Across the Pond, Across the Globe

International Student Joe Gardner came to New Paltz to study Journalism.
International Student Joe Gardner came to New Paltz to study Journalism.

As the son of a travel agent, Joe Gardner has always had one foot in London and the other in the air.

“We traveled around Europe once or twice a month,” said Gardner, whose mother receives fare discounts from her travel agency, “and longer distances, to America or Asia, maybe twice a year.”

Gardner, a second-year student from England’s Kingston University, came to SUNY New Paltz in August to study journalism and creative writing for a year. As an aspiring writer, he already has a rich stock of experiences to draw from: he has traveled extensively in Europe, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, Australia, the Caribbean islands and the United States.

If his global learning isn’t enough to prepare him for a journalism career, he also has valuable newsroom experience.

“I did an internship at the BBC three years ago which was amazing,” he said. “They kind of threw me in at the deep end. One day I was putting together reports for BBC World News and the next day they let me read the cricket results for Australian radio. It was crazy.”

Gardner has brought his real-world education to New Paltz, where he has joined WNPC TV, the campus television station, as a business news anchor. He has yet to see himself on television because he thinks that it would add a “new layer of pressure” to the job.

Gardner has also been involved with the Queer Action Coalition (QAC) at SUNY New Paltz. At his home university, he served on the committee for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Society, a group similar to the QAC, but his decision to study overseas this year meant he couldn’t run for a second term. Gardner said that the QAC is more politically-minded than Kingston’s LGBT society, which is more of a social gathering.

That’s just one of the differences Gardner has noticed in his new culture.

“I think the main difference is the drinking,” said Gardner. “If you go to a bar here, you go to drink. At home, pubs have always been more of a meeting place. I miss just being able to sit in a pub. It’s such a big part of British culture. In America it’s
more about coffee shops.”

In February, when Gardner turns 21 years old, he plans on celebrating in true American style—either in New Orleans or Las Vegas. A trip down south (which Gardner might time to coincide with Mardi Gras) would also turn into a musical pilgrimage. With a honed taste for country and Western artists such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Gretchen Wilson, Gardner has his eye on the musical capitals of New Orleans and Memphis. His New Paltz friends don’t understand why.

“The music down there is really good,” said Gardner. “I find that we have a greater appreciation for country and Western music at home because we don’t associate it with the politics so much. When I speak to people at New Paltz and I tell them I like country and Western music, they always put it down and say ‘oh, it’s just right-wing, Republican music.’”

Before coming to the United States last August, Gardner, a self-confessed “city-lover,” had already seen San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas. Since August, he has added Washington D.C. to that list. By May, he hopes to have seen New Orleans, Memphis and Toronto, Canada. Gardner’s compulsion to see and learn about the world embodies the true spirit of a journalist.