For Journalism student Christine Ong, a work experience opportunity has turned into a whirlwind of cultural encounters. And she hasn’t even had to leave the campus.
Christine signed up to gain professional experience working with the media team for Culturae Mundi, the organisation set up to celebrate the rich mix of nationalities at Coventry University. Within a short time, she found herself appointed as the editor and head of press, leading a video production unit that records cultural events such as Chinese New Year.
That first assignment was stressful – but also a buzz. And people learn a lot from working under the pressure of a deadline. Christine’s tasks include producing videos and website articles, and writing the Culturae Mundi newsletter. When two other students had to drop out at short notice, Christine suddenly found she was a presenter too.
All that has to be managed alongside work on her degree – but her production experiences help her develop in her academic work, and develop the skills she might need in the media industry.
With so many nationalities among students and staff, Culturae Mundi can draw on a rich pool of traditional and contemporary performers.
“Culture Night is basically an event where we gather all the cultures in Coventry,” says Christine. “Each student represents their culture through music or fashion. The Indonesian Society performed music with traditional instruments and there was a fashion show with clothes from Vietnam and China. There was dance and music. A woman who teaches here sang Yiddish songs. I thought it was amazing.
“I’m involved in salsa dance and culture-related stuff any way. So I just wanted to learn about other culture – like the Indian woman who sang at Culture Night. I couldn’t understand any of it but she sang so beautifully. And the Reggae guy – we interviewed him afterwards and he was telling us all about how beautiful life is.”
It’s been a big change from life at home in the Philippines, where she enjoyed tropical sunshine and beaches, but not much cultural diversity.
On her Culturae Mundi profile, she describes her home land as “a hybrid for Asian and Western influences joined as one culture.”
She says: “I used to hate that I don’t have an original culture, but our multicultural influence is what made the Philippines a country like no other and I can’t be more proud of it now. Curiosity about other cultures then became a passion: why settle with one when you can have more fun embracing all other cultures?
“I now work with a team from across the globe to unite, celebrate and showcase all cultures of the world. It’s amazing.”