kind of became solidified in my already compelled notion that I was leaning toward local journalism and the tangible impact of that, that’s really attractive to me,” she said. “And that’s what I’m doing now.”
As a journalist and podcast editor at The Morning Call, Dwyer reports on general assignments in addition to a residential real estate subbeat, and also produces a weekly podcast in which she interviews reporters. She also manages some social media from time to time. While she was unsure about the job’s several facets at first, she has made the position her own.
“I always love writing a good, you know, in-depth story. There’s nothing like the high of doing that, but in general, of things I do every day, my favorite part is the podcast. I really like it,” Dwyer said. “It’s a medium that really can expose the human behind the reporting we do.”
Leaving Morocco, Dwyer knew that she loved the kind of people journalism attracted. She and the other students on her program all became very close and still stay in touch today. Between the students on her college paper, the people she had worked with at internships and the students from SIT, she knew she belonged in the world of journalists.
“I love these people, I love people who have similar mindset to me in terms of journalism being a public service. And that has rang true in my current job, I think about it, it’s because we journalists have this common mindset that’s really hard to replicate in other industries.”