The struggles of being a journalist in a foreign country.

One of the biggest struggles I’ve encountered since working in Indonesia is the language barrier. I did not realise how hard it would be.

Back home in Australia, I love conducting my own interviews – meeting the talent face-to-face and having a conversation with them as they tell me their story.

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Each time I’ve gone out to do an interview in Jakarta, I’ve been accompanied by a translator. The first time I was with an intern who was helping me out. His English wasn’t that great, but it was better than having no one and attempting to interview people by myself.

I really struggled with not knowing a 100 per cent what the talent was saying or if the translator was asking the right question and translating the responses correctly to me. I felt like I didn’t trust the translator.

Don’t get me wrong, the intern was a really great guy and he knew his stuff, but the language barrier between him and I made it really hard to communicate what I wanted. I’m very grateful he agreed to help.

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I went home after the interview and felt really down because I didn’t know what to do. I messaged an Indonesian friend of mine, who I knew and trusted and asked him if he could help me out the next day. He agreed to help.

The following day I was out with my friend conducting interviews. I felt really good because I knew he’d explain everything to me. It was also a bonus his English skills were much better than the intern.

My mojo was definitely lifted at this stage. Even though I was communicating to my talent through a translator, I still felt connected with my talent and I think that’s really important when you interview someone.

Something else I’m trying to get used to is what Indonesians call ‘Indo time’. Nothing is ever on time and the main reason being traffic.

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Example: We could have dinner booked for 6:30 and then because of the rain and protest no one would get to the place until at least an hour later because of traffic.

Another example is we could have an editorial meeting scheduled for 11am, I’ll be in the office by 10:30 (I like to try to get to things at least 15 minutes early – but that’s just me) and I’ll be the first person in the building. The meeting then wouldn’t start until 11:30-12pm. Crazy times in Jakarta.

This whole experience has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve done in my career, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding experiences.

It’s widen my perspective of what I want to do with my career. I’ve always had the idea of not leaving Australia and climbing up the ranks to be a political reporter. But now I’d love the opportunity to be a foreign correspondent in any country before I chase my dreams of becoming a federal political reporter in Canberra.

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This placement has let me meet people I would not normally meet. I’ve interviewed Chinese-Indoneisans celebrating Lunar New Year, refugees living in Jakarta and Saroo Brierley whose book was made into the movie Lion – that was a real treat!

I’ve been working on my skills as a multi-media journalist and am loving every step of it. I love that I can take my own pictures, find and interview my own talent, write my own stories and film my own vision.

Surprisingly I’m not feeling home sick yet and I think it’s because I’m having way too much fun. I will definitely miss Jakarta and can not wait until I come back.

Two weeks in Indonesia

If you asked me six months ago what I’d be doing with my life now, living in Jakarta was not on the agenda.

I’ve been in Indonesia for just two weeks and have fallen in love with the people, culture, place and food. This was not something I was expecting to feel when I applied for the ACICIS Journalism Professional Practicum.

I applied for the program to enhance my career as a journalist and to broaden my knowledge of the world, as well as learn to be independent.

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Indonesia has not been what I expected, here’s a list of what I thought before I arrived, arriving and two weeks in Jakarta.

Before arriving in Jakarta:

  • It’s going to be dirty,
  • The air is going to be thick,
  • There’s going to be a lot of people catcalling and harassing you because you’re a foreigner,
  • Avoid the back streets,
  • Don’t attempt to walk across the street,
  • Don’t ride on a motorbike,
  • It’s going to be hard to communicate with the locals,
  • Squat toilets,
  • Don’t eat street food.

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First day arriving in Jakarta:

  • Wore my backpack on the front because I was scared of being pickpocket-ed,
  • Lots of smoke in the air – mainly from cigarettes,
  • Avoided eye contact with the locals/people who I thought looked suss,
  • Sweating – a lot,
  • Found it a little bit difficult to breathe,
  • Lots and lots of high risers – heaps of shopping malls,
  • Traffic was overwhelming.

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Two weeks in Indonesia:

  • Started to wear my backpack normally,
  • The locals are so nice – genuine people with a story to tell,
  • The best stories come from the back streets,
  • Body has adapted to the atmosphere in Jakarta – less sweating and can breathe easily,
  • Best food comes from ‘warungs’ (street food),
  • Have been catching Go-Jeks (motorbikes) to travel around,
  • My Bahasa Indonesia is improving – I know basic Indonesian and am able to form conversation with the locals – with the help of hand gestures!
  • Have made life long friends with my housemates!
  • Have travelled to Bogor and Anyer Beach,
  • Visited the National Monument, Museum National and local markets
  • Have learnt a lot about Indonesia and Jakarta.

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One of the best decisions I made was to make friends with some girls from Sydney before travelling to Jakarta. We were all very nervous about going to a different country – it was my first time travelling by myself. Together we gained the confidence to walk around in a group at night to the warungs for some snacks and now we’re also confident when getting into a taxi and communicating with the driver about where we want to go.

When we finally gained the courage to walk the back streets, we found the best people and their stories. I met some refugees from Syrian and Jordan – this surprised me. They have been living in Indonesia for three years, six months and counting. They’re in limbo, waiting for their paperwork to be processed by the UN so they can be moved to another country – and yet they still manage to keep a smile on their face!

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The stories from the back streets of Jakarta reminded me of why I wanted to be a journalist. I want to tell the stories that aren’t told and to educate people about the world.

When travelling with “Orang using” OR “bulai” also know as “foreigner” you will be asked to take plenty of selfies – which just showed how beautiful Indonesians are. They’re genuinely friendly and willing to help out when they see a lost bulai.

The highlight of my trip so far is visiting a learning centre for refugee children in Bogor. The children there have been through so much, left their home with their families in search of a better future for themselves and yet they still had so much innocence and hope in their eyes. They were so eager to learn – most students loved learning English!

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Pic credit: Eden G.

I have experienced so much in the last two weeks, I honestly don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to Indonesia. I’m going to make the most of the time I have left, so if you have any suggestions of places to go/visit please comment below!

 

What is it that makes young people have the sudden urge to pick up a cigarette?

Note: I have nothing against people who smoke. These are just my thoughts and opinions.

Over the weekend I was at a friends 21st birthday and something that I noticed was the number of smokers. I have nothing against people who smoke, it’s their lives and they can do whatever they want – who am I to dictate what they can and can’t do?

During the party, the backyard was engulfed with smoke – literally every second person was smoking. At the beginning I would move away from people who were smoking because I couldn’t handle it, but as the night went on I was immune to the smell and didn’t seem to mind it.

There was a moment when I was sitting with friends and having a chat and I had this sudden urge to take a puff. But I didn’t, and I’m very glad I didn’t.

I personally am not a fan of smoking. I have tried a cigarette before – multiple actually. Happened right after high school during schoolies, that was my week to do what ever I wanted to do and be carefree. I do not regret it at all.

That week taught me that smoking was not my thing and I really came to my sense after that. If anything, I was being hypocritical. My dad has been smoking since he was a kid and ever since I could talk, I’ve been trying to convince him to stop. But it’s hard.

Smoking is an addiction and it’s something that can’t be stopped with a flick of a switch. It takes a lot of time and convincing – I’m still working on it.

When I asked my dad why and how he started smoking, he told me that it was normal in his day for kids his age to smoke –  a form of stress relief and was even sociable.

I guess growing up in a low socioeconomic environment and with limited education is the reason behind dad smoking. I mean, back then not a lot of information about the damages smoking could do to ones health was out. There was no information, education and warnings.

Nowadays, there are plenty of warnings. They’re all over cigarette packages, on our TVs, radios and newspapers. They’re everywhere, and yet people chose to ignore them and I don’t understand why.

With such an educated society now, why do people – young people in particular chose to smoke? Is it because they think it’s ‘cool’? Is it a form of relief from stress? What is it that makes young people have the sudden urge to pick up a cigarette and smoke?

Are we not smart enough to see what smoking can do to someone?

During schoolies basically everyone was smoking and I felt left out. So I smoked. That was the reason, but like I said – I do not regret it. I’ve learnt from my past and I’m so glad I did.

I guess it’s a tough question and I’ll probably never find out the answer.

Note: Featured picture is from schoolies

Just going to go with the flow

The last few weeks for me has been one of the most rewarding and challenging times in my life so far.

On Wednesday night, it was the Walkley mid year awards event, I was one of ten national finalist for the Jacoby-Walkley scholarship and it was my first ever journalism and awards event, so it was pretty exciting and nerve-racking. For those who don’t know, a Walkley award is a pretty big deal in journalism, so of course, I really wanted this. But, I did miss out and am so happy for Taylor, who also studies at UTS on winning the scholarship. Could not think of a more worthy recipient!

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Walkley’s 2016 Mid-Year Event

While I was at the event, I realised how young I was. I know it may sound pretty stupid, but sometimes I forget I’m only 20. Standing in that room, surrounded by the best in the business and young incredible journalist made me feel so grateful and lucky for everything that I’ve accomplished.

I’ve interned at all commercial television networks, been published in both leading newspapers, was a national finalist and currently working as a freelancer – I get paid to do what I love…all this and I’m only 20.

I’ve been concentrating so hard on my career and work life that I’ve somehow forgotten how to be young. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still my childish self and LOVE 1D and 5SOS. But I think I need to relax a bit and enjoy this time.

The last few weeks working full-time has taught me so much. I’ve spent my Sundays ironing clothes and preparing food for the week to come, Saturdays have been booked out my appointments and adult things. It’s been emotionally, physically and mentally challenging, but one of the best learning periods. Is it weird to say that I think I’m growing up too fast?

One of the hot topics which likes to be discussed is my relationship status and how I’ve apparently been ‘single for far too long’. Why do I need to rush into things? Yes, there was a time where I would have put boys before my education, but not anymore. Why must I put my career on hold and go out searching for a guy? If someone was really into me, I’d like to think we could both do our own thing, but are constantly there for each other and once we’re ready things will happen. Why can’t we just let things happen?

Even though I think I may be growing up to fast, I love what I’m doing and where my life is going. So if it’s okay with you, I’m going to stick with being single and enjoy life.

On a different note, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone – family, friends, mum, dad and sister for your ongoing love and support – I really appreciate it! Thank you to the wonderful Rebecca for being my hot date at the event, you are an incredible person, thanks for looking after me!

 

A life update

What a day – actually scratch that, what a week it has been.

This week was my final week of university for the semester. It was a pretty busy and full on week for me and I started to feel overwhelmed with everything going on, but now that the week is over, I can sit back and write this blog post.

It started out with a very chilled Monday where I planned to finish off my 2500 word assignment due the following day and start the other assignment due on Friday. I managed to finish off the first assignment, sort out the rest of my week and start my second assignment. I also put the final touches to my presentation for my talk at my old high school on Tuesday.

I had a 9am start on Tuesday, so I was out of the house by eight o’clock making my way to my old high school, St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove where I would present two presentations for year 11 students during their ‘Empower’ classes. It was so great to catch up and see all of my teachers, thankfully they all remembered me and they seriously have not changed one bit! It was a bit strange going back to school and seeing everything had changed. Many of the buildings had been knocked down and rebuilt so I must admit I was a little lost. Both groups I spoke to were very nice and interactive, I felt really nervous coming back to talk to them – like there was some sort of pressure because I was an ex-student. As a thank you, the school gave me wine glasses, a bottle of wine and coasters with the school emblem on it, it was really nice of them to do so. I look forward to coming back at the end of the year to speak to year 10 students about their subject selections.

After the presentation I made my way to the city to listen to The Today Show and Huffington Post‘s Lisa Wilkinson talk about the art of storytelling, as an added bonus her husband, Peter FitzSimons was there to speak as well. In my spare time, or when I can I like to go to events like this to learn more about journalism – I’m always looking at ways to improve my skills as a journalist. Both speakers were so inspirational and great to listen to, I’m glad I went.

On Wednesday I had an interview with UTS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to be the Journalism SPROUTS (Student Promotional Officers of UTS)…you are looking at the new journalism representative for UTS! Looking forward to inspiring and encouraging younger students to study at UTS. Part of my role will be running journalism workshops schools, so in two weeks I will have two workshops on all things journalism to run – I look forward to that. I went to my tutorial after that, it was really cute because our tutor bought in carrot cake, a student bought in tea with hot water and milk and I bought in chocolate. It was a small class, but very cute. The plan was to work on our assignments that was due Friday, but we ended up chatting away and bonding.

By Thursday most of my commitments were over, I had a few errands to run in the morning (I felt like an actual adult) and then headed to my journalism lecture where we listened to a journalist from the ABC, who was also a UTS alumni. I wasn’t planning on attending because I didn’t have anything left to do for that subject and I wanted to work on my final assignment, but I’m glad I did. During the two hour break between the lecture and tutorial I ended up working on my assignment for a bit and went for a chocolate fix with a friend. Our tutorial normally runs for two hours, but within 45 minutes we were dismissed.

Now, I know I should have used that extra time wisely and finish off my assignment that was due today (Friday) 5pm but I was not motivated enough and was very distracted by online shopping. So I ended up having 500+ words left of my 2000 word essay to do.

This morning I bought my laptop to my internship with Sunday Style and finished off my assignment in between transcribing and Pinterest posts and during my lunch break. This week was my third week with them, but to anyones surprise, it was also my final day with them. I was offered something that I couldn’t refuse, which meant I had to part ways with NewsCorp. When I applied for this internship, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

I love hard news, politics and chasing people out of court, this internship was completely different. It was focused on fashion, celebrity and feature stories and thing I wasn’t used to – but boy was I wrong. I really enjoyed my time there, even though it was so sort. I was constantly kept busy, transcribing and doing bits and pieces to help the editorial team and everyone was so nice and friendly. I had this stigma that working in a magazine environment, everyone would be so bitchy and snobby, but interning with Sunday Style was nothing like that.

Thank you so much to the Sunday Style team for having me, you were all so nice to me and willing to show me things and share cake with me! It was a short but very sweet ride and I look forward to hopefully bumping into the team again soon.

What now for me you may ask? Well, I’m off on a new adventure starting next week. I’m very excited and nervous at the same time, but looking forward to a change.

You’ll have to tune back here to find out what I’m up to!

The not-so-glamorous life of Han Nguyen

A lot of people assume I have a very glamorous life because I’m (sorta) in the media industry, and sure they’re right but it’s only a small part of the crazy world which I love.

I’ve had some shocking moments and my career has only just started. So I thought I’d share a few of my embarrassing Han moments with you all!

  1. Once I had an interview with a well known online news organisation and I was running a little late for it (I made the interview on time…it was cause I was slightly disorganised in the morning). It was winter time so I was wearing layers of clothes and was speed walking to the building, when I got into the building it was heated. So during my interview I was sweating…like a lot. The interviewer was asking me questions, and while I was answering I was taking all the layers of clothes off, draining my bottle and wiping the sweat off my face. The interviewer offered me tissues to wipe my sweat and offered me a glass of water in-between asking me questions about the job. Sadly, I didn’t get the job but it was a wonderfully embarrassing lesson!
  2. Last year I interned in Canberra’s Press Gallery and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had. A moment – which I’ve tried to forget but can’t because it was that embarrassing –  I had was when I was walking/running to a press conference and tripped on the flat surface of Parliament House in front of 10-15 journalist and cameramen and a couple of politicians. This resulted in three security guards running to my aid asking if I was alright and helping me up while I was bright red and laughing. Note to self – don’t try to run in heels…you’re clumsy.
  3. I’m not a very emotional person so it takes a lot for me to cry. Earlier this year I was put on the late shift so I didn’t have to come in until 2pm. I wasn’t feeling 100% in the morning but went into work anyways. I went and sat at my desk and started to work on the things I needed to do, but I felt worse sitting there. Around 45 minutes later the editor comes looking for me, I can’t remember why, I think it was to talk about a story I had just written. I don’t know what happened, but when he came over and sat next to me I just started to cry..not just little tears. But what a legend he was! I was trying to explain to him how sick I felt and he wasn’t turned away by the fact a teenager girl was crying in front of him. He  sat there and talked to me, told me to go home but I refused cause I wanted to finish the story I was working on so he told me to take a walk and then make a decision on if I wanted to stay or not. He was really sympathetic and caring! So great. I went for a walk and ended up going home early. Lesson learnt: Don’t overwork yourself otherwise you’ll get sick
  4. Do you know what’s really bad? When you incorrectly name editors. I have incorrectly named two editors that I can remember, one was when I was talking to my editor who I just met and I called him Daniel (which in my defence is pretty close to his name, okay not really), I didn’t realise my mistake until he emailed me something. Boy was that awkward! The other time I emailed an editor I’ve never met and called him Chris instead of Craig…lets just say I never received a response. Lesson learnt, names are very important!

Those are just a few embarrassing moments in my life. It can be glamorous, but in my case, cause I’m the clummiset person ever…it’s a little more complicated! It’s am amazing life and I can’t wait to see what I get up to in the future. But here’s to more clumsy moments! Because I learn so much from my mistakes and mishaps.

 

Week two and I already feel behind

Last week was my first week back at university and being a student again. It feels like ages since I last studied and had to do a reading for a class.

I’m going to be honest, it’s second week and I already feel behind. I think it’s a combination of the new ‘trimester’ system UTS has going, the five month break I had and the fact that during my break I was interning/working everyday.

My first class I felt clueless, I read all my readings and watched the film for the week and yet I felt like I knew nothing. Actually, it wasn’t just my first class, it was the whole week that felt like such a drag and pointless. My first day back I went through four cups of coffee, I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. I got home and crashed straight away because of all the caffeine I had.

The transition from working everyday to having to go back to studying is a very difficult one, It makes me feel like uni is holding me back and I find myself thinking I already know what my lecturers and tutors are teaching me – but really I don’t know, It seems I’ve grown a big head because of the experience I did over my break.

I know I have a lot to learn, and I need to finish this degree – not just because my parents want me to, but as reassurance for the future, but I feel like if I was to go job hunting now I could possibly have a job and do what I love instead of falling asleep in a lecture hall or classroom.

But, I’m going to power through and hopefully survive the rest of my degree!

Since it’s my last full term as a university student (next semester I’ll be doing one subject) I thought I’d make the most of it and be a uni student. I’m going to make an effort to catch up with people, be more involved with the university, go to uni parties and have a social life on weekends.

Last year I just went to class and went straight home or to work. I spent my weekends at home with the family or catching up on work, interned as much as I could – on any free day I had and did not see anyone or have a social life.

So far it’s been good, I’ve seen and caught up with more people than I did all of last year, had more of a social life with family and friends, I’m a mentor to first year journalism students and I’ve been going to as many university events as I can fit in.

One thing still remains the same, I’m kept constantly busy and that’s the way I like it.