Service-Learning and the Real World

By Claire Bergsten

I am currently working with Hostelling International, an organization that runs hostels worldwide and has one in downtown Boston by the Theatre District. By the end of the semester, my service-learning group and I will have designed a strategic communications plan aHostelling%20Internationals our project. We are focusing on increasing attendance at their travel education events and how to best market their programs in order to increase attendance.

This class has been extremely informative and interesting to start with because I know communications for non-profits was a much deeper field than I had had a chance to experience so far, but there is even more information and general guidelines than I ever could have imagined. Applying these new concepts like how to choose and analyze audiences has been a great learning experience. It is one thing to learn about the basic plans a communications director would follow, but it is incredible that we get to practice it as we learn. Through the class and applying the concepts to our project, I’ve learned how to look at an organization in terms of their strengths and weaknesses from a communications perspective as well as how to choose a specific audience to target. Additionally, we learned how to develop a specific message for each audience that will truly make them want to act on behalf of your organization. The mix of learning these concepts and then applying them in the real world where things are far from perfect make for the perfect education.
There have been a few things through this process that have surprised me such as how hard it is to narrow down audiences in reality. Keeping these audiences specific and small is key to actually developing a message that will work for the group. In theory, creating an audience should be easy because it just looks at who you want to do what, but in the real world, such nice groups do not exist so easily. It also surprised me, not from the actual perspective of the project, what the hostel actually looked like. I have never been to a hostel in Europe or in the United States, so I had no idea what to expect. The Hostelling International hostel in Boston is beautiful and like a hotel. It was fancy, colorful, and looked exactly like the kind of place a person would want to stay on their vacation. I was just shocked at how much of a hotel it appeared to be instead of more like a dorm. It is also in one of the best places in Boston – right by the theatre district and the orange line. It was exactly the kind of place I would want to stay if I were visiting Boston.

I feel very lucky to be able to have this experience this semester because this project fits in perfectly with what I hope to do in the future. I love trying to get a message across to people especially if it’s a call to action for a non-profit. I think it is so important to get people involved in community service, and all the skills I have learned in this class will help me with this goal. I want to continue working with communications and specifically working to solve a societal problem. I hope to take more communications classes and maybe mix it with political science in order to continue with what I have learned so far this semester. I think with all the plans and communications tactics I’ve learned this semester, I will be super prepared for these future classes and for a future career. I have absolutely loved all the educational components and real-life experiences from this class.

Claire is a student in Professor Kate Marple’s Strategic Communication for Nonprofit Organizations course. She is serving at Hostelling International, Boston. 

1 thought on “Service-Learning and the Real World”

  1. This is real learning…it is purposeful, meaningful and critical all elements of critical transformative pedagogy. Great job in synthesizing this experience and turning into praxis.


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