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Virtual Journalism Professional Practicum

Iris Zheng was a participant in the 2021 Virtual Journalism Professional Practicum. Iris is studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications) at The University of Sydney. She received a $3,000 New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant to support her participation in this program.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake the ACICIS program?

Aspiring to become a foreign correspondent, I wanted to broaden my horizons and explore the media landscape of another country—the ACICIS virtual internship ‘opened the borders’, albeit in a remote sense.

Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? Do you think the NCP is an important initiative?

Yes, I received a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. The NCP initiative is important, not only to financially support many university students, but also to strengthen the tie between Indonesia and Australia.

Q: How have you found the academic components of this virtual program – i.e. the language classes/seminars?

Well-structured, engaging, and at times, intense! Knowledgeable speakers from the seminars shared valuable insight about the Indonesian context (e.g., politics, economy, COVID crisis), which in turn, influenced my journalism internship.

Q: What organisation did you intern with? 

I interned as a reporter at Jakarta Globe. My tasks involved writing news articles, copyediting, and attending virtual conferences.

Q: How have you found the work culture (albeit online) of your host organisation? How is it different to work experience in Australia?

Our host organisation, Jakarta Globe, was understaffed during the time of the pandemic, and I am grateful to have been welcomed into their team. We communicated through WhatsApp (which is not as commonly used in Australia), and though we never met in person (what a shame!), I found their work culture friendly and efficient.

Q: What are the main skills you have learnt during your virtual internship?

Three main skills: news reporting for an international audience, interviewing subjects, and time management (e.g., calculating time differences😊!).

Q: What did you find to be the more rewarding part of this virtual program?

Personally, this virtual experience helped put things into perspective. Beyond the seminar discussions which helped contextualise Indonesia, during my practicum at Jakarta Globe, I covered a story on Indonesians relying on oxygen tanks during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Sydney was handling its own Delta-virus outbreak. I felt humbled and grateful for this experience.

Q: Were you able to learn about the Indonesian culture from this virtual program?

Absolutely. The seminars, virtual field trips, and readings were relevant and as a whole, gave a solid overview of Indonesia’s culture. As a foreigner, I found the Q&A opportunities (e.g., on Indonesia’s oligarchic media landscape) at the end of the seminars especially thought-provoking, as it not only improved my understanding about Indonesia, but challenged preconceptions.

Q: How will the virtual internship benefit or influence your career?

Not only has it introduced me to Indonesia, one of Australia’s closest neighbours, I believe the knowledge, experience, and networks gained through the internship will help me as journalist, and citizen of the world.

Q: Would you recommend this virtual program to your friends?

Yes, especially if you like learning about another culture!

Q: Favourite Indonesian word/phrase?

Orangutan, which literally means ‘forest person’!

Q: Describe your experience of the virtual internship program in three words:

Humbling, insightful, adaptive.