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How Two British Exchange Students Became Beloved Sooner Journalists At Gaylord College

Harry and Adam sitting at the OU Nightly desk in Gaylord College.

How Two British Exchange Students Became Beloved Sooner Journalists at Gaylord College

September 11, 2023

By Ryan Welton

It was Freshman Week 2019 at the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England, and two students sat in a common room enjoying a bite of coffee and cake. Delightful.

A friendship was born, and a couple of years later, the Gaylord College legend of Harry & Adam was born, too.

"It's this happy coincidence that all roads led to Oklahoma," said Harry Robinson.

Harry and his friend Adam Dickinson graduated earlier this year from the University of Sheffield, donning their OU Nightly cords and flashing the universal 'Horns Down' hand sign from across the pond. The year they spent with the University of Oklahoma wasn't only a testament to the opportunities available at one of the top journalism schools in the United States, it was a hat-tip to the power of Broadway.

"I remember telling my grandmother about Oklahoma, and all she knew was the musical," Harry said.

O-o-o-o-o-klahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain

The University of Sheffield is a prestigious school in its own right.

"No. 1 in the country," Harry said. "But they don't have the resources for their broadcast journalism program."

Enter Gaylord College.

Adam and Harry nabbed some of the final spots available in 2021 to become Sooners and advance their journalism dreams. They couldn't have picked a better time to come to Gaylord College, and at the same time, a tougher period to be foreign exchange students. August '21 was still at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic globally.

Nevertheless, Harry and Adam "jumped into the deep end" with a course load focused on Creative Media Production and spending time learning the craft. They got to meet some new journalism heroes, too.

"Mike Boettcher is the biggest journalism influence of my life," Harry said. "He just kind of kidnapped us."

An abduction toward an adventure of storytelling with great import awaited the Sheffield duo in Norman, Okla. However, it included some time spent in McAlester. For anybody not familiar with Oklahoma, McAlester is where the state's penitentiary is, and where its Death Row inmates await their execution.

Four hours before the scheduled execution of convicted murderer Julius Jones, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt decided to commute Jones' sentence to life without parole. Not knowing what would ultimately happen that November day two years ago, Adam and Harry were in McAlester to do what journalists do: cover the story and gather reaction.

It wasn't nearly the only big story they'd cover while at OU.

There was the October '21 tornado after OU-Texas weekend.

There were multiple stories about the impact of the pandemic.

There was that time they recorded an entirely British version of OU Nightly.

"We got a lot of experience that most people have to wait three, four years to get," Harry said.

And there was plenty of fun to be had!

Adam said he and his Sheffield mate visited 16 states over the course of the year, including a trip to Dallas to watch Kennedy Brooks walk it off against the Texas Longhorns. (Editor's Note: Of all the OU-Texas games to see in person, that was the one Harry and Adam got to see!? How cool!)

They traveled to Atlanta on holiday and made a trip to New York City.

Spring Break in New Orleans and Memphis.

And they took in their very first NFL playoff game, Kansas City's 42-36 win over the Buffalo Bills from Arrowhead Stadium, widely considered to be one of the best, wildest playoff games of all time. (Editor's Note No. 2: Wow!)

What was Harry and Adam's collective philosophy while in the States?

"Anything that happens, we say 'yes' to," Harry said.

Those 'yes's included lots of fun and lots of worthwhile, substantive journalism. It also included the creation of what turned out to be an award-winning documentary while Harry was here. His "The Real Black Sabbath" is about a group of Hebrew Israelites living in Oklahoma City. It was an award winner at bout the Spring 2022 edition of the Oregon Documentary Film Festival and the 2022 edition of the Southwest Center Film Festival.

Adam has his sights set on the world of sport.

While Harry aspired to be a documentarian from the age of 15, Adam harbored every British teen's dream.

"I wanted to be a footballer but realised pretty quickly that wasn't going to happen, so I started writing match reports on my school team aged 8 and got the bug, I've wanted to work in journalism ever since," he said.

Adam lives in Coventry these days and said he's been applying for sports-writing opportunities, while Harry is working on a podcast called, "Have A Word," based in Liverpool. Down the road, they're both open to a return.

"I would love to go back and work in the United States, maybe New York City," Harry said. "Working in documentaries is the dream."

Adam's planning on taking the opportunities as they present themselves.

"I didn't think I'd be in Oklahoma for almost two years," he said.

It was an experience States-side they wouldn't trade for the world.

Harry and Adam with Mike Boettcher in Gaylord Hall studio.
Harry pointing at movie poster.
Harry and Adam, arms around each other, at event.
Harry and Adam at OU football game.
Harry and Adam at OU Nightly desk.
Harry and Adam reporting from OU football field.
Harry reporting outdoors.
Harry and Adam with group of OU fans before OU-Texas game.
Harry and Adam displaying "horns down" while at pre OU-Texas game event.
Harry and Adam smiling, drinking sodas.