As a young boy in Upstate New York, David Muir dreamed about becoming a journalist and traveling to the far corners of the world. In college, David jumped at the chance to immerse himself in the language and culture of Spain by studying abroad at the University of Salamanca with IES Abroad. Today, David Muir is an Emmy award-winning anchor and correspondent for ABC News based in New York, and replaced Diane Sawyer as anchor of “ABC World News” in early September 2014. He is also co-anchor of the ABC newsmagazine “20/20.” Read on to learn how David’s time in Salamanca influenced his career, how he continues to use Spanish, and why he thinks studying abroad is critical for students today.
IES Abroad: What motivated you to study abroad? Why Salamanca?
David Muir: I remember well my days as a young, aspiring journalist and the dream of one day reporting on events unfolding all over the world. At the time, studying abroad was a chance to take a break from my academic discipline and flex a different kind of muscle learning a language and exploring a tiny corner of the world I had never imagined I would temporarily call home. For a budding reporter, it was a sort of practice run for assignments that would one day take me all over the world. The University of Salamanca always held a special allure given its age and beauty. I had been studying Spanish since high school and this was my chance to immerse myself in a language and a land far away from Upstate New York.
IES Abroad: What are some of your greatest memories from your time in Salamanca?
DM: My greatest memory is the time I spent simply sitting within the Baroque walls of the stunning Plaza Mayor. I would spend my evenings watching the people of Salamanca stroll by with their families recognizing that with each passing day I was picking up more of their conversations. What a gift it would be to sit there again today.
IES Abroad: You always knew you wanted to be a news anchor and you interned at WTVH-5 in Syracuse when you were just 14! What inspired you to become a journalist?
DM: As a boy, I remember watching television news and hoping one day I would be lucky enough to have a job that would take me to far away places. That boy’s dream has come true.
IES Abroad: How did studying abroad influence your career path?
DM: I remember my host family quizzing me at the dinner table each night about my life back home. I would in turn ask them about their own lives and looking back, that nightly exercise is not unlike what I do every day as a journalist.
IES Abroad: Your job with ABC News has taken you all over the world. What story has had the most impact on you?
DM: It is impossible to choose which story has had the most impact on me because so many of them have left me profoundly moved. It’s always the people. Last year, I traveled to Ethiopia to report on an American doctor performing a simple cataract surgery. I embedded with his team in their makeshift operating room and within 24 hours witnessed them pulling the patches from villagers’ eyes. In many cases, parents who had not seen their own children in years were able to see their faces again. I will never forget the mothers with tears streaming down their faces ululating the moment they could see again. There were also the children who had the surgery who had been unable to attend school beforehand. They can now see the teacher and chalkboard at the front of the class.
IES Abroad: Did you know Spanish before studying abroad? Do you still use Spanish in your career today?
DM: I traveled to Salamanca armed with the Spanish I’d learned in high school. When I returned to Ithaca College, I continued to study the language. I still use it today. ABC News recently partnered with Univision, the Spanish language network, to create the new cable network named Fusion. It’s geared toward millennials in this country and the growing Hispanic community. It’s been wonderful to use my Spanish again.
IES Abroad: Have you been back to Salamanca since studying abroad?
DM: Sadly, I have not been back. If I close my eyes, I can still picture the Plaza Mayor at night and my walk to the University campus every morning in the shadow of the Catedrales Nuevas y Viejas.
IES Abroad: You support scholarships for journalism students at Ithaca College to study abroad. Why you do feel study abroad is important for undergraduates today?
DM: I think it’s more important than ever students recognize we are part of a global community. We are lucky to live in an era in which so many of the geographical barriers have been removed through social media. Today we have the power to communicate with our peers halfway around the world in an instant, but it will never replace meeting them in person and walking through their ancient city. I’m proof a semester abroad can inspire a lifelong wanderlust. It drives my work to this day.
Photos credits: Christine Romo, ABC News