With Dreams of Becoming an International Photojournalist, Kent State Student Reflects on Capturing Scenes, People from Colombia

Kent State student Sophia Lucente, '24, has dreamed of becoming an international photojournalist since starting college. A junior journalism major with minors in media advocacy and photojournalism, she got her first taste of what this career might be like on a study abroad course to Colombia with the School of Peace and Conflict Studies in early 2023. 

While taking the course Nonviolence: Theory and Practice as part of her media advocacy minor, Lucente became interested in instructor Sara Koopman’s upcoming trip to Colombia. Over winter break 2023, Koopman, an assistant professor in the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, was taking students on a faculty-led program to study the Peace Accords and its implementation in Colombia.

Lucente pitched the idea to Koopman of joining the trip as a student and photojournalist — and ended up spending a week and a half gaining new experience, perspectives and some strong portfolio images. 

In the Colombian region of Guaviare, Lucente talked with farmers who grew coca before the Peace Accords were implemented in 2016, and ex-combatants who fought during the conflict. 

“Everything was a new experience that I’ve never seen before,” Lucente said. “... Guaviare has transitioned from making a profit from coca to tourism because they have such beautiful land, waterfalls, lagoons. I was taking photos of their tourism business.” 

Lucente said she was able to quickly adapt to navigating the language barrier through working with an interpreter. 

“It definitely solidified my goal to be an international journalist,” Lucente said. “I had never been out of the country before.”

One of the best parts of Kent State University is the professors, Lucente said, and it was thanks to them that she felt supported and empowered by this trip. After she returned, Media and Journalism Associate Professor David Foster helped her assemble photo stories based on the images she captured, and she gained a new perspective on which photos can make for an impactful story.

“I would not have been able to put together as good of a story as I did without his help,” she said.

And, she said she’s grateful for faculty in the School of Peace and Conflict Studies who allowed her to chart her own path in Colombia. 

“(They allowed) me to be a part of this trip when I’m not a Peace and Conflict Studies student, allowing me to explore the journalism part while I was there instead of just the peace and conflict studies part."

POSTED: Friday, May 5, 2023 02:12 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2023 04:57 PM