Posted by: daradoodle | January 31, 2009

Academic Recap/Update

Before departing California on August 31, 2008, I had a precise agenda for the year that I would spend as an academic scholar in Shanghai, China. I knew that acclimating myself to Asia might take some time and perhaps after a few weeks I would pick up exactly where I left off before graduating from CSUN in May by hopping back on the story generating bandwagon. Well, shortly after stepping off the plane in Asia I realized that I would have to make some major adjustments to my original plan.

Fresh off an intense summer language program at Pasadena City College, I felt that I absorbed as much as I could about the fundamentals of speaking and reading Chinese in just under two months. When I was handed a course catalog at Fudan University School of Journalism, I quickly noticed the contrast between the traditional Chinese characters that I had studied during my course and the simplified Chinese characters printed in the booklet. I asked for an English version of the course catalog and discovered that the undergraduate program, which I was enrolled, was completely taught in Chinese. No classes in English. Before panicking, I sat in on a few classes with another academic scholar who recently received his undergraduate degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Edinburgh and speaks Chinese rather fluently. When he had trouble following the lectures, I knew that I had to get creative and come up with a plan ‘B.’

The fall 2008 semester was the first that the London School of Economics teamed up with Fudan University to create a double masters degree in Global Media and Communications. After approval from the university, I was given permission to audit some of these English taught classes. A course titled China’s Media and Politics in the Context of Globalization taught by professor Hong Bing quickly became my favorite. As a guide and mentor for the next generation of journalists emerging from China, his ideology strays from a traditional Marxism-Leninism school of thought and instead, he introduces the history and evolution of media in China from a contemporary approach. Throughout the semester he invited journalists to address the class including David Barboza, foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and Yang Haipeng (杨海鹏), investigative reporter for CAIJING Magazine, a leading business and financial publication. Professor Hong Bing also arranged a visit to the offices of the Shanghai based newspaper Oriental Morning Post where a roundtable discussion was held with the editor-in-chief where students asked tough questions regarding media censorship as well as the financial status of newspapers in China.

I attended a few lectures over the semester including one by Mr. Peter Zhang, editor-in-chief of the Shanghai Daily, one of two English language newspapers in China. Mr. Zhang is a veteran of media in China and freely answered questions about being a party member (Chinese Communist Party) and the role censorship plays in an country that boasts “opening up.” In another lecture, the president of Shanghai Media Group (SMG) gave a thorough breakdown of the entities the organization operates which includes television channels, websites, magazines and radio stations.

After five years of working in the television business in the U.S., I landed an internship at the SMG television channel, International Channel Shanghai (ICS), which is one of two English language television channels in Shanghai. I worked on a program called ‘City Beat,’ a 30-minute news magazine highlighting events around the city. Native English speakers are valued at ICS for polishing copy to be read by narrators as well as editing English subtitles for interviews conducted in Chinese. I accompanied show producers on field shoots, which gave me the chance to see many areas of Shanghai, and I also interviewed some of the English speaking subjects at these events.

Shanghai Television Station

Shanghai Television Station









Just another day at the office.

I didn’t so much do this internship for the resume as I did for the ability to observe the operation of a state-run media agency. One major difference I found was with the human resources paperwork. For every television show I’ve ever worked on in the U.S., I’ve had to sign crazy confidentiality contracts with not only the production company producing the show, but also the network airing the program. Well… in China… all I had to do was fill out… or rewrite rather… this little memo.


Yeahhhh. If you’ve already seen my final reel from ‘Valley View News’ at CSUN, you know the irony of this memo. And if you haven’t, click here. It’s toward the end of the clip (6:21 to be exact).

On a lighter note, here’s a video from a Men’s Uno Magazine photo shoot. Having just completed a contest searching for “Mr. Uno,” the magazine was shooting pics for a spread that featured the finalists. When three rather attractive young gents walked into the room, I think Audry (the gal with the backpack) got a little nervous. Have a look.

In between lectures and interning, I enrolled in Chinese language classes at a small school near Fudan University’s campus. Unfortunately, I had to pay for the lessons out of my own pocket, but the teacher was great and I hope to continue classes with her through the spring 2009 semester.

At the beginning of January, the fall 2008 semester came to a close (yeah, the scheduling is weird) and I had to say goodbye to my friends who were only studying in Shanghai for one term. When I was kid, I’d go to summer camp for a week and be sad for months after saying goodbye to my new friends. I was also that kid who managed to keep in touch for years via snail mail. Technology makes staying in contact a bit easier and I’m looking forward to visiting Charlie and Poppy in England, Jenn in Australia, and Wayne and Saitvius back on the homeland in New York. Family dinners on Wudong Lu won’t be the same without you guys. ::tear::

As I await my new roommate (CUE: dramatic music), I have quite a few irons in the fire and projects in the works for the coming months. Stay tuned!

I’ll leave you now with a little montage of some of the best bits from the first few months in Shanghai.

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  1. Hey, I did fours semester of Chinese at PCC too. Is Cathy Wei still there? She was the Chinese “department” head when I was there in 97-00. Congrats on the ICS gig, sounds like you learned a lot. Should I be looking for your name in the credits? “Dara”?

    • Cathy Wei was indeed my teacher at Pasadena City College! She was great and actually reads this blog. Email me if you’d like me to pass her contact info. along to you. Since I was considered an “intern” at ICS, my name won’t be in the credits.

  2. Hi Daradoodle! Your videos are great, I’m so proud of you! Looking forward to seeing you in May. Love, Mom

  3. […] back in January when I mentioned awaiting the arrival of my new roommate for the spring term? Not knowing exactly when this mystery […]

  4. I enjoyed your insights here. Maybe you can give me some input. I am an American expat and English teacher in Manila, author of four non-fiction books and sometimes contribute business articles to the Xinmin Weekly, located in Shanghai (though they have to translate it from English to Chinese). I am playing with the idea of contacting Fudan or other Chinese universities with journalism schools about the idea of teaching some journalism courses in English for Chinese students that want to be able to both report in English as well as Chinese and also learn journalism jargon in English… can you offer your insights about this? Many thanks ^-^ Timothy

    • Hi Timothy, thanks for checking in.

      There are quite a few Chinese students studying journalism at Fudan who are also focusing on (or I guess you could call it a minor) in Chinese to English translation. Having said that, I don’t understand why more courses aren’t offered in English. I know in other departments such as the School of Sociology, classes are offered in English for students in their final years. I haven’t written about my academic experience for the Spring 2009 semester yet, but I’m taking an anthropology course taught in English for Chinese students. I think you should definitely look into this because I believe there’s a strong need for more English taught journalism courses… at least at Fudan.

  5. Thanks for your prompt response 🙂 Cheers !

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