Students Launch ‘Textura’ Magazine From Afar

Distance hasn’t stopped Bethel journalism and design students from publishing a full magazine and corresponding video content based on their J-term trip to India.

By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, GS’16, new media strategist

May 01, 2020 | 10 a.m.

Bethel design and journalism students who traveled to India over J-term

Bethel design and journalism students who traveled to India over J-term

The Textura project seemed straightforward enough.

A group of journalism and design students would travel to India over interim. They’d work with local contacts to find, interview, and photograph sources for stories to feature in a full-length magazine and corresponding documentary-style videos. In the space of twenty-two days, they’d immerse themselves in a culture, focus in on specific aspects of it, and do what they do best: tell stories. After all, most of the students were part of the Clarion student newspaper team, accustomed to working together to create compelling print and video pieces on a short timeline.

“It was my first time out of the country, but the stuff we were doing was familiar,” says graphic design major Will Jacott ’21. “It’s stuff we’d done in the U.S., so it was nice to be in that routine. We’d get up every morning, go with our story group—including a local student translator and driver—and I remember being in awe of how deep we were able to go, not just skimming over stories. We were there to do a job, and get this thing done.”

That job would become somewhat trickier when the team returned to the United States and realized that, because of COVID-19, design and proofing could no longer happen side-by-side. There would be no trips to the printer for last-minute press checks. Their Indian counterparts would no longer be able to travel to Bethel for an in-person, celebratory launch party. 

Instead they’d meet via Zoom video conferencing, buttoning up last-minute changes to story drafts and video iterations while inside jokes flew back and forth between Bethel students and their new friends in India via the chat box on the side of the screen.

The stories—though told from afar in more ways than one—would speak for themselves. 

“We covered everything from beekeeping to ‘the snake man of Haryana’ to public libraries for people in lower castes, and we kept coming back to this overarching theme of gender inequality, which is present in every single story,” says journalism major Emma Eidsvoog ’21. “You’d go into their homes, and people would have nothing. Women would be in the kitchen, and we weren’t even allowed to talk to them. But then you’d hear their stories, and they don’t act like victims. They take their lives and make so much out of them. They’re so strong. They still have hope in themselves and in their story. Our biggest goal was to not have them come across as victims.”

“We met some of the strongest people I’ve ever met,” Jacott adds. “They were welcoming. Kind-hearted. We were a bunch of foreigners, and had just introduced ourselves, and pretty soon we’re in their room with our shoes off and they’re making us tea!”

He adds that there’s an Indian proverb—Atithidevo Bhava—Sanskrit for “the guest is god.” To Jacott, the sense of calm and welcome the Bethel students felt transcended the awkwardness of not speaking the language, not knowing what they were eating, and being completely unaccustomed to societal norms. As much as the locals were the subject of stories, they also had an insatiable curiosity about their visitors—even resulting in the group being recruited for a tug-o’-war competition and featured on the local news

Journalism professor Scott Winter had traveled to India in the summer of 2019 and met up with Kumar Mukesh, whom he had worked with in the past. Mukesh and Winter set up plans for the group to stay in the small farming village of Haryana—a far cry from the globalized, flashy Indian cities many tourists flock to. Mukesh selected seven local, bilingual college students who could serve as guides and translators, helping Bethel students safely navigate the village to meet with sources. The students would realize there’s much more to India than Bollywood or the globalized Mumbai they had seen in “Slumdog Millionaire.” The village could not have been more different from the Twin Cities, yet the students were able to build deep connections with each other and their sources. 

I’ve never taken photos that interesting before, partially due to the environment. This trip forced me to learn new things very quickly, to be flexible and not stuck in my rut of how I normally do things. It pushed me a lot farther than I was expecting.

— Will Jacott '21

Eidsvoog agrees. She says the trip forced her to open herself up to people, be vulnerable, and try new things. During a dance party at the end of the trip, her Indian partner told her “You’re a good dancer, but you dance with hesitation.” And she took the sentiment to heart. 

“That’s kind of how I was before going to India. I was hesitant,” Eidsvoog says. “We were going into a place where they worship different gods, where it’s the opposite of America in a lot of ways. That scared me at first, but it ended up not being a hindrance at all. I was so far out of my bubble, my Christian circles, but I can’t imagine it any other way.”

Great things happen on study abroad trips, but so much came out of students’ hard work and the relationships they built. Bethel students go into journalism for the right reasons. They went into this J-term class for the right reasons, and their sources—who don’t speak a word of English—can feel that. I’ve never had students learn so much in such a short time. If they can find a story in Haryana, they can do that anywhere.

— Associate Professor Scott Winter

About Textura

Textura is an international storytelling project created in partnership between Bethel’s journalism and graphic design programs, with help from the Office of International Studies. In 2017, the first trip of its kind—to Guatemala—resulted in a magazine that won three major national awards. This year’s team traveled from January 4-26, immersing themselves in the village of Haryana, India, and overcoming the implications of COVID-19 to tell its stories from afar. Support this project (enter “Textura” in the “Additional Comments” box) or visit the project website

Seek Textura