It’s around 10:30 p.m. and Michael Linennen has just gotten home from work.
The fifth-year joint-journalism student is energized and curious about his surroundings in Bangkok, Thailand. A few months earlier he finished an internship with the National Conservancy of Canada and started to search for international opportunities.
“I thought, ‘I’ve already been in Toronto for four years, I want to go explore Asia,’” Linennen says. “I’m fascinated by their culture and food, but I also thought it would be good to go outside of my comfort zone and explore an unfamiliar place.”
Linennen landed a role as a public information multimedia intern at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). His responsibilities ranged from taking pictures and live tweeting conferences to interviewing country delegates and diplomats.
“Not only do I get the opportunity to learn about how the United Nations work, I also get to see how member states work together,” Linennen says. “Interacting with delegates and capturing those moments through photography has been an eye-opening experience for me.”
In one of his most recent projects with ESCAP, Linennen interviewed Thai actress Cindy Sirinya Bishop, who sparked the #DontTellMeHowToDress campaign on social media. Bishop started the movement in response to a statement from Thai officials on women’s clothing and harassment. She turned the social media campaign into an art exhibition displaying clothes victims were wearing when they experienced sexual assault and violence.
“It really reminded me why I want to be in journalism,” Linennen says. “It’s to advocate for something for the greater good. I’m part of something that is much bigger than me.”
During his time as a journalism student, he travelled to Washington D.C. to cover the 2017 Women’s March and created a magazine focusing on Indigenous issues. As an avid photographer, he traveled cross-country by train to capture Canada’s landscape and the northern lights.
His journalistic roots and interest in international development are guiding the next chapter of his career. He wants to talk to the people affected by policies –– to put a face to world issues.
His time in Bangkok, which received support from the Academic Travel Fund, taught him to delve into the possibilities of unfamiliarity. He has never lived in Thailand and doesn’t speak the language, but says this has made him a stronger communicator.
“When presented with an opportunity, grab it. You never know where you may end up,” he says.
The Academic Travel Fund supports student’s non-credit academic travel expenses that contribute to their academic pursuits, community engaged learning and research.
“The Academic Travel Fund supports student travel across the country, continent and overseas,” says Desmond Pouyat, Dean of Student Affairs. “These unique opportunities allow students to explore their academic interests beyond our campus, engage with other communities and share these experiences with their peers.”
The next deadline to apply for the fund is Jan. 11 2019.