Have been postponing this post for quite some time. Not sure why though. Getting into the Asian College Of Journalism (ACJ) was one of the happier moments of the past one year but the fact that I was not going there made it bitter-sweet. Nevertheless, here is a post about the entire process and what I took away from the whole experience.
I stumbled upon ACJ during one of my marathon browsing sessions late last year. To be honest, I had not heard of it until then. But, as I got access to more information about it, I was only impressed. I have always been fascinated by journalists. There is something very special about having the ability to tell stories to people and make an impact. I remember being glued to the television when Barkha Dutta covered the Kargil conflict and listening to Prannoy Roy’s analysis during elections. These people have a kind of power and responsibility which I found very exciting. I really wanted to be in their shoes, but, never had the focus or the guts to think about making it a professional choice. I mean isn’t studying engineering and then getting a decent paying job in an IT firm so much more easier/comfortable? Sure is, but, I never really enjoyed my work. That coupled with the fact that I knew I had a good shot at this course, encouraged me to send in my application.
The application is a mere formality but , there are a couple of sections that ask you about why you want to be a journalist and the journalists you follow. I tried to be as honest as possible while answering these questions and luckily, got short-listed for the written exam. I went with zero and I mean absolutely no preparation. There are two sections to the test. The first tests your English and the second is a general awareness test. I did the first one pretty well, the second, not so much. I went in with a slightly cocky attitude, thinking , how difficult can the questions get. But, the moment I opened the paper, my jaw dropped to the floor. The paper covered practically everything that had been in news over the past one year. Thai protests, Costa Rica’s political situation, aeronautical stuff, rural projects etc etc. I had no hope of being called for the interview after I finished the paper.
Fortunately, I didn’t do as bad as I thought I did :). So, I got called for the interview at the ACJ campus in Chennai. I knew I had a real shot at this thing and prepared to the best of my ability. But, general awareness is something that you build over time and do not mug up at any instant. Having said that, it is always better to recollect things especially if you have an attention span as small as mine. I reached the ACJ campus after a bit of a struggle given I was new to the city and how difficult it is to communicate with auto drivers in Chennai. I entered the campus with mixed expectations but was pleasantly surprised to see how small and cosy it was. It looked like a niche college – which it is. I tried to study the group and the only positive conclusion I could draw was that – none of them came from an engineering background.
I tried talking to quite a good number of people and their backgrounds surprised me. A guy had done bachelors in Sociology, one was from Humanities background. A lot of folks had done their under graduation in English and Political Science. A majority of them were taken aback when I told them my background. They had an “are you nuts” expression on their face. That made me realize just how big a chance I was taking with my career. Once, my turn came to attend the interview, I was a bundle of nerves. First, I needed to do well. Second, I wanted to major in Broadcast which was my first preference, so, I needed to do really well. My panel was filled with intellectuals. They were well read and informed and knew about a lot of IT stuff since they kept asking me again and again about my choice to change streams. I told them that I did not really know much about engineering till I got into college and the decisions up until then were heavily influenced by parents, peers and the society. The experiences in college have influenced me and even I have grown as a person and know what I want to do. I told then that I never regretted doing a bachelors in science, but, now I have an opportunity to do what I really like and will most probably enjoy. They seem convinced and kept advising me to think about my decision twice because, the media industry, contrary to my belief, is not doing so well and hence, the hiring has dropped significantly. Also, the pay scales are obviously not as high compared to those in a software job, although the hard work and struggle is the same, if not more. They were actually thinking more about my future than I was :). They did ask me questions about lots of topics and I think I gave them my informed opinions. They wished me good luck and asked me to think hard again before making any choice.
I came out confused because, although the interview had gone well, the concerns and points raised by the panel, made me think real hard. But, I decided to postpone the thinking till the results came out. Luckily, I did get in and got my first choice as well – Broadcast Journalism. But, just like the wise panel, my parents were also not totally convinced. They felt that it was quite a big risk and the whole point of studying so hard to get a good rank and then join a good college would be lost if I steered my career away in another direction , so early on. Fair points and eventually, even I decided that journalism could wait. There is no age limit for the course and if my interest and passion is sustained after a few years, I could always give it another shot. So, if anyone is really keen on journalism and has the support to go through with it, then there is no better college than ACJ – atleast for Broadcast and New Media.
As for me, I am content for the time being with my blog :).