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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A summer of Olympic proportions:

Brandeis student journalist travels to Beijing to cover summer Olympics.

Published: September 5, 2008
Section: Features

Watching Bo Derek appear at a US embassy press event.

Getting followed by undercover police.

Covering one of this summer’s biggest worldwide events.

It’s all in a day’s work for Hiatt World of Work intern Eli Harrington ’09.

Harrington spent eight weeks this past summer covering the 28th summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Last semester, Harrington had been searching for a summer internship to fill his desire to work abroad.

A French minor, Harrington had considered going to France to work or even the Caribbean.

Since Harrington had been taking Chinese classes at Brandeis for a year and a half at the time, working in China was another option for Harrington, but one that was kept somewhat in the back of his mind.

Puzzled, Harrington sought former Voice of America (VOA) journalist and Brandeis professor Maura Jane Farrelly’s (JOUR) advice on where he might work. Farrelly told Harrington about VOA, a self-identified multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government.

Each week, VOA broadcasts its more than 1,250 hours of news, educational, and cultural programming in more than 45 languages to worldwide audiences surpassing 134 million viewers.

Farrelly also told Harrington about one of her colleagues who had just started work at Beijing’s VOA bureau.

A few interviews later, Harrington was ready to go. Amazing summer internship: check. Pay for the summer: not so much.

Like many other summer internships, Harrington’s work with Voice of America was going to be an unpaid experience. Until Brandeis’ Hiatt Career Center stepped in, that is.

While many people often say that one cannot put a price on knowledge, taking an unpaid internship is not always such an easy decision to make.

Thanks to the Hiatt Career Center’s new World-of-Work (WOW) internship program ,Harrington and 54 other Brandeis were able to make their decisions with a bit more ease.

Realizing that many amazing internship opportunities are sometimes missed due to economic obstacles, Hiatt started the WOW program in summer 2008 and offers students $3,500 to fund their unpaid internship.

WOW’s goal, as stated on Hiatt’s website, is to “encourage students to use the summer to explore careers that they are truly passionate about by eliminating financial barriers precluding them from following their career interests.”

Looking back on the summer, Harrington said he cannot help but be thankful for the opportunity WOW offered him.

Getting hands-on experience in the real world of journalism, Harrington performed research for future stories and monitored wires for potentially interesting news stories to assist his boss.

Harrington also got some experience that was invaluable for any budding journalist, including learning a bit about audio software and having the opportunity to work on technical projects such as video editing.

Harrington’s study of Chinese helped to prepare him a bit, but he said that he learned that classroom lectures are certainly no replacement for the experience one gets when immersed in the actual culture.

“I went in sort of not knowing what to expect, understanding Chinese culture and society to some degree but having never been there,” he said. “I really had no idea what to expect.”.

Experiencing journalism in another country and “learning how a journalist operates within the Chinese government” was certainly an eye-opening experience for Harrington and one of the most valuable aspects of his eight weeks in Beijing.

As he explained, journalists must get accredited by the Chinese government and through a more constrained system than here in the United States.

As a student and an intern, Harrington found himself even more limited than the average journalist would.

And under great scrutiny, Harrington was not able to cover journalistic staples such as daily press briefings.

But although these obstacles would cause frustration in any budding journalist, Harrington said it also taught him more about the Chinese culture and also the value of a free press in the United States.

“Something that we really take for granted here is our freedom of press,” he said.

Like any eager journalist, Harrington was itching to get out into the field and witness real field journalism.

And since there was much going on in this city hosting the 28th Olympics, Harrington got the chance to visit a protest zone.

What had started as a one-on-one conversation between a journalist and a protestor quickly turned into something very different when passersby noticed what was going on.

Yelling their disapproval, they started to criticize the seemingly innocent man. What crime was this man guilty of? Talking to an American journalist.

After ten minutes of haggling, the man had to leave the park.

Of his experience going out to cover stories, Harrington said “it was a really interesting experience.

That’s the kind of stuff I think being there gives you that you can’t really learn anywhere else.”

In fact, the longer Harrington was in Beijing, the more he came to understand the Chinese culture and their system of journalism.

“It’s sort of like an onion, where you peel back and there’s more and more layers trying to figure out China,” he explained.

His experience gave Harrington invaluable firsthand experience that he now takes back to Brandeis to apply to his work.

A senior, Harrington hopes to continue his passion for journalism as a potential career, but really is unsure what the future will hold for him.

Who knows? Brandeis might just see Harrington covering the next Olympics.