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Maria Kovalskaya - English Division Intern

Maria Kovalskaya English Division Intern 2014
Maria Kovalskaya English Division Intern 2014

I spent this past winter in the United States as part of a Russian-American fellowship program operated by the Social Expertise Exchange (SEE), organized by Fund Eurasia. The subject of my fellowship was the way the United States naturalized and integrated immigrants and how media covered on migration, a method that I believe could be successfully applied in Russia.

I am a historian, whose research and professional interests revolve around migration. I am particularly interested in imaging and construction of stereotypes about migrants in contemporary media and popular culture. I did my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the historical faculty of Irkutsk State University (ISU), Russia.

During my two months in the United States, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best journalists in the country. The first part of my fellowship was spent in VOA’s English Division, where I learned about investigative journalism and to “dig, dig, dig as deep as possible.” My mentor, Jeffrey Young, was a veteran journalist who became not only a teacher but also a good friend. Working together, we prepared stories about corruption in a wide range of places: Ukraine, the Olympics in Sochi, and the U.S. Navy. Jeffrey assisted my migration studies by finding research respondents and helping me overcome bureaucratic barriers to gain access to the experts I needed to interview. His training gave me new perspectives on interviewing, article preparation, and gathering information.

All the other members of the English Division staff were like Jeffrey, open and kind, and so was my curator, Inna Dubinsky. Every one of them was helpful and ready to share all the knowledge and experience they had. In February, I was accredited as a VOA journalist to cover the 12th Coordination Meeting on International Migration of the UN, which took place in New York.

In March, I had the opportunity to travel to Miami, where I met employees of Radio Marti, who told me the story of their broadcasting service. My host during my time at Radio Marti, Oscar Rodriguez, was warm and friendly and patiently answered all my questions.

After my time at Marti, I came back to Washington and worked in VOA’s Russian Service. With guidance from my Russian Service editor Arkady Cherepansky, I decided to undertake a journalism project focusing on migrants in Sochi, which enabled me to use the investigative techniques I had learned while working with Jeffrey and to do more research on immigration. I worked on the project independently over few weeks and developed worthwhile contacts that I hope to continue to use at home.

In the two months I spent with VOA, I was inspired with many ideas for professional and educational projects. And I hope that I will have another opportunity in the future to come back to the United States and work on other projects that I was unable to carry out during my two months. I leave my friends and colleagues at VOA with this message: I’ll be back!