Opportunity may not always knock on your door, but you can certainly knock on its door, which is exactly what I did this past summer.
As a graduating journalism student, it’s a requirement to get three credits through a working internship at a news organization. Living in New York, there are plenty news organizations you can intern with. However, I may eventually end up working for one of them after graduation and possibly for the rest of my life.
As a person always seeking adventure, I applied for a summer internship in New Delhi, India. I had visited Indiabefore and made some friends over there. So I asked around to see if they could recommend me to people in NDTV (New Delhi Television), which is one of the oldest and most prestigious news channel in India. Luckily, it took me one email to start corresponding with NDTV at the beginning of this year. I got an invitation for an internship by the end of January.
After the infamous gang rape cases in New Delhi, my friends and family worried for my safety and questioned whether I should do this internship or not. At the same time the journalism department was not too sure I had a doable summer fieldwork. No one in journalism department had done an international internship before. The mandatory one-on-one meeting with the professor every week was already hard enough, but moving to a different time zone and any unpredictable circumstances made the decision harder for the department.
I was sure that I wanted this and I didn’t want to let this opportunity slide. I was even ready to go on my own expense and didn’t even care if the college gave me credit for it. However, after I kept pushing it to the department, it eventually worked out.
After I got approval from the English department, they suggested that I apply for the Study Abroad scholarship. It is a great scholarship program here at York, the dean of Student Development issues grants to students who are eligible. There are some requirements that are needed, for instance, students need to have at least a 3.0 GPA, a strong academic background and participation in extracurricular activities. I was surprised to know that this program existed. I was ready to fund my own trip and take no credits, but by April, I got the check for $2300 from the Student Development office and I got the green light for summer fieldwork by the department.
It can be a hard decision to leave your country to go somewhere foreign where you don’t know what you are getting into. Taking a chance requires a lot of courage, I’m glad I did it because the three months I spent in India was an experience of lifetime.
I left N.Y. at the start of June and flew straight to New Delhi. My friends in India offered me a place to stay. Since it was a longer stay I had to get accustomed to the lifestyle, the people and the transportation. It took me a few days to get used to the scorching heat at the 100 degree weather.
I even got sick with chronic stomach virus, I could not leave my room for four days. However, don’t let that discourage you, it only lasted few days. After a few nightmarish days, I woke up to start my first day at the job.
The NDTV office was in GK1 (Greater Kailash 1), which was a 40 minute drive from where I lived. I mostly commuted in an auto rickshaw, they would also drop you back from the office after 8 p.m, since it was quite dangerous for a girl to be out late. It was mid June, the early monsoon hit the northern parts of India and the state of Himachal Pradesh was in chaos. Thousands of people died in the flood.
This was also the time that I joined the office. I was introduced to the news desk by HR, I don’t remember anyone looking at me to say hello, everyone was busy with the content flow of news or the news making. I was supposed to be supervised on how everything worked in newsroom, but they barely had any time for me.
Someone quickly ran through the news system and showed me around a bit, but I had nothing particular to do. I followed the Chief Editor everywhere. Since it was an hourly live broadcast, duties changed and I had to figure out who was in charge and shadow them in the newsroom, editing and graphics room and the production control room.
I couldn’t participate too much since I was untrained and they didn’t want to risk giving me the responsibility for an on-air show. After a mutual understanding of the situation, I decided to switch departments.
I was sent to production the next week, where a producer and his team were working on “The Ganga Project.”Ganges is the holy river in India and it is an integral part of Hindu rituals and culture. The project was to make the people aware of that fact that the river was becoming highly polluted by industrialization and over growth of population. My primary roles as a production assistant was to check, transcribe and ingest footages, help the editor to edit, research and fact check.
After learning some production skills, I was moved to the “documentary department.” I was working with a 30-minute show on the weekend called “India Matters,” where they focused on the social, religious and political issues of India. In addition to what I was already doing, I was also asked to help the camera man, go on shoots and hold SimSats (an interview of a source on camera via telephone without the presence of a host.) Towards the end of my internship I was working for one of the most famous 30-minute weekend shows on NDTV called “Truth Vs. Hype,” which is an investigative journalistic show that focuses on political and social corruption in India.
Working in production and documentaries opened up a whole new world for me, I loved the fact that documentaries had an elaborate way of reporting. One can choose a diverse way to tell the story and depending on the show, you generally have more time to report and research, whereas newsrooms were always chaotic. I was obsessed with documentaries, I took time out to make some personal documentaries on different parts of Delhi.
After coming back from India, I found out that the Communications Technology department was offering a new portrait documentary course. I had an option to do one more internship and I applied at CUNY TV at channel 75 as a production assistant intern. Now I am working with them on a monthly magazine format show called “Asian American Life.”
I would really encourage students to get out of their comfort zone and try and make the impossible possible. The three months I spent in India not only taught me about different forms of journalism but also a different way of life. I got to see how people in India think and live. I got to travel to seven different states in India, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa and Agra.
I learned that people in developing countries might not have all the resources that we have here in America but they make the best of what they have. I worked till 1 a.m. for many weeks, but I felt like I did nothing compared to other journalists. Most of all, I realized that bad things could happen in the best of places, but it does not mean that you back out from an amazing opportunity.
Original post on Pandora’s Box Newspaper