Photo by: Keo Kounila
(First) Students visit a radio news operation in Bonn, Germany. (Second) Attending lectures, discussions and daily practical exercises on online journalism at the Deutsche Welle Akademie’s media faculty.
As a senior year communications student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, I was selected to be on a student exchange programme in Germany for a span of three weeks this November.
The exchange involved attending courses on online journalism and Web 2.0, the Web-based service provider used by Deutsche Welle Akademie, part of the larger Deutsche Welle media group.
During my stint, I learned about cutting-edge Internet technology that the Deutsche Welle – a media organisation similar in its scope and reach to BBC World – has adopted. These developments were so exciting that I did not want to miss out on any details, however large or small.
Our primary project was a personal blog designed to share ideas with youths and students all around the world.
We created a podcast that uses an inspirational or provocative subject matter, combining still or fixed images with audio and video to tell a story. Regardless of who you are or where you are from, everyone has a story.
However well-prepared I thought I was, I experienced culture shock upon arriving in Germany.
The city of Bonn was congested, with towering skyscrapers and huge apartment blocks, but still lacked a residential or communal touch. One observes that German students prefer to live independently without any roommates.
About the University/Organisation
Deutsche Welle Akademie is a higher institution of media learning, sharpening the skills of practicing journalists, as well as grooming journalism students on ethics and reporting skills in the modern world. It is a part of the Deutsche Welle establishment that provides worldwide news services through radio, television and online media.
Based in Bonn (radio quarters) and Berlin (television quarters), Deutsche Welle is broadcast daily in nearly 30 languages and transmits news through its Web site (www.dw-world.de) and radio service.
Television bulletins are telecast in English, German, Arabic and Spanish. Deutsche Welle has sent editorial trainers to my university (Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Department of Media and Communication) to train students in broadcast news reporting.
As of this year, DW-Akademie opened applications to international students (including Cambodians), to apply for international media courses equivalent to a Master’s programme. Students who apply are required to demonstrate a good command of German.
Cultural programmes in Germany
Representing Cambodia, I felt proud to share with my classmates how Cambodians perceive and interpret news and the problems with newsgathering and distribution, not just in developed economies, but also in developing ones such as Cambodia’s.
My classmates were a diverse group, coming from Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Bhutan, Indonesia, Pakistan and China. Besides the lessons absorbed, I learned to appreciate their cultures, opinions and thoughts.
One intriguing anecdote is that the two Bhutanese students who attended the course had never heard of Cambodia, just as I was ignorant of their country.
Apart from classes that usually went from 9am to 4pm, all exchange participants were taken around the cultural cities of Bonn and Berlin to explore German life.
We had a memorable afternoon by the Berlin Wall, which collapsed in 1989. Berlin is one of the most vibrant cities I’ve visited, with its charming cultural identity.
We were also acquainted with a globally recognised TV station (Deutsche Welle) and its programming operations, while dropping by the newsrooms of Germany’s top online magazine, Spiegel, and second most-visited blog, Spreeblick.
We also visited the world-heritage site of Potsdam and the iconic Berlin-based German parliament.
All of these places convinced me that to emulate the successes of Germany, Cambodians need to strive harder for the betterment of their country. Media ethics and equality is still a major concern for many Asian countries, not just Cambodia.
With these invigorating sights and enriching cultural encounters fresh in my mind, I am able to apply what I have studied to my work in Phnom Penh and convey it to a globally-connected and growing audience.