Capturing a summer abroad

Alex Ledet

There are a lot of things college students may consider before accepting an internship, especially one outside of their home country

Things like money, location and potential for assignments could all make or break an internship experience. The way that I knew I was completely sold on my internship this past summer was when I got an email instructing me that upon my arrival — considering the political situation in Cambodia — it would be easier to tell customs officials that I was visiting a friend as opposed to interning with Radio Free Asia.

Radio Free Asia’s mission, as stated on their website, “is to provide accurate and timely news and information in Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press.”

I spent a month of my summer interning with the RFA Cambodia office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Upon arriving, my responsibilities for the first few days were simple: find food and eat food.

After that initial period it got a bit more complicated. I had thought that I would be getting assignments and be expected to photograph them and return with images for publication on the website or Facebook page, but for the first bit, all that I was assigned to do was to help with some copy editing of translated text since the website is published in both Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, and English.

In order to get photo assignments I would have to go to the daily budget meetings (entirely in Khmer), and hope that someone would be willing to translate for me.

Then I would volunteer my help to the reporters covering whatever needed coverage that day. Most of the reporters were expected to go out into the field and get video footage, quotes and photo. My way of getting them to take me with them was almost like bartering.

I would take photos so that the reporters would have one less thing to worry about, and in exchange they’d give me a ride to and from wherever we were going on a motorcycle.

Outside of the normal challenges of a photojournalism internship, I dealt with food poisoning, stomach infections, lost 20 pounds in a week, and spent a night in medical clinic that made my dog’s vet look like an episode of “House M.D.”

I was the only guest in an eight-story hotel, where I ended up being kicked out of with no advanced warning when they suddenly “went out of business.”

All that aside though, I made good friends, met some inspiring people, got tattooed by a monk ,and got to work for a publication doing what I am really passionate about.