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Journalism skills serve transplanted Canadian graduate well in Italy

By Violet Pettigrew
Special to The Sun

Some people seek happiness, others fame or fortune. For Brandie Silva, however, the quest for truth is as good a raison d'etre as any.
Flourishing in the Milan sun

Now living in Milan, Italy, Silva graduated from Centennial College's two-year Fast-track Journalism program in 2001. She discovered the program while finishing an honours degree at the University of Western Ontario in Film and Women's Studies.

Like many university graduates, 29-year-old Silva was looking for a practical college program to complement her university studies with an eye to future employment.

Community paper

"I had always been interested in the prospect of journalism as a career since seeing All The Presidents' Men -- I know, it's so cliche -- so I thought that would be a good way to spend my working day, if one should have to work," she recalls with a smile.

And work she did. "I liked the fact that the program had a really involved practical side to it -- The Observer community newspaper, which is distributed in parts of East York. I anticipated it would be a great way to gain experience and it was. That was probably the best part and the one thing I got the most out of while studying there."

Upon graduating she got an internship with the Toronto Sun which led to a part-time job at the paper before she moved on to the non-profit sector, "working mostly in communications and human resource areas."

During a summer vacation in Rome Silva saw the light, so to speak.

"I really felt more at home in Rome than anywhere else. I took my dual citizenship (Portuguese/ Canadian), sold everything in my Annex apartment, most of my belongings and my car, found a job teaching English near Venice and bought a plane ticket."
Two Centennial College journalism students examine the finer points of page layout. Students publish The Observer community newspaper, which is distributed in selected East York neighbourhoods during the school year.

She credits Centennial with preparing her for that courageous move. "I gained confidence in myself and in my writing technique. I was taught how to be critical effectively, because anyone can poke at something -- but let's face it, how useful is poking?" she says. "I learned how to investigate well and poke with a purpose."


Clearly, the lessons were not lost. Since arriving in Italy, she has put her skills to good use.

"I've moved all over the country and live in Milan at present. I do some teaching for Cambridge University exam courses, and do a lot of translation," she says.
  • Centennial College offers three Journalism options: a three-year post-secondary program, a four-year degree program offered jointly with the University of Toronto at Scarborough, and a two-year fast-track program for college and university grads.
  • Students gain hands-on experience with The Observer, a community newspaper serving East York, as well as an online version, The Toronto Observer.
  • Students also participate in a full semester of work experience, with faculty support and guidance.
  • For more details, visit

  • Her skills aren't limited to communications and teaching, however. She's been dabbling in entrepreneurship. "I have just launched a tiny exporting company, moving regional specialty items from Italy to posh London High Street shops," Silva says.

    But the writer in her has clearly flourished in the warm, sunny climate.

    "I'm always writing. It would be a waste for me not too, with all the interesting characters I come across. Now I have even more fun in two languages. The communication skills I honed at Centennial have been the key I've needed to get all this going."

    Violet Pettigrew is a student of Centennial's Online Writing and Information Design program.

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