Olivia Ruk

UntitledHello! My name is Olivia Ruk. I am currently a sophomore journalism major with a minor in photography at Point Park University in downtown Pittsburgh. I am originally from a small town called Saxonburg about 45 minutes north of the city. I have always had a passion for taking pictures and writing stories about absolutely everything. I can’t wait to be inspired by the beauty of Spain and Portugal and the experience of a foreign culture. I love to travel, but I have never been out of the country prior to this trip. I can’t wait to start this new adventure.

And So It Begins…
We’ve been in Spain for less than 24 hours and have already learned so much on this action-packed day. Straight from the airport we stepped outside into the hot air and blue skies and immediately boarded a tour bus. Our guide, Olga, directed us around the streets of the city and gave us so much information about the area. As we passed through te neighborhoods, she discussed the ways that different people of different social statuses live in Spain. For example some live in a private home with a large garden or in a small apartment building that is very tightly knit with its surrounding neighbors. She also pointed out things like shopping centers and historical buildings. This tour continued throughout the day, with stops at the Las Ventas bull fight arena, Buen Retiro Park for a lunch picnic, and my personal favorite, the Royal Palace. Outside the palace the Spanish flag hung proudly with an empty flagpole next to it, indicating that the King is not currently present. One of the most beautiful rooms was the bedroom of Carlos III, which was completely decorated from top to bottom with light blue and gold and had nine large chandeliers hanging throughout. The room featured a painting by Goya, whose work can be seen in various other rooms throughout the palace as well. Another room that really stood out to me was the hall of columns, an important ceremony room that is still sometimes used to this day for events. The size of the palace absolutely amazed me and I could not believe that such a massive property was only occupied by a single family. Being a journalism major, making these observations and finding out background information on things in the world around me is a very good exercise that will surely help me become better at telling stories in the future about any people, places, and things.

Media Visits: Universidad de Navarra and Condé Nast
Today was our first day of media visits. Thankfully, we got to catch up on a good night’s sleep and grab some breakfast beforehand. We hopped on the metro and ended up right by our first stop: Universidad de Navarra. Our host, Gustavo Garcia Mansilla, greeted us at the door and into a classroom after a brief tour of the modern and sleek looking school. He gave us a little background about the university. It is a “fashion business school” and also has programs in law, media, and entertainment. Gustavo told us that he was previously vice president of Conde Nast Spain, publisher of Vogue, and publisher of Management magazine in Argentina. He has founded 6 companies and only failed on one of them. Hearing about his experiences was very inspirational to see how it got him to where he is today. Gustavo also discussed the current media situation in Spain. They are recently trying to pull themselves out of a major depression that occurred over the past 7 years. There are still very high unemployment rates of almost 30% because of this. Due to the poor economy, the country has largely cut back on money spent on advertising and other media. It has dropped almost 50% since the year 2007. However, he told us that the future of Spanish media looks promising and full of innovation. There will be much more competition and use of smart phones as a main source. Gustavo believed that the main focus of a company should be the consumer’s opinion, not the editor or the advertisers.
Following our appointment with Universidad de Navarra, we took a stroll to Condé Nast. GQ, Vogue, AD (Architectural Design), Vanity Fair, Traveler, and Glamour are all a part of this company. The speakers were all extremely experienced and knowledgeable of their field. They stressed the importance of taking risks in order to remain relevant. In order to do this, Vogue has recently hired new positions such as data strategists, product managers, experts in mobile, and CNStudio. Their goal is to integrate print and digital teams in order to ensure quality of all platforms. They all had great personalities and seemed to be extremely passionate about their careers. JoseMaria Monzanes of Vanity Fair told us “Sometimes we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously” about the magazine’s use of irony. We went on a tour of Vogue’s newsroom and got to see where the photo shoots are done and also the dressing room where I got to pet the designer fur coats and drool over some of the latest Jeffrey Campbell shoes. They sent us away with some goodie bags full of Condé Nast magazines and a mug. Needless to say, today was a blast and I learned so much information that inspired me to work towards my future career.


Ketchum and Havas

Today was our second day of media visits. First we took the metro to Ketchum where we had presentations by people who work with a wide range of clients. Ketchum is a company of brand marketing, public affairs, corporate and financial communication, crisis management, internal communication and change management, and social media. They were all very energetic and excited to be talking to us and answering our questions. I found it really cool that the company is almost entirely run by women. Some examples of their clients include IKEA, McDonalds, Lacoste, Nokia, and Rochas Paris. A woman named Lordes who worked with Rochas Paris told us about her experience with the brand. She told us that they aim to play with the audience’s emotions, be original, and use local celebrities. There is a major push during mother’s day and also the Christmas season when they do photo shoots and a press day that includes interviews and a meet and greet with a product representatives. One of these representatives is a Spanish model named Nieves Alvarez, who appears in many of their advertisements. Another person from Ketchum whose experience I found very interesting was a woman named Ludi, who worked on a campaign called “Guti Talks Trash”. They hired a soccer and local celebrity José María Gutiérrez Hernández (“Guti”). He agreed to release a tweet saying “Do you waste time recycling glass? I don’t”. This tweet caused a major backlash and people began to criticize the soccer player. It was almost like a form of reverse psychology that made people fight back in defense of recycling. Guti eventually came out with a video saying that it was his plan all along and he stressed the importance of recycling. This campaign turned out to be very successful.,

After Ketchum we headed to the beautiful Havas Media Group office where we learned about the current Spanish media situation and where it is headed in the future. Over all, it was an exhausting but very educational day.



Valley of the Fallen and Segovia

Today we got off to a little bit of an earlier start and took a bus to the Valley of the Fallen. It was a chilly day but this was a refreshing change in comparison to the heat we’ve had the past few days. As the bus drove us away from the city, we were struggling to stay awake to appreciate the beauty of the vast green countryside of Madrid. As soon as we could see the massive cross towering above us, we knew that we had reached our destination. My friends and I agreed that we had never seen a place more beautiful in our lives. From on top of the hill we could see out for miles. We were able to go inside the church, which is carved out of a mountainside beneath the cross. The inside was covered in religious tapestries and amazing architecture.

Our next destination was to the town of Segovia. The architecture style of this area is very distinct in comparison to the other areas we have seen. Many of the buildings are very close together and have dark brown-reddish colored roofs. It is a much hillier area than Madrid and the skyline is so gorgeous from afar. We visited a castle in Segovia, which went through a fire many years ago but has been fixed up to look just like it previously did. The only thing that was preserved in the fire was a beautiful religious painting. I starred at it in amazement that I was looking at the same picture kings once stood in front of and admired as well. There some little kids standing next to us throwing coins into a fountain, and I noticed that they ran out of them. I reached into my wallet and scooped up a few of my American coins to give to them to throw, but they were so excited to see the foreign money that they held onto it and started to argue about who got to keep which ones. We could not understand each other’s language but it was adorable to see how their faces lit up when I gave it to them.


Headed to Barcelona

Sadly it was time to check out of Hotel Sterling in Madrid, but we had plenty of excitement for the new adventures ahead of us. Before taking the train to Barcelona, we went to a medieval town called Toledo where we saw a sword shop with beautifully handcrafted weapons and even got to watch them being made. We went inside a cathedral that featured some of the most amazing architecture and murals I have ever seen. It is a catholic cathedral of Saint Mary that began constriction under the rule of Ferdinand II. The oldest part of the building is the sanctuary. Massive stained glass windows and organ pipes can be seen throughout the cathedral. There are many paintings, including a beautiful work of Cardinal Cisneros, who occupied the cardinal office for twenty-two years.

After visiting Toledo, we had lunch and headed to Madrid’s Atocha Station where we had a relaxing train ride to Barcelona that gave us time to get work done and enjoy the lovely view of the Spanish countryside. We still had plenty of the hours left in the day when we arrived in Barcelona, so we took a guided bus tour through the city and checked into the hotel. Our evening concluded with a wonderful dinner where I was given the vegetarian option of a salad and pasta with vegetables.


Free day in Barcelona

Today was our only free day of the trip so we took the opportunity to sleep in a little later than usual, but still allowed plenty of the day for exploring. Once we got going, we headed to a little café nearby for some coffee and pastries for breakfast. It was a beautiful day to take a stroll we decided to take a long walk all the way to La Sagrada Familia. Along the way we also passed a couple of the other spectacular buildings designed by Goya. We made stops along the path at several different stores, where I purchased two soccer jerseys for myself and my little brother. We stumbled upon a craft market that took place in a huge office building where individual artists had booths set up to sell items and promote their businesses. They were selling everything from jewelry to hand-woven hammocks and clothes. It was by far the most unique shopping spot I have seen in Spain so far.

With our pockets significantly lighter, we finally made the journey ­to La Sagrada Familia.


TV3, Camp Nou, Flamenco Show

Our class had the opportunity to visit TV3 today, a Spanish television company that has five different channels including news, sports, and entertainment. They broadcast in both Spanish and Catalan, a language that is slightly different and originates from the area of Cataluña. The language sounds somewhat like a cross between Spanish and French.

Although the television company’s budget has been cut down by 40% over the past few years due to the bad economy, they still continue to be the country’s #1 station. Ferran Melines, head of the marketing department, talked to us about branding and some of the things that are done to promote the company. He said that they use Finalcut Pro and Aftereffects, which I thought was awesome because those are some of the same programs that I am currently using for my own projects. Melines told us that they do about 30 promos every week. Some of the major events that they have going on recently are the upcoming elections and the Madrid vs. Barcelona championship game, which just ended with a victory for Barcelona. Melines talked about the value of having a connection with the audience, it was evident that the company really appreciates their viewers and I admired his passion.

After TV3, we grabbed some lunch and went to tour Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona soccer stadium. I’m not much of a sports fan but I still had a great time because the arena was so spectacular to see. Our day concluded with a festive Spanish Flamenco show. A tasty paella dinner was served while we watched the performers play their instruments and fly around the stage moving their feet insanely fast.

 Last day in Spain

Spanish daily newspaper company La Vanguardia gave us the opportunity to visit their office today and discuss the industry. It is currently Cataluña’s leading newspaper. It is one of the oldest papers in Spain, and is the only Catalan newspaper that has survived all the Spanish regime changes. It was so cool to see the way their company ran and to observe the differences between theirs and the media of the United States. We were originally supposed to visit Park Guell today, but rainy weather changed the plan for us. Instead, we made plans to tour La Sagrada Familia, the most famous work by Antonio Gaudi. I was absolutely amazed by the size of the inside of the structure. Construction began in 1882 and it is still being built to this day even though Gaudi passed away in 1926. Gaudí’s original designed planned to have eighteen peaks, representing in Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists and, Jesus Christ. Eight of them have been built as of 2010. I think that La Sagrada Familia is a must see for anyone’s first trip to Barcelona. Next, we got back on the bus to the Barcelona airport we got on our flight to Lisbon and checked into the Holiday Inn.


First day of media visits in Portugal

After a guided bus tour of the beautiful city of Lisbon, we began our first day of media visits in Portugal. They took place at the New University of Lisbon. We had three speakers today but my favorite was a girl named Laura Alameh. I could relate to her a lot because she is an American living and working in a foreign country and also she is pretty young. Laura currently lives in Lisbon to work for a company that promotes arts, culture, and language of Portugual. She has been living here for about 10 months. She has a very strong background in international relations and attended some great universities in Washington DC—Georgetown and George Washington University.  Hearing about her journey was very inspirational and showed me that there are so many different options of paths that I can one day go down with the direction I am currently headed. It was great to see another young person who is doing a great job of finding their way and loving life while doing it. She is currently in the process of learning Portuguese and stressed to us the importance of learning another language. Laura gave me some great recommendations of fun places to go out to dinner, and we ended up going to one of them and having a fantastic meal by the docks and the river. It was a chilly night near the water but the restaurant provided cozy blankets and heat lamps for each guest.


RTP and Global Media Group

We had two final media visits on our addenda today. Our first destination was Radio Television Portugal (RTP). It is a public broadcasting company that owns 8 different TV channels and 8 radio channels. As far as the television channels, two of them are free to air. There is also one 24 –hour news channel and two channels that broadcast internationally. Some of the radio stations include cultural, regional, and a young music channel. RTP  also has something called “RTP Play”, which is a website that allows audiences to listen and watch to the radio and television stations. It also includes some on demand selections. Jose Lopez, who has worked in the TV industry for 39 years, was our speaker. He told us that some of RTP’s goals were to diversify content, provide easy and better access to the knowledge, and promote views of the typical Portuguese culture values. In regard to the digital revolution, Lopez said “ We are following this change very carefully and trying to know how to go through the storm”. RTP has four TV production studios, one of which we were allowed to watch a live talk show being filmed and a game show featuring a Portuguese celebrity.

The second media visit was to Global Media group, a company that owns two daily newspapers, three magazines, and also printing and distributing companies. Their new CEO, Vitor Ribeiro, was brought in to the company during a very hectic time of economic crisis. Ribeiro discussed with us the difficult decisions he had to make because of the condition of the economy, including firing 20% of the employees (around 200 people). He talked about many financial matters and gave us the advice that your debt should never be bigger than three times the amount of your salary.

After the media visits, the bus dropped my friends and I off at an area full of shops and restaurants. We went to a restaurant where we sat on the beautiful patio and had a great deal that included a 5 course meal for only 16 euros. I purchased a new pair of sunglasses, some post cards, and a really cute shirt. We took a cab home and got a good night’s sleep.



Sintra, beach, and fado show… The last day!

Today was by far my favorite day spent in Europe. We got to do a little sightseeing on the bus and make a few stops along the way. We visited a beautiful little town called Sintra where we were able to spend some time walking around and visiting the shops. I tried a signature Portuguese pastry called a “Pastel”, and later ended up buying two more to take back to the hotel with me because they were just too good to resist. I purchased some souvenirs for my family and friends and strolled around taking in the unique culture of the town. Our next stop was an area that was once believed to be the edge of the world, and I could see why. We walked down a dusty path to see where massive rocks dropped off and the ocean began.

My friends and I grabbed some lunch at an English restaurant where fish and chips and some great salads were served to us. After lunch we visited a few little stands full of handmade crafts by some incredibly nice people. It was amazing to see how grateful all of the vendors were to have our business. When we started to run out of money and energy from walking around and shopping, we headed to the beach to lounge in the sun. Later we shook off all the sand and got back on the bus to head back to our hotel. Freshening up was a must, and we finished off the night with a traditional Portuguese Fado show. My friends and I stuck around in the Barrio Alto neighborhood where the show took place to walk around and get some fantastic gelato. It was our last day of the trip and I thought that it was perfectly spent.

3 thoughts on “Olivia Ruk

  1. This an amazing opportunity for you and awesome that I can read about it on this blog. I’m happy to see you are learning a lot and enjoying yourself on this adventure.

  2. Olivia your writing helped me feel like I was there! I could see what you saw! Sounds so beautiful and interesting! Have a great time!

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