RSJ students visit the Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

RSJ students visit the Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. (From left to right: Celina Gallardo, Tiffany Lam, Richa Syal, Adrian Ma) Courtesy: Declan Keogh

 

By: Daniela Olariu

Waste management, minority groups, the Tiananmen Square massacre vigil and the disappearing outdoor street restaurants are just some of the stories students from the Ryerson School of Journalism (RSJ) tackled as part of the first-ever international component course to be offered.

The focus of Hong Kong 360, a six-week multimedia documentary course, included a two-week reporting trip to Hong Kong.

Assistant Professor Adrian Ma created the unique course to take 10 students overseas to produce stories that answer: “What is the future of Hong Kong?”

Ma says they captured an array of “amazing” stories that show a side of Hong Kong that not a lot of people, particularly western audiences, know about.
“We’re just scratching the surface of the complex political, cultural and societal changes happening in Hong Kong,” he said. “We’re never going to really be able to answer the question, but what we aim to do is feature voices of people that aren’t part of the wider conversation and are overshadowed by a political discussion.”

Stephanie Liu is one of the 10 students that took the course. “I really enjoyed getting to know different people in the city and hearing their stories.” She added that a memorable part of the trip was reporting on the outdoor street restaurants called ‘dai pai dongs.’

“I spoke to a lady that owned one for over 50 years. They are so deeply rooted into Hong Kong culture, yet are starting to disappear and become a part of the dying industry,” she said. “Getting to learn her story and how things have changed from then to now was really eye-opening.”

After landing in Hong Kong, students attended an Asian American Journalists Association conference, N3 Con, to learn about innovative journalism that’s happening in Asia. They had the opportunity to network with Hong Kong-based journalists from domestic and overseas media such as Bloomberg, The New York Times and South China Morning Post.

Discovering Hong Kong as a reporter – doing interviews, shooting video and meeting people in their homes – was initially intimidating Ma said.

But that was the appeal, said 19-year-old Liu. “Living in Toronto, I feel like we’re kind of living in a bubble. By going to Hong Kong and being out in the city reporting, we were exposed to a different culture and perspective.”

The trip cost each student about $1,100 for a round-trip airplane ticket and about $600 for the course itself. They were also responsible for spending money and food while they were there. The hotel, transit tickets and admission to the conference were covered by the school. There was support from the FCAD Dean and ‘Ryerson International’ contributed $10,000 to provide more “global learning” opportunities for students.

Adjani Toussom is another student that took the course. She thinks the trip was an amazing way to practice the skills learned at RSJ and hopes it will be offered again. “It didn’t feel like a school assignment. I felt like a reporter practicing my skills in the field,” she said. “I think being able to send a class overseas in a completely different setting does wonders for learning how to be a journalist.”

Ma also hopes the school will offer more courses like this because global opportunities are a valuable part of the reporting experience.
“At the end of the day, I believe every single one of these students came back more skilled, more confident and even more globally aware journalists.”

The school would like to attract donations to subsidize students on future courses involving international travel to ensure such ‘foreign reporting courses’ are accessible to all.