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SIT alumnae go abroad as Digital Media Fellows
August 16th, 2019 | SIT Study Abroad
Each year, the Experiment in International Living Digital Media Fellowship program chooses two outstanding journalism students or recent graduates to travel with Experiment programs around the world and capture participants’ experiences. This year’s fellows are Erinn Halasinski, who traveled with the France: Cultural Discovery program, and Jeanette Lam, who covered South Africa: Leadership and Social Change program. Both are SIT Study Abroad alumnae. Erinn went on Nicaragua: Youth Culture, Literacy, and Media and Jeanette took part in Morocco: Field Studies in Journalism and New Media.
I’m super excited to experience a new country for me, with a camera, in the same way that the students are experiencing it for the first time.
Erinn’s interest in media began in high school when she began making videos with her friends for fun and for her track team. She continued learning about media and expanding her skills at Fordham University, where she graduated in May with a BA in Digital Technology and Emerging Media as well as New Media and Digital Design.
Erinn originally hadn’t planned to study abroad for a full semester because she didn’t think it would fit it into her coursework. However, she changed her mind after speaking with an SIT Study Abroad representative at a study abroad fair about the opportunities for immersion offered by a semester-long program.
She was drawn to SIT’s Nicaragua and Indonesia programs, but ultimately selected Nicaragua because of its focus on media and Spanish language immersion.
“I was able to study abroad in such a perfect program where I wanted to go and practice my Spanish,” she said. “It just fit so well.”
During her time in Nicaragua, Erinn created videos in English and Spanish, which she said helped her not only become more comfortable with her film skills, but also in working in a foreign culture with a camera. She also met Eli Laban, an alumnus of the program who had returned to Nicaragua as an Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow. Eli was later selected as a 2018 Digital Media Fellow and traveled to Japan with The Experiment. Seeing Eli’s work as a fellow on social media and learning about his experience is part of what prompted Erinn to apply for the fellowship.
“When the position came up on my alumni email, I had something to connect it to and could visibly see the work that he had done and that I could also do similar work,” she said.
Erinn has never traveled to France before and said she’s eager to discover the country alongside program participants.
“I’m super excited to experience a new country for me, with a camera, in the same way that the students are experiencing it for the first time,” she said.
In addition to exploring France, Erinn is particularly looking forward to her homestay. “My [host] parents are bakers. I can’t not be excited about that,” she said.
Following her fellowship, Erinn is joining the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and will spend two years in Belize volunteering with a nonprofit organization that works with children with disabilities. She’ll also continue building her media skills by helping the organization with its social media presence.
In the future, she hopes to experience and document different countries and cultures, especially places that aren’t frequented by tourists.
[SIT] was a very transformative part of my college career because that was the first time I was surrounded by peers who were equally as passionate about art and social dialogue ...
Jeanette recently graduated from the University of Richmond where she majored in Leadership Studies with a double minor in journalism and film studies. Although she had always enjoyed making videos with her friends and family, Jeanette says she got into professional film and media work by accident. The summer after her freshman year of college, Jeanette created a short, personal documentary about traveling to Taiwan with her grandfather.
“I didn’t even know it was a doc[umentary] at the time,” she said.
Jeanette submitted the video to a film festival and was accepted. After that, she was hooked. She took out a loan to buy her first professional video kit and paid it off over the summer by making videos. That fall, Jeanette embarked on her study abroad program in Morocco with SIT, which she chose because of its focus on media.
“[SIT] was a very transformative part of my college career because that was the first time I was surrounded by peers who were equally as passionate about art and social dialogue and these types of things,” she said.
During the semester, Jeanette completed weekly video assignments and created a short documentary for her independent study project, all of which she believes helped her grow as a filmmaker.
“I feel like that just really pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said.
During her time in Morocco, Jeanette also learned to navigate living and working in another culture and connecting with people from different backgrounds, which she believes will help her support The Experiment participants.
“I know what it’s like to be in their shoes and how sometimes it can be frightening or uncomfortable, but ultimately really rewarding and eye-opening,” she said
She’s looking forward to documenting the arc of the students’ experiences over the course of their trip and how they grow throughout the program. In addition to working with the students, Jeanette is most excited about going on safari in Kruger National Park.
“That’s always been a dream of mine,” she said.
After her fellowship, Jeanette will move to Albany, New York, to work with Youth FX, which provides film and media production education to youth in underserved communities. Jeanette will be co-directing a filmmaking class in a juvenile detention center, which is similar to work she did in college. She also hopes to return to documentary filmmaking and work on both feature films and shorter video journalism projects.
“I know my heart is with documentary work and people-centric work,” Jeanette said.