Teaching Journalism, Finding a Home

McLellan, Michele
June 2005
Nieman Reports;Summer2005, Vol. 59 Issue 2, p106
This article presents a narrative of the author's teaching and living experience in Cambodia. I do not remember exactly when I started to feel at home in Cambodia. I did not feel that way when I first arrived in Phnom Penh in October 2002 on a teaching assignment when I had to quickly find an apartment without knowing the language or the customs or even what a reasonable rent might be. When I began to feel at home in my new surroundings was when I met my students--journalists recruited by Independent Journalism Foundation for a three-month journalism course. Along the way, I encountered plenty of bumps, including my great teaching challenge. Often I responded to these dilemmas by deciding not to express my opinion. Instead, I tried to ask my students questions to help them recognize the implications of unethical practices. also many joys. After 3 months, I left Cambodia, looking forward to visiting friends in Bangkok, New Delhi and then a couple of months in Eastern Europe. In returning, I felt at home. On the street, Western tourists asked me for directions, and I found I could tell them where to go. My visit surprised and delighted Cambodian friends who thought I was gone, probably for good. At first, I thought I would stay only long enough to get a visa for India. Instead, I stayed for another 3 months, leaving only after I had been offered a job in the U.S. But Cambodia was not done with me. The feeling of being at home there would stick with me. The love of the communal and friendly culture drew me back. And that brings me to the house on the Mekong River. A friend e-mailed that he had found a piece of land for me. I do not know how often I will go there. I have a full-time job, an interesting career, and a newsroom training project about which I am passionate. But when I do go back, I know this: I will be home.


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