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Kate Coiro, a student in the School of Journalism, has a passion for filmmaking – which she recently embraced in new and meaningful ways in response to the coronavirus pandemic. When COVID-19 interrupted and threatened to end her study abroad experience in Sydney, Australia, Kate was faced with a multitude of unexpected challenges. Like many students this past spring, she knew she had some difficult decisions to make. Through her own perseverance, she decided to stay abroad and quickly pivot to cover and shed light on the situations happening in Australia. In addition to finishing her classes, she reported on the experiences of the international students remaining at the University of Sydney through the pandemic, as well as on the experiences of families impacted by the 2019-2020 brushfires that ravaged the country. We had the chance to catch up with Kate to learn more about the work she produced in Australia and what she is focusing on now, having recently started a new co-op at eMotionRx. Read more below!

What inspired you to study Journalism?

I became interested in journalism early on in high school, when I realized that it combined my passions for writing, travel and asking questions.

After working on my high school newspaper and a few related internships, I knew I wanted to study journalism in college. I haven’t looked back since.

At Northeastern, I’ve become interested in documentary filmmaking and reporting on environmental threats.

Tell us about your recent study abroad experience in Australia.

Back in December and January, when I was preparing for my semester abroad in Australia, the bushfireswere major news around the world. As a journalist, I knew I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity I had before me to report on this disaster and how it pertains to human-induced climate change.

Before leaving the states, I bought some new documentary equipment and once I got to Australia, I asked everyone I met if they knew someone who had been affected by the fires.

This was difficult, because I was going to school at the University of Sydney, which is several hours away from the nearest fire-affected area and at the time, I was relying on public transportation. When I finally found some families to interview, COVID-19 hit and most universities, including Northeastern, told their students studying abroad to come home. Travel-restrictions also prevented me from reaching the families I wanted to interview. But, with my original goal still in mind, I opted to remain in Sydney. I took online classes, found a job as a nanny and practiced with my new film equipment by making another short documentary about other international students who decided to stay in Sydney during the pandemic. This film is called “The Ones Who Stayed.”

Once my classes ended and the Australian travel restrictions eased, I rented a camper van and traveled South to one of the fire affected towns. There I stayed with a family, interviewing them, as well as others, about their experiences with the bushfires. Over the next few weeks, I edited my footage and eventually released a short documentary called “After the Fires.”

Now you’re on a filmmaking coop – tell us a little bit about who you work for and what you do in your role.

I began my new coop at eMotionRx, a medical device startup, last week. eMotionRX is pioneering new approaches to physical rehabilitation, and I am working as a videographer and assistant film producer.  I will be making documentaries related to the company and its founder. I think my work on After the Fires and The Ones Who Stayed are what landed me the position.

What is something you’ve learned as a Northeastern Journalism student that you will take with you into the “real” world?

Northeastern helped me narrow down my passion for journalism to more specific interests in documentary filmmaking and reporting on environmental threats. I also learned to work independently and on very strict deadlines during my last co-op at the Patriot Ledger, a newspaper that covers the South Shore. Mostly though, I’m thankful to Northeastern for introducing me to Carlene Hempel, a journalism professor who I have taken two classes with and plan to complete an Honors in the Discipline with next Spring. Carlene also served as my faculty mentor for a university grant that helped me pay for “After the Fires.”

Any advice you’d give to incoming Journalism students?

Feed your curiosity, as it is the key to finding good stories.

If you’re asking a question that does not have an obvious answer, you have a story.

Reject “no” as a concept in your work, because if you’re creative, there is almost always a way to get the information you’re looking for. Finally, work with different media until you find one or two that you’re really drawn to and run with them.