Reflecting on UQ in India 2015

By Bruce Woolley:
It is Saturday morning here in New Delhi and I am in my air-conditioned hotel room, strenuously avoiding the 37 degree heat outside.

My 20 students are not as timid and cowardly. They have been up and about since 5am heading out into the streets of this bustling (crazy busy) capital collecting stories for their news website: https://uqinindia.wordpress.com/

UQ students and staff visit the Taj Mahal on a work integrated learning trip.

UQ students and staff visit the Taj Mahal.

We are all engaged in a 10-day Work Integrated Learning (WIL) course here in India that is intended to provide these talented and conscientious journalism students with the skills of foreign correspondents. The course is JOUR3122 (Field Reporting) and is a full credit course in the B.J. . I am greatly supported by Associate Lecturer and expert photographer Liss Fenwick. Majella Ferguson who is the HaSS faculty’s International Development Manager has worked with SCA professional staff to arrange the complex logistics and has joined us on the trip. So has Siyu Wang of UQ International.

Today already, half a dozen student reporters have gone to a Laughing Yoga class and come back saying “it was weird”. When I asked why, they said many people were laughing merrily and having a great time but some seemed to be laughing through gritted teeth. It will be fascinating to see their television, radio, print and photojournalism reports when they are uploaded over the next few days to see what they made of the experience.

Next on the agenda today is a Bollywood Dancing class to which I received an invitation but politely declined – in the hope of maintaining some grace and dignity.

Yesterday, a group of students were given a guided tour of one of Delhi’s most economically depressed slums, but you will be surprised by the smiling faces in the mass of photographs they took while they were there. Indians are as intrigued by us as we are by them, it seems.

If you are concerned about the safety of our students, you need not be. They are working with individual ‘buddies’ from the local Amity University who are accompanying them everywhere. They are also under instructions to travel in groups of at least four people – two UQ students and two Amity students. The ‘buddies’ are able to help arrange interviews with local people, provide instantaneous interpretation, and act as safe escorts and guides.

Earlier in the week, we drove the four hours it takes to see the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Amity buddies decided to drive down behind our bus – such is their bond with our students.

This UQ in India course follows three similar overseas projects conducted in Vietnam in 2012, 2014 and 2015. They have been funded by various Australian Government education mobility grants. This trip to India is paid for by the New Colombo Plan of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The School of Communication and Arts is pleased to have won three more years of funding to continue to develop our links with India.

The Australian High Commission here in New Delhi has been strongly supportive of our venture as well. We were given a private briefing by the High Commissioner, Patrick Suckling, and his senior diplomatic staff. The High Commissioner even invited us to a function at his official residence on Monday night (the evening after we arrived) to meet local media personalities and resident Australian correspondents.

One of our last expeditions before we return to Brisbane will be to visit the local all-news television network NewsX at the invitation of news anchor and editor, Rishabh Gulati. He met our students at the High Commissioner’s residence and declared himself very impressed by their intelligence and general knowledge. So he will take us around the station to see all-news-TV Indian-style.

The students will have the chance to pass judgement on the course when they fill out their SECaT forms on their return. From my point of view, these WIL courses are wonderful. They offer the chance to develop close and productive relationships with the best of our journalism students, to offer a style of teaching that is closer to personal coaching than mass instruction, and that leads to a learning experience that is intense, powerful and practical. My colleague, Liss Fenwick, brings her immense technical and creative knowledge to the course, and I try to focus on the softer skills of storytelling techniques, writing, presentation, script editing and creative production.

In a news industry that is in a certain amount of turmoil, graduates from our school and especially from these courses are finding jobs – I have the statistics to prove it. I suggest that is because they have multimedia and storytelling skills refined to a high level. Employers are keen to grab them while they can.

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