Foreign Intrigue intern hired at Cambodia Daily

Janelle Kohnert stands atop the Preah Kahn temple at the Angkor complex in Cambodia.

Janelle Kohnert stands atop the Preah Kahn temple at the Angkor complex in Cambodia.

September 29, 2011

Over the summer, the Department of Communication’s Foreign Intrigue Reporting Internship sent Janelle Kohnert (BA, 2011) to intern for The Cambodia Daily. She reports back that her stay in Cambodia won’t be ending anytime soon. The newspaper has hired her to work full-time for one year.

“Once I realized how much I loved this country, that’s what I was shooting for the whole time,” said Kohnert on her hopes to stay on with the newspaper. “I love working at the paper here, and I know I still have a lot to learn about the country and people here. A year just seems like a more appropriate timespan to familiarize myself with a place as complex as Cambodia.”

Kohnert will begin working at the copy desk for the first few months before moving into a full-time reporting position. She’s found upsides to that: “It means I finally get to sleep in!” Come late October, she’ll be transitioning into a reporting position, working on a couple feature pieces; one about Cambodia’s fashion week, and another about private universities.

In the time that she’s been in Cambodia, Kohnert said, she has learned a lot about her versatility as a reporter, “thanks to the guidance of great editors.” She’s covered stories in business and health, two topics she says she normally wouldn’t even attempt in the U.S. She’s also had to learn how to go about working at an English newspaper where English is not the primary language. “I spent time rewriting stories from Cambodian reporters’ notes (because they don’t have perfect English) but most of the reporting is done by organizing which sources speak English, or which sources don’t like talking to Western reporters.”

One such story followed up on businesses that had been forcibly relocated from Boung Kak Lake, a former tourist destination, which is now filled in with sand. Kohnert covered the progress of each business since they left the lakeside.

Janelle Kohnert with Sambo the elephant at Wat Phnom in Phnom Penhin, Cambodia.

Janelle Kohnert with Sambo the elephant at Wat Phnom in Phnom Penhin, Cambodia.

Kohnert has also made time to explore Cambodia. She traveled to Siem Reap twice, once to catch a Bokator tournament, a traditional Cambodian form of kickboxing mixed with dancing, and the second time to visit ten temples, including Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Angkor Thom. “There are really no words to express roaming around in massive jungle-surrounded temples built in the seventh century, but everyone should see them at some point in their life,” Kohnert said.

But with the good times come the not-so-good, as she also had her wallet and cell phone stolen late one night. She said it was her own fault for “setting it down next to me when I was sitting with friends on the sidewalk.”

One of her most memorable experiences happened during a torrential downpour in Phnom Penh. “I had to walk through some of the streets downtown and I was literally wading in dirty garbage water up to my knees for three blocks,” Kohnert said. “Needless to say, downtown Phnom Penh doesn’t have the best drainage system. Still, I thought it was hilarious because I’ve never seen anything like it in the States. My editor lost his shoes in the road/river while walking home that night.”

Kohnert looks forward to the work that she’ll be doing with The Cambodia Daily in the next year, and she’s happy that she has been given the opportunity to learn more about the country and culture. “I knew I could learn a lot about myself by living here for a while, and a newspaper job is the perfect way to absorb cultural information quickly.”

Kohnert has some ideas about where she would like to go next. “I will most likely spend next summer in Hong Kong. After that I want to spend time in Europe,” she said. “Eventually, I will most likely return to the U.S., but this time I’m shooting for the East Coast; probably Philadelphia.”

One thing for sure, is that the Department of Communication will be eager to hear about each adventure. Congratulations Janelle, and good luck!