Autumn Barnes-Fraser traveled to Germany for the first time between high school graduation and University of Montana orientation. Despite the nearly 5,000 miles between her hometown of Helena, MT and Berlin, Germany, “As soon as I hit the tarmac, I knew I had found home,” she said.

photo of Autumn Barnes-Fraser

Now Barnes-Fraser will be going back to Germany two more times, as part of the Missoula-to-Berlin International Reporting course at the J-school and for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program for young professionals. The CBYX program is a public diplomacy fellowship funded by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag and covers most of the participants’ expenses.

Barnes-Fraser found out she won the CBYX fellowship on March 7th, 2015, about a year after submitting her written application and successfully passing the interview process. The notification left her both ecstatic and dumbfounded. “I get to live in a culture that I love so much, and in a country that I feel so close to,” Barnes-Fraser said.

“Only 75 people across the US get this thing—that’s a big deal,” Associate Professor Henriette Lowisch said. “Passion and dedication are really a thing, they will get you where you most want to go. Autumn has just given us proof of that by winning this very competitive fellowship.”

Lowisch has worked with Barnes-Fraser as part of the Missoula-to-Berlin reporting project. The project’s goal is to document Germany’s response to the refugee crisis while teaching students journalism skills for reporting abroad, in a breaking-news setting. In the fall, students focused on fundraising efforts for the trip, but now they’ve started pitching story ideas.

“Autumn is one of the leaders of our Missoula-to-Berlin reporting project,” Lowisch said. “She’s put in an amazing amount of time and energy, not only for her own sake, but to make the entire team succeed.”

Dean of the UM School of Journalism, Larry Abramson, who is co-leading the trip, agreed with Lowisch.

“Autumn has a special link to Germany, and her passion for our trip to Berlin is evident in her class participation,” Abramson said. “It’s great to see her developing that passion through this trip, and I have no doubt that her coverage of the refugee crisis will be unique.”

Barnes-Fraser said the diversity of students in the class enhanced how they researched and reported their story ideas. While her double major is in Broadcast Journalism and German, others students have majors in Economics, Political Science and Business. “We all have different interests and different experience levels, so I think we’ll work really well together as a team,” she said.

A month after Barnes-Fraser returns to the States after the Missoula-to-Berlin trip, she will leave for the year-long CBYX program, which is divided into three parts: language immersion, semester studies and a five-month internship. She hopes to focus both the studies and internship on radio journalism. Both NPR Berlin and Deutsche Welle radio stations would offer her the opportunity to report in German, then produce pieces in English.

“I like the local perspective,” she said.

Based on her experience, Barnes-Fraser said locals are usually more willing to talk with foreign reporters who make the effort to communicate in their native tongue. Personally, her favorite journalism pieces relate to human features and long narratives.

Despite the fact that she won’t know where she will be interning until a few weeks before the CBYX trip starts, “I’m excited because of the flexibility and not knowing exactly what will happen.”

Stay up to date with the latest Missoula-to-Berlin news via their Facebook page.

By Jana Wiegand

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