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A once in a lifetime opportunity for journalism students

THREE of our journalism students have recently returned from a trip with the Australia-Middle East Journalism Exchange. We had the opportunity to chat with Dale, Ashleigh and Benito.

A few of the Australia-Middle East Journalism Exchange team in Jordan.

Tell us about your trip
Dale: The purpose of the study tour was to enhance enhance cross-cultural
understanding by fostering better informed journalism, and I can confirm
that this purpose has been fulfilled. The trip took place over 17 intensive
yet wonderful days, where we participated in cultural and professional
visits to various locale including; news organisations, heritage sites,
cultural centres, government departments, and were able to collaborate
with fellow university students from Middle East University in Amman,
Jordan and Qatar University in Doha, Qatar. During the trip we were
tasked to keep a daily journal as part of our university assessment, and
had to produce a piece of journalism of our choice as our major
assessment. I chose to focus on waste management in Jordan as this visually revenant issue had me wanting answers.

Where did you travel to?

Dale: After a 14 hour flight, we spent out first week in Doha, Qatar, and then flew
approx three hours to Jordan and the drove four hours south where we

spent two nights in Wadi Musa (near Petra – UNESCO World Heritage
Site), and then four hours driving back up north to the capital city,
Amman, where we spent the remaining nine days with a few day trips on
the side.

Was there a particular country you enjoyed more than others?
Dale: Both countries were equally fascinating in their own unique ways, and were
rather different to one another too. Personally I preferred visiting Jordan,
as we had the opportunity to experience a wider variety of professional
organisations and cultural sites. We visited the UNESCO world heritage
site of Petra, the Roman Ruins of Jerash, a range of journalism
organisations such as Syria Direct and Arab Reporters for Investigative
Journalism, and the Jerash Camp for Palestinian Refugees…to name a
few.
Qatar was also a wonderful experience by all means. We visited one of the
empires for global news, Al Jazeera English and Arabic, which was really
quite inspiring to see the behind the scenes and all the different divisions
of work, such as the news, documentary, 360 Virtual Reality…the list
goes on really. We also visited the Farnar Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre,
the Museum of Islamic Art and the Qatar National Library where we were
able to deepen our understanding of religion, culture and the religion.
However, I found that in Jordan I experienced a wider and more ‘hands on’
approach to learning where we were actually immersed in the locations
we were trying to understand, such as the Jerash Refugee Camp, where
we spoke with people who actually live there about their reality, which
for many of us, could not even fathom. All opposed to just reading or
hearing about it in a classroom or online.

What was your favourite part?
Dale: My favourite part of the tour was visiting an organisation called Petra National
Trust (PNT) who are on a mission to protect and preserve the
archaeology, history and cultural or Petra. PNT pursues its mission
through preservation projects, advocacy, cultural education and
awareness program with public school students. We had the opportunity
to visit a classroom of students who were learning how to sculpt fish on
this particular day. Many of these students were children who live inside
Petra and placed in a position where education is not an option, and
begging from tourists from a very young age is the norm, with little
prospects for the future outside of selling trinkets. PNT gives these
children the opportunity to learn a skill that will advance their career
possibilities, and teach them the importance of their heritage and
preservation of their home. It was very inspiring to see a developing
generation who will be able to care for their heritage and preserve sites
with an understanding different to the previous generation.
Later in the day PNT took us to the heritage site of Little Petra where we were
able to deepen our understanding about heritage preservation and the
Bedouin people. Here we were told about how Bedouin people aren’t
onboard with the whole site preservation thing, and how the Jordanian
government is/plans to relocate the Bedouin people from Petra into
housing outside of the site. Questioning information is necessary as a
journalist, especially when investigating, and I found this day particularly
interesting in delving into thoughts and trying to decipher an issue which
may seem one sided to the naked eye. I found this to be the case
throughout the trip – most days were just a plethora of questions and
critical thinking which I otherwise wouldn’t have thought about if I
had’ve visited Petra as a tourist – unaware of these underlying issues. So
I suppose you could say that thinking was my favourite part of the trip,
and thinking about issues that I otherwise would not even have heard
about.
This is an excerpt from my daily journal from this day: “So why doesn’t
heritage conservation matter to the Bedouins? I’m not sure if it’s a
matter of not caring, but a matter of not knowing the implication of
actions. For example, lighting fires inside caves will eventually degrade
the caves and turn the walls all black and gross, but this is also simply a
survival technique in order to stay warm. Or, perhaps the Bedouins see
Petra as more of their home and a place where they can do as they
please, rather than a ‘site’ which ‘needs’ to be preserved…Preserved for
what though? Tourism? What gives everyone else the right to explore
this land opposed to the Bedouins? In terms of Petra being their home –
no rent is paid, and land doesn’t need to be purchased, so why is there a
somewhat ownership battle? I suppose because of the extensive amount
of years (since 2000 BC) that the Bedouins have lived on the land and
their connection to the land. I suppose it’s no different to the Aboriginal
people having a connection to the land in Australia. Materialism also
comes into play. Why do people want to go to Petra? To get that Insta
shot? To say they’re ‘been to Petra’ and then return to their materialistic
lives which is seemingly not present within the Bedouins in Petra. Hmm.
With the influx of tourism, I can only imagine there is somewhat of a
threat towards the Bedouin traditions and `a shift from traditional
custodianship.

What did you learn/take away?
Ashleigh: Over my time in Qatar and Jordan, the main takeaway
was the welcoming hospitality of the region. After wanting to get to know
you, tea and coffee is poured and before you know it, you have made a
friendship and a memory you will remember fondly forever!

What was the most eye-opening part?
Dale: As an advocate for the environment and animal rights – by being placed in
settings where these issues were visually present, it reminded me of my
purpose and goal as a journalist, to spread awareness on issues that
sometimes don’t receive the spotlight they deserve.
This is an excerpt from my daily journal about our visit to Petra UNESCO World
Heritage Site:
Petra – I was so very in awe by the beauty of the entire site and mountain top
views, and equally as gobsmacked by the Treasury! I was just staring at
it for a solid few minutes thinking about the amount of work and
craftsmanship that would have gone into carving the Treasury (and other
monuments). It all really was quite incredible, and to think of the
construction of the city without the machinery we have access to
nowadays.
Aside from the beauty, the treatment of animals in Petra was quite difficult to
be around, even looking at the animals at times was hard, and turning a
blind eye sometimes seemed like the only option. I noticed a lot of
people would be happy to pat the dogs and cats, and gladly give them
water, but what about the camels and donkeys? Petra is not only home to
the Bedouin people, but largely a tourist destination for many visiting
from Australia, Europe, America and Canada. In these cultures, dogs and
cats are seen as pets who deserve rights almost equal to that of a
human, whereas animals like camels and donkeys are largely seen as an
animal for human use who’s rights ‘matter less’. In my opinion all
animals should be treated equally as they all process pain and emotion. I
believe that because of this culture where one life matters more than the
other, the mistreatment of the donkeys and camels will continue.
However, because the mistreatment is visible (to some), people will be
more inclined to avoid participating and paying for cruelty – such as
riding donkeys up the steep steps (who were very visibly suffering), or
taking a horse drawn cart on the slippery stones. With animals rights
issues on the rise, globally, hopefully in the future animal slavery will be
eradicated, not only in Petra, but all around the world.”
I think visual understanding is a huge part of comprehending issues which are
geographically distant or somewhat ‘hidden’ from the public eye.
Sometimes reading something in the newspaper or online doesn’t have
the same impact as seeing a photograph or watching a video. Being
surrounded by an environment where suffering is present reinforced my
views about the importance of technology in journalism. With this
grounding realisation, I established the foundation for my career path –
photographic and/or videographic journalism.

Why did you apply?
After asking a friend who had previously travelled to Qatar and Jordan gave me
sound peace of mind regarding the safety and uniqueness of the two
countries, I applied. Friends and family were somewhat worried about
my potential travel to countries which are predominately negatively
portrayed in the media, and which are seemingly largely misunderstood,
therefore I became concerned myself. However, I knew the university
wouldn’t send us anywhere dangerous, and after reading and watching
student testimonials from previous years, the pros started to outweigh
the cons. I knew overseas exchanges are desirable for future employees
and give your resume a bit of ‘oomph’, and I knew an exchange to the
Middle East would give my resume one heck of an ‘oomph’.
Overseas study is always a good idea, regardless where you’re wanting to go,
however I wanted to apply for this tour because I knew it is an unusual
place to travel and the opportunities that were available on this study
tour would not be accessible on any other. After realising the scope of
this study tour opportunity, I knew I had to apply. Meeting the Australian
Ambassadors for Qatar and Jordan and asking them questions about
Australian and Middle-East relations and gaining an insight into current
local and global issues, meeting journalists on a mission to change the
world, meeting inspiring individuals at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
Qatar, etc etc etc…HOW would this be possible in any other setting,
HOW?!

Who did you travel with?
Dale: Two other students from Adelaide Uni (Benito Carbone, Ashleigh Roberts),
three other students from Canberra uni, and Dr Scott Bridges (Managing
Director) and Scheherazade Bloul (Study Tour Facilitator) (Tour Dad and
Tour Mum). https://www.ausmideast.org/about
Qatar Airways – sponsor

How do you think this has impacted your studies and future
career?
Ashleigh:  As a young writer entering in the media industry, I
believe the AMEJE allowed me to discover the ability to produce a greater
story of impact by travelling to source, rather than staying within the
comfort zone of Australia. You are able to get to the know the subject on
a deeper level on their home ground and begin to understand sometimes
hard to understand perspectives when able to be closer to the source
and their lives. I hope my future career allows me to travel the world to
find unique stories that are yet to be heard and continue to make friends
across the world.
Dale: This study tour has further inspired me in my
eagerness to create journalism about social issues. By talking to
documentary makers at Al Jazeera in Qatar about the kind of work they
do to help to spread stories of people who are far less fortunate than
themselves and myself made me think further into the type of journalism
I would like to pursue. (Also last para of the eye-opening question).
Benito: “It’s going to be incredible for my studies and future career.
I don’t think anyone else in the Bachelor of Media can really compare
with this study tour. I learnt so much about journalism internationally/in
the Middle East and what it entails, and I don’t think you can learn that
in another other media course at the University of Adelaide. The study
tour was incredible and I’m going to be, by far, a better journalist and a
more attractive prospect for future employers after undertaking the
Australia-Middle East Journalism Exchange.”

How did you find the course?
Benito: I just loved meeting a bunch of new people and
experiencing so many different cultures, and eating mounds of new kinds
of foods! Getting amongst Middle Eastern cultures and having the
opportunity to talk to locals in Qatar and Jordan was incredible to
experience. I’ve been inspired, and now I look at the Middle East in a
different way, because it’s not just one big land mass, and not everyone
is the same. There’s such variety of people with so many unique and
awesome attributes.

What would you tell other students wanting to apply and where
can they apply?
Dale: Definitely apply. Travelling to the Middle East may seem somewhat daunting in
the current state of the world, however I can tell you that this is a once
in a lifetime experience like no other. The course is intensive and
everyday you have the chance to enhance your learning in a way that
would not be possible within a classroom. You will also have the
opportunity to meet many wonderful people from universities in Qatar
and Jordan and create a whole new platform of professional contacts on
a global scale. It’s hard to describe how glad I am that I decided to apply
for this study tour, and how fortunate and grateful I am for being
selected.

More info can be found here https://www.ausmideast.org/)

The #AMEJE18 study tour was supported by the Council for Australian-
Arab Relations of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
the Changing Lives Program, Qatar Airways, the Embassy of the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Canberra, and the Embassy of
the State of Qatar in Canberra, in collaboration with the University of Adelaide and the University of Canberra. 

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