Eleanor Dengate-Harrison’s mum didn’t want her traveling to the Middle East. Media portrayals of the region’s security issues meant Eleanor’s mother didn’t even fly over the Middle East. But Eleanor jumped at the chance to go to Jordan as part of a Foreign Correspondent Study Tour (FCST) run by the University of Technology Sydney.

“It was the only way I could get to the Middle East without damaging my relationship with my Mum,” said Eleanor with a grin.

Eleanor travelled with six other University of Technology Sydney (UTS) journalism students in November.   The students worked as foreign correspondents producing numerous multi-media stories about Jordan.

“It was full-on” said Eleanor who also works at 2SM radio.  “We did some sightseeing but basically worked on stories around the clock,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how much much journalism can be done in 10 days with the right support,” she said.

The UTS Foreign Correspondent Study Tour to Jordan was the highlight of Eleanor Dengate-Harrison’s year.

Professor Saba Bebawi, Jordanian Australian and UTS academic, has been leading the FCST since 2015. She said it’s always amazing how students mature journalistically from the immersion program.

“They learnt more valuable lessons about international reporting on the ground than they ever could have back in the classroom in Australia,” Professor Bebawi said.

The Jordan trip was largely funded by The Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. CAAR administers an annual grant of over $400,000 for programs that grow mutual Arab-Australia understanding, and empower better economic and cultural bonds. Its been a positive investment for Ms Dengate-Harrison.

“You get get stories on TV implying that the whole Middle East is completely devastated from conflict.  I got a much deeper understanding by being there. I learned a huge amount. I’m a better journalist now” she said.

Eleanor Dengate Harrison (on left) filming a story on the endangered oryx at Shaumari Wildlife Reserve.

Mark Evans is head of the School of Communications at University of Technology Sydney.  He champions the FCST and its immersion approach to learning.

“Having journalists be culturally aware is vital in understanding communities,” he said “The aim is to move journalists away from telling the same stereotypical stories, towards a lens that is more humanistic.”

Mark Evan’s hopes for the program have been realised through the 2017 FCST with SBS publishing several of the student’s stories; a monk making hearing aids for Syrian refugees, the resilience of Red Sea corals to global warming, and an Iraqi artist’s message of love in his sculptures.  The stories challenge stereotypical news coverage of the Middle East and connect audiences with different facets of Jordanian life.

One of the photos Eleanor Dengate-Harrison sent back home to her ‘foodie’ mum.

Eleanor Dengate-Harrison’s mum has also shifted her views of the Middle East and ultimately feels a bit envious of her daughter’s experience in Jordan.

“Mum’s a big ‘foodie’ so I just kept sending food photos,” Eleanor said.  “And I came back in one piece and kept raving about how amazing it was. She was extremely jealous.”

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ran 2018 Foreign Correspondent Study Tours to Jordan, Philippines and India. https://www.facebook.com/fcstudytour/