Travel Writing course on January 2014 in Cusco, Peru at Machu Pichu. Photo Credit: Peru Travel Reporting Class
“I love journalism. I love to share with people and share people’s stories. That’s why I am here. I like to be able to help them.”
If you read her work, watch her report or speak with her, you would have no idea Sylvia Oben began speaking English only six years ago when she began pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Purdue University.
Although Oben started to learn English in her home country of Puerto Rico, she said she wanted to go to college to become more bilingual. It was while earning her mass communications degree that Oben said she knew she wanted to be a journalist because she wanted to be a voice for the people. With English as her second language, Oben said she wanted to use journalism as an outlet to not only help others understand the news regardless of their language, but to also share the stories of those who cannot speak English.
Working as a volunteer at a networking event for National Association of Hispanic Journalists at WBEZ. Photo Credit: From Sylvia Oben
“My Spanish language has been helping me a lot because many people here in Chicago speak Spanish and some people don’t speak English,” Oben said. She added that it gives her an advantage to report the story before other reporters since she speaks Spanish and they don’t.
Oben has also used her first language to her advantage within Columbia’s program—she reported on immigration during her state and national public affairs course.
“For me it’s not a language barrier, I call it a challenge,” Oben said. “[Speaking Spanish has] been so helpful to me. I enjoy to do my work in Spanish since it’s my first language.”
Interviewing the candidate for U.S. Congress, Hector Concepcion (R-4th District) at the Bruce Rauner Primary party on March 18. Photo Credit: Veronica Rios
Oben said she likes to be a journalist to not only inform the public and share people’s stories, but to also act as a translator between the source and the public audience. She said she listens and reports in Spanish, but tells the story in English.
The hands-on focus of the Journalism MA program is what drew Oben to Columbia.
“I feel every student can learn something new,” Oben said “It’s not like your bachelor’s, here you go there [to report]. I don’t feel like a student anymore, I feel like a professional journalist.”
Oben said when she’s out reporting her sources know and recognize the value of Columbia’s program. She added that she has gained many hands-on experiences in her course assignments and through her job with La Raza newspaper.
Oben’s first published article at La Raza newspaper in 2012. Photo Credit: Sylvia Oben
Following Oben’s 6-month internship with the publication, her boss offered her a freelance reporter and social media manager position.
“I love it,” Oben said. “I love everything that has to do with social media. I think this has been so helpful.”
Although Oben said her dream job is to be in front of the camera as a Spanish TV reporter, she said she knows how competitive the field can be.
Working for Univision Chicago (TV Spanish network) at Fiesta del Sol event. Photo Credit: From Sylvia Oben
Oben added that Columbia’s multimedia focus has been helpful to gain experience in different media outlets, which will make her more marketable upon graduation.
Reporting Spanish news for WindyCityWebcast.tv in the summer of 2013. Photo Credit: Sylvia Oben
Oben said no matter the media outlet, she will always love working as a journalist. She added that sometimes she comes away learning more about that person than she did before she went into the interview.
“I really love to talk to people and share experiences. I love to hear about their story and I love to be their voice,” Oben said.
Travel writing classmates at El Comercio newspaper in Peru. Photo Credit: From Sylvia Oben
Student Spotlight: Sylvia Oben
“I love journalism. I love to share with people and share people’s stories. That’s why I am here. I like to be able to help them.” If you read her …
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