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Intern Blog

There are few places in the world where one can work in a building where so many nationalities and languages are in one place, and I happen to be at one of those few places--Voice of America, where at least 46 languages are spoken, and definitely more nationalities present. The diverse, lively community can be felt the moment you step in the Cohen building, as different tongues and various dresses fill the main hallway.

Being in the Public Relations office means having the opportunity to assist with events in the building, guide tours, maintain social media platforms, and write for the website Inside VOA. Because of how extraordinary an organization VOA is, my standard duties have led to special memories. Examples include seeing the President of Haiti and the President of Costa Rica while photographing events --I even got to shake hands with President Solis of Costa Rica. I also had the opportunity to see the Australian duo The Falls preform live in one of recording studios, and later on have a little live radio time on the same music program. With the kind invitation of Larry London, the host of Border Crossings, I talked about my D.C. experience on-air and announced a request. It’s definitely something I’ll remember; I was live on international radio!

My main project for the summer was to write language service profiles for the website Inside VOA, which introduces our various services’ histories, notable stories, and current programs. With this project, I got to interview service chiefs, from whom I learned about the target countries and regions in more depth. Hearing them describe the media scene and socio-economic conditions of their respective target areas, and how much of an impact their language service has there, reminded me to not take media freedom or a stable, democratic society for granted.

I was able to use I learned from those in-depth interviews into guiding the twice-daily VOA Studio Tours. I remember the first time I went on the Studio Tour as a guest on my first day at VOA, I was fascinated by the live radio and TV broadcasting I got to see and the opportunity to learn more of the agency’s mission. After becoming a guide myself, I was able to use what I had learned to give visitors more details on areas or topics that they were curious about. It’s always very satisfying to hear visitors say, “Thank you, that was a great tour” with a smile. Even though in the beginning I was nervous about what questions visitors might ask, it became clear soon that it’s a good thing that they ask questions. By asking questions, you know they are genuinely interested in the topic, and want to learn more.

The PR office has been a lovely place to work in; it’s a small office, but it’s a tight-knit office where everyone is warm, helpful, and patient. My colleagues Bruna, Ashley, Sahar, and George, and my supervisor Kevin, are always there to answer any questions that I have, and give advice about how to do the job better, be it perfecting a tweet, or writing an effective article. Not only are they experts in VOA and PR topics, my colleagues have also been very helpful with tips about travel and things to do in D.C. With the free museums in D.C., and the wonderful people I got to work with, my summer in D.C. was absolutely lovely.

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!

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