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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Bernie in Beijing

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Bernie Reyes Facio ’18 an International Relations and Communication double major currently studying in Beijing, China.

My name is Jose Bernardo Reyes Facio and I could not be more thankful to the generous donors who have allowed me to continue pursuing an academic career with an international focus abroad by providing me with a financial assistance.

Certainly, these are times in which understanding for multiculturalism, self-awareness, and exemplary ethical practices of leadership are needed the most in all areas. As an International Relations and Communication double major at the College, I understand the importance of these abilities in today’s international journalism sphere. It is therefore an honor to be able to tell you that thanks to your help, I am developing such skills in a country that will soon become the world leading economy.

As a student of China Studies institute at Peking University (China’s answer to Harvard), I am developing an understanding on both myself and global affairs 180-degrees turned different than the one I had when I first came here. Eating is a challenge because every option’s name is in a language I am still learning to speak. Taking the subway is a challenge because I constantly have a disagreement with the Chinese perception of personal space. But perhaps the greatest challenge I still face is the understanding of freedom.

As a future journalist, I am concerned about issues regarding freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The liberty to write or speak about anything that is important seems to me like a fundamental right everyone MUST be entitled to. However, when I first pitch a story idea about the Dalai Lama at The World of Chinese Magazine, my internship, it was rapidly shut down with arguments that circulated avoiding criticism of the Communist Party. I thought that I was entirely censored so I naturally pitched yet another controversial idea: death penalty. It was my surprise to see that the editorial team at the magazine was very supportive and even contributed to the article: http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2017/03/dying-for-dope/. It unquestionably taught me about the journalistic work environment in a socialist country like China. I now know that there are certain cultural aspects I have to respect as an international journalist and perhaps focus more next time I pitch an idea somewhere else.

Professionally, this experience has allowed me to connect with other journalist and to learn from their experiences while also engaging with students at the program who are incredibly smart. I won’t lie, it’s tough. Academically speaking, it’s one of the most complicated experiences I have had since a very long time. However, I am happy and grateful because I am vastly learning from my peers. I am privileged to have this opportunity and to be able to use it after graduating from college as I will pursue international journalism or diplomacy.

Thank you very much again.