Reflections from my Media Fellowship for SUMERNET: Gaining knowledge, skills, connections, and friendships

I am Nguyen from Vietnam. Last year, I was fortunate to be selected for a one-year SUMERNET media fellowship. This is my reflection after spending the last year learning and building connections in the Mekong Region.

Nguyen Thi Hoang  Nguyen By Nguyen Thi Hoang Nguyen - Jan 29, 2021

A journalist and a researcher have many things in common, something I noticed since I first started working as a media fellow for SUMERNET. Both spend time gathering data, interviewing people, analyzing data, and putting them together to communicate with the audience. Their methods of working and their target audience might not always be the same, but their goals are shared. They want to inform people and help them make decisions for positive change.

I have been a journalist in Ho Chi Minh City for the last five years. Being a journalist working for a daily newspaper, I was busy with the 24-hour news cycle and it was hard to take some time to reflect on my work and see all the issues that I have been writing about for years. It was time to step back and see the larger picture. I needed a break from the busy newsroom to build up my knowledge, improve my skills, and more importantly, to look at things from new perspectives.

The SUMERNET Media Fellowship came at the right time for me. It was my wish being granted. I was fortunate to be one of the first two fellows under the SUMERNET Media Fellowship initiated in 2019.

Over the course of my fellowship, I have sat through many talks and discussions on Mekong related issues, led and joined by experts from various fields in the Mekong Region. Thanks to the wide network of researchers and others, I could get in touch with experts to learn about their studies and projects. The knowledge they shared is valuable material for my future news stories. I also became a contact point for my journalist friends whenever they wanted to interview an expert on issues in the Mekong Region.

Going places in the SUMERNET Secretariat

Since the SUMERNET Secretariat is hosted with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre, I also benefited from SEI’s resources and facilities. I was involved in several media activities with the SEI Asia communications team. One of my most memorable activities was my field trip to Udon Thani in northeast Thailand. As the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world badly in 2020, I had spent more than three months working from home. Once domestic travel restrictions were eased in Thailand, I took the opportunity to join a field trip outside Bangkok and participated in a community workshop by SEI’s urban project team. I observed SEI’s researchers working with local communities and collecting data for their research and joined the SEI Asia communications team in producing stories and short films. Indeed, I finally got a chance to take my camera out of my luggage and filmed a magnificent sunset at a local park.

"One of my most memorable activities was my field trip to Udon Thani in northeast Thailand." Photo by Kadesiree Thossaphonpaisan


New areas of work

The Fellowship also brought me pleasant surprises during the year. I was invited to be one of the 48 delegates for the Indo-Pacific Youth Dialogue in October 2020. The organizers contacted me by viewing my profile in the SUMERNET website. Along with seven other youth delegates, I co-wrote a policy communique on “Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management” that was submitted to the 37th ASEAN Summit. Thanks to the support from my supervisor and colleagues, I was able to conduct a media research on “How Vietnamese media reports on coal and renewable energy” with the Stanley Center for Peace and Security and Climate Tracker. These opportunities helped expand my network and strengthen my work profile.

It was somewhat strange for me to commence a fellowship away from my home country during a pandemic. But because of this unique situation, I have learned to do several things for the first time such as producing a podcast series entirely online, running a Teams meeting with 80 participants, and hosting an online trivia quiz with my colleagues. I know these skills could be put into good use in my next job. But even if not, it was both fun and instructive to work together with many colleagues in SUMERNET. For this is how we also make lasting friendships.

The end of the Fellowship is like a bittersweet ending because I feel the time here in Bangkok has flown in the blink of an eye. But I am also excited to go back home to Vietnam and start working on some of the ideas that I have come up with during this fellowship.

I am thankful for this opportunity with SUMERNET. It has opened many doors for me to continue working on sustainable development, a topic that I have always been excited about since I became a journalist.

Sustainable Mekong Research Network

Building research for policy towards sustainable development in the Mekong Region

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