ONCE A MONTH, MatadorU faculty members get together to spotlight one standout student from a pool of faculty and student nominated weekly selections.

“I am a writer and photographer in Stuart, FL. I freelance for several papers and magazines and have a photography studio where I specialize in portraiture. I love what I do, but I would love it more if I could travel while doing it!” Find Alisha on Facebook and visit her website.

For the month of December, MatadorU Travel Photography and Travel Writing student Alisha McDarris was honored as our Student of the Month. Faculty members and students both loved her simple but evocative photography style. Alisha’s got a great eye for composition, and we’ve loved watching her skills progress. Following the completion of the photography course, she decided to start the Travel Writing course, so we’re thrilled to have her back in the student body and to continue working with her and watching her grow as a writing student.

We caught up with Alisha to ask her a few questions about her MatadorU experience.

Congrats, Alisha! We’ve been so stoked on your progress through your MatadorU courses. Tell us a little bit about your background.

I grew up in the Dayton, OH area: Tipp City, Troy, and Vandalia. I grew up playing outside and backpacking with my dad, writing novellas in notebooks during study hall in junior high, and taking photos with the first camera I bought myself in sixth grade. But I’m also into acting, which I’ve done both professionally and for fun since grade school. And of course I love to travel.

What would be your dream travel journalism opportunity?

I know every travel writer/photographer probably says the same thing, but my dream job would probably be providing stories and photos for National Geographic. But I’d also love to write for magazines like Backpacker and Outside that feature adventure-based stories because that’s how I like to travel.

We hope you’ve been having fun with the U! What’s been your favorite part of the process so far?

The feedback from educators. Often in the magazine/newspaper world you don’t get a lot of constructive criticism, so it’s nice when you finally do.

Now that you’re all the way through the Travel Photography course and have begun the Travel Writing course, do you have any advice for people out there who are considering signing up for a program like MatadorU?

Just do it. It makes the dream of travel journalism, photography, etc. seem achievable. But learn the basics first. If you’ve never picked up a professional camera before, learn how to use it first, then sign up for the photography course. If you don’t know the subtle rules of grammar and journalism, get comfortable with them before taking the writing course.

You’re currently a working writer and photographer — has MatadorU supplemented the work you’re already creating and putting out there?

It’s true. I write for local newspapers and magazines, often taking the photos that accompany the pieces. And I own Studio 509 Photography where I specialize in portraiture.

MatadorU has encouraged me (and educated me on how) to come up with ideas to pitch to magazines that I’d like to contribute to. It has me focusing more on my goals.

While I’m not sure it affected my portrait work much, now when I’m out shooting people I do occasionally wonder, “Hey, would this be a good shot for a magazine?” So I guess it’s shaped how I think.

Anything else you want to share about your experience?

Now that I’ve finished the photography course I better get started on the writing course! I’m interested to see which one is faster and easier for me to get through.

Student of the Month honorees are selected based on not only the quality of their work, but the progress they’ve made throughout the course, the effort and enthusiasm they show during their MatadorU journey, and their willingness to support and help their fellow students. Check out MatadorU.com for more information about our travel writing, photography, and filmmaking courses, and to learn how you can join Alisha in our community of travel journalists from around the world.

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