A class outside of a class

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Akiho Hara


(Akiho Hara is a Yarmouth high school student who did a 100-hour internship with the Yarmouth Vanguard as part of her studies. Here is a column about her experience.)

Who would have thought - at least among people in Japan, where I am from - that I could get out of the classroom during my high school years? Usually, high school is where you sit down and study but, instead, I was given an opportunity to ‘study’ in the community.

Interning at the Vanguard for 100 hours has been probably the best and the most valuable experience of my life. I work with others whom I have grown to know quite well and they treat me as one of them. I appreciate that I have been a part of their newsroom, even if just for a few months.

One thing I like about journalism is you do not sit in an office all the time. Of course, the majority of the time is spent facing a computer and typing, but without going out to interview people or do research, the work would never be done. Almost every time I went to work, I went out with one of my co-workers. They sometimes let me do what they would have done, such as taking pictures of Halloween decorations, which I did on my very first day of work. The other day I spent time with seniors and competed in a bowling video game. Another time I was sitting at a Yarmouth municipal council meeting for three hours and was among the first to know that Yarmouth was being invited to possibly host the World Junior A Challenge again. Then, I met Mariners players as they gave out gingerbread houses they made for seniors.

The reason I applied to the co-op education program was to challenge myself and experience things I cannot do in school. I wanted to do something different and pursue something that would be in my field of interest. And it really was. One day during the newsroom’s story meeting, there was in front of me a rough copy of my Christmas article full of red marks after Fred Hatfield, the editor,  had gone over it. I was shown how to have sentences make sense, basic rules of structure, and how to think critically to be able to write something that engages readers. What I found challenging was that writing news is much different from writing academic essays.

Also I learned that a lead paragraph is really important because it determines the whole idea of an article. The final advice was to keep writing. So I did. While writing the article, I looked into my inner self and considered what I really wanted people to know about my Japanese culture.

It was exciting to see my story published in the Christmas section on Dec. 18. My Christmas-in-Japan article was finally published after many times through the editing process. The title and my name printed in big letters were visible to people who were about to read it. The story was also put on the Vanguard’s website. I got a comment on Facebook that said, “You wrote an article that may be read by the whole world.” It does sound pretty exaggerated, but who knows? The comment expresses perfectly why I want to become a journalist.

To be honest, the English barrier makes writing much harder for me. The need to improve my English is crucial, but there is another thing I have been thinking about through this experience. It’s that the most important skill needed to become a journalist is not necessarily how well I can write English. What is more important is being able to tell the story. By fairly and accurately writing a story, I can send a message that gives people hope.

Whether I become a journalist working in the media or not, telling people about the news is definitely something I want to do. It doesn’t matter if it is in English or Japanese. I want to influence people with what I can tell, beyond language. My experience at the Vanguard has laid the groundwork for what comes ahead.

Geographic location: Yarmouth, Japan

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