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International journalism students come alive studying in Hong Kong and Asia

They come from countries as far apart as Italy and Canada, Mexico and Russia. They speak multiple languages, have held a variety of jobs, and hold different university degrees.

But since joining the JMSC’s Master of Journalism (MJ) programme for the 2016‒17 year, what this diverse group of international students has in common is the belief that studying in Hong Kong—and the Asian region―is providing them with exciting new opportunities and the fresh inspiration they need to develop as professional journalists.

The densely populated metropolis of Hong Kong, on the doorstep of mainland China and at the heart of the dynamic Asian region with its rapid economic growth, provides the ideal journalism training ground.

“Asia, and China, are a breeding ground for new ideas and stories, the part of the world where things happen,” said Alessandro Meccheri, a current MJ student from Italy. “Asia is a newsroom where a reporter nowadays should be constantly working.”

Meccheri is looking to launch a new career in journalism after working for three years as an English teacher in China.

“What I wanted was a more international and open-minded environment without losing the opportunities that Asia, and China, are offering at the moment. That’s why I decided to move to Hong Kong,” said Meccheri, who has produced reports on a pro-democracy protest, the Chinese pink dolphin, and shopping habits, amongst other topics, since moving to the city.

Since moving to Hong Kong, Meccheri has produced reports on a range of subjects from the Chinese pink dolphin to the habits of shoppers

At the same time, Hong Kong and the region also provide a source of fresh inspiration for those already working in the industry looking to further develop their skills.

Some students who have joined the MJ programme this year come with journalism experience already. But they agree that Asia is the perfect location to practise and hone their skills, while also providing inspiration for different types of stories that they would not typically find in their home countries.

“Being in Asia makes me come alive,” said Tamsyn Burgmann, who was a senior reporter at The Canadian Press before leaving to join the MJ course. “I believe that’s essential for tapping my highest potential and making journalism that matters.”

Before landing in Hong Kong, Burgmann had spent nine months travelling across Asia on her own in 2013, building up a portfolio of stories with far-flung datelines.

“The stories I wrote were different than anything I’d written in Canada,” Burgmann said. “I made opportunities to engage with characters from champion Muay Thai fighters to Kachin rebels in Myanmar’s far north. Writing stories about these people opened up my world. I yearn to keep collecting and sharing these stories on a bigger scale, and believe obtaining my MJ at HKU is the most direct path.”

Burgmann visited the Kachin Independence Organisation headquarters, in Myitkyina, Myanmar, and trained with a Muay Thai champion during her first visit to Asia in 2013

“One of my editors in Canada once told me that after he launched into his passion career, he wondered why he hadn’t done it ten years sooner. I left a reporting job at home for my MJ in Hong Kong because I’m determined not to become complacent,” she added.

Kristina Shperlik has a degree from Moscow State University and had been working as a journalist in Russia for six years already when she decided to apply for the MJ programme.

“I was deeply impressed by the descriptions of the internship experiences that previous students had. It’s very uncommon to suddenly find yourself working in Nepal, Mongolia or Vietnam,” said Shperlik, who is herself now completing an internship at the Nepali Times during the winter break in her studies.

“Asia right now is a great place for a journalist to be, as a lot of events are happening here and a lot of possible stories can be written,” said Shperlik. “Hong Kong itself has world-famous newspapers, TV channels and other media organisations.”

Shperlik, who graduated from Moscow State University and had been working as a journalist in Russia for six years before joining the MJ programme, is now on internship at the Nepali Times

Shperlik, who has worked on stories about Japanese strawberry farming and potential political tensions between ‘the valleys’ and ‘the mountains’ after the passing of a new constitution last year since arriving in Nepal, was also curious to see how English-speaking journalism works, and whether the obstacles it faces are the same as in Russia.

“I think that as journalists in different countries, we follow exactly the same patterns—the most important rules about how to write and report, how to deal with ethics, and how to find your stories are pretty much the same,” she said. “However, it is useful to know how to write in English professionally, as it can help you to increase your audience significantly.”

Follow Meccheri on Twitter here, Burgmann here, and Shperlik here.

The application period to join the Master of Journalism programme for the 2017‒18 academic year is now open. To learn more, click here.