Journalism graduate student Nadia Zaffar left for Qatar this on April 2 to attend the weeklong Terana Summit in the city of Doha. Organized by the U.S.- and Cairo-based nonprofit Soliya, which promotes cross-cultural understanding among young people, the summit takes place April 4–10 and is an opportunity for students studying media production to learn from the world’s leading media professionals. It is also an opportunity for students to learn from each other.
Zaffar was one of 25 fellows chosen to participate in the summit. Before departing for her trip, she spoke about her involvement in Soliya–how she got this opportunity in the first place, and how she incorporates the organization’s cross-cultural imperative into her studies at Emerson.
How did you hear about Soliya?
I heard about the organization when someone nominated me for Soliya’s Terana Fellowship. This is the first year of the fellowship and they opened applications by nominations only. They contact prominent personalities in the fields of media, mediation, and conflict resolution in different countries and ask them to nominate fellows. A documentary filmmaker in Pakistan submitted my name. I applied for the fellowship and was accepted.
What has been your involvement in Soliya or the Terana community?
We started engaging in dialogues to build cross-cultural communication last May. One of the starting points was our participation in the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC) youth conference. A number of fellows were flown to Rio de Janeiro, where the UNAOC conference was being held. I was one of those fellows. At the UN conference, youth members debated a number of issues facing cultures today and made its recommendations to the UN conference. UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon and other dignitaries, such as the Turkish Prime Minister, were present. It was also a great opportunity to meet with prominent journalists like Riz Khan [British journalist on Al Jazeera].
What is the Terana community?
It is a community of youth members spread across the world. The fellows were chosen because of their background in three major fields: media, conflict resolution, and mediation. The fellows were then divided into smaller groups that discussed a number of issues and built an online database of videos (interviews) on many issues. I engaged with fellows from Palestine, Afghanistan, Australia, Indonesia, Morocco, Jordan, Germany, and the United States.
What are the benefits of being a fellow of the Terana community?
By engaging in conversations with passionate, driven youth members from other parts of the world, my worldview definitely gets a great boost. First of all, the fellows are all active, motivated individuals and it is a treat to have discussions with them. Secondly, all the conversations we have had, sometimes on difficult topics, have made us friends. And then as a journalist, it expands my reach in terms of all the people I know from so many parts of the world, even if I have never been to that particular country.
What personal things have you done to promote cross-cultural communication and education?
As a journalist, putting out stories with balance and trying to be fair is one of my biggest contributions outside of the Terana initiative. I try to engage in and inspire discussions with people around me to build a better understanding, for them and for me.
Do you belong to any student groups?
How has Emerson helped you so far in your educational pursuits?
Emerson focuses on real journalistic experience. By pushing me into the field immediately, it has helped me improve my skills. I can go out like a real journalist, but come back to the department to check and weigh all situations I faced in the field with faculty who will help me realize what went right and what didn’t.
What are your plans after graduation?
I want to continue working as a journalist on various platforms. My main aim is to produce long-format reporting such as documentaries on issues affecting the part of the world I come from, Pakistan.