Hi Comm Majors! Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting about the Penn Media Scholars in China: Annenberg’s new summer institute. The competitive program involves a 3+ week trip which immerses undergraduate students in the media environment in China, and includes site visits to media institutions and internet firms in Beijing and Hangzhou, as well as opportunities to meet with Chinese university students and global media industry professionals.
This year’s student group, led by Professor of Communication and Sociology Guobin Yang, embarked on June 5, 2017. To find out more about their experience, the participants have graciously provided responses to an email interview for DotComm.
Consider applying for next year’s trip (more info on that here). Applications are due in January for the summer 2018 trip. In the meantime, enjoy what your fellow comm majors are experiencing by reading below!
By Joy Lee
Why did you decide to apply and go on the Penn Media Scholars Trip to China?
I’m fairly involved in journalism. I’m a Photo Editor at the DP, and I’m working as a photographer at the Philly Inquirer this summer. I’m also the child of two Chinese immigrants. My decision to apply to and attend PMSC stems from this intersection between my academic/extracurricular interest in media as well as my personal connection with China and Chinese culture.
Had you ever been to China before? What were your expectations going into the trip?
I have been to China many times before. My family tries to make a trip back every summer. Culturally I didn’t really have many “expectations” since I’m already accustomed to the culture and way of life.
What have you been surprised by during your time in China?
I’ve been surprised by the number of media companies that actively use VPNs to bypass the firewall, and I’m surprised the government is okay with this. I was also surprised by the overwhelming mentality of China vs. the world (with China being mostly the victim and very misunderstood) both within the media industry and among university students.
Can you give a typical daily schedule of a program day? What have you explored in your free time?
Morning site visit. Lunch. Afternoon site visit. Free time. I’ve mostly just wandered around. I obviously hit the “must-see” tourist attraction but after that I like to just walk. I bring my camera to take photos.
PMSC with Zhejiang University students
As a communications student, what have you learned about the media environment in China? (News, social media, technology usage, etc.)
I’ve learned how complicated the issue of censorship is, and also the mixed views people have towards it. I’ve noticed that, for the most part, people who have spent significant time outside of China at universities are against censorship. However, domestic students mostly feel that it is necessary for the safety and stability of a developing country like China. Additionally, I’ve learned how essential WeChat really is. In America, we often rely on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. for many different reasons, but it is still possible to live without any of these. In China, it is basically impossible to live without WeChat for all generations.
Final thoughts: what is your favorite place/experience you’ve been to or had on your trip?
The discussion with the Zhejiang University students about media and politics in China, although frustrating at some times due to our very different views, was extremely interesting and enlightening.
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