Stephanie Adeline is ready to close one chapter of her life and start a new one, but she is forever grateful for her time at The University of Texas at Austin. Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Adeline came to Austin in the Spring of 2016 as an international student. For her, adjusting to life in a new country wasn’t easy, but the Longhorn community and Forty Acres became her home.
Adeline is graduating this May with a Bachelor of Journalism. But, as she puts it, her college experience awarded her with so much more than just a degree. Her years at UT gave her some of the best experiences of her life, including studying abroad in Germany, writing for the school newspaper and working for Texas Global. She also learned more about her own culture by being involved in the Indonesian Student Association. As a journalist, Adeline’s passion is to tell stories through numbers and utilizing technology to improve news reporting. Being at the Moody College’s renowned School of Journalism has allowed her to explore this passion and opened doors to so many new opportunities, including an internship at the Dallas Morning News.
Adeline shared with us her experiences as a student journalist and international student at UT.
What are you studying? Why did you choose your major?
I’m graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism, a business minor and a German certificate. I actually started attending as a rhetoric and writing major, knowing that I wanted to transfer into the communications college. I was considering studying human relations but eventually decided on journalism after taking a class with Professor Tracy Dahlby, an amazing long-time journalist who spent time being a foreign correspondent in Indonesia. Connecting with him and learning from him really inspired me to go into journalism. The summer before that, I had also interned at Berita Satu, an Indonesian news channel, and I fell in love with journalism. My internship provided me with an avenue to go to different places I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It allowed me to explore Jakarta outside of my Chinese-Indonesian bubble, and I just couldn’t get enough. The ability to explore the world, talk to people and get the privilege of sharing their stories just seemed like the best thing I could ever be doing. I’ve heard it said that journalists have a front-row seat to history, and that is absolutely true. To this day, I still can’t believe how blessed I am to be doing something I love.
What lessons did you learn through your major?
Studying journalism has taught me to be open-minded. That doesn’t mean that I have to change my beliefs or opinion. I’m allowed to have my own perspective on things because that makes me who I am. But when you’re writing a story and you’re interviewing someone, you want to make sure you’re putting yourself in their shoes. You want to make sure you're listening from multiple perspectives. You don’t want to just write a story from one point of view, you want to understand the big picture.
As a journalist, you have to always be informed so that you can contextualize your stories. This is something Professor Dahlby has taught me.
Every story is only a small piece of a bigger painting, and the only way you can know where a puzzle piece belongs is if you have an idea of what the picture looks like. And to do so, you have to read and read and read some more. Reading is critical when you’re a journalist. The more you read, the more you understand the world. Obviously, the learning never stops, but the more you read, the more you train your mind to think critically about issues that are going on in the world.
What kind of journalism are you interested in?
I’m interested in data journalism and the intersection of technology and journalism. I’ve been learning how to code since last semester, and I absolutely love it. I love problem-solving and understanding the logic behind programming concepts. I’m interested in analyzing and visualizing data and finding ways to tell stories through numbers.
In the School of Journalism, you will hear the phrase “Journalism is changing” literally every day. And it’s true. Technology has a way to make the work we do as journalists more efficient, and but more importantly, more accurate and credible. I know that’s not the way people see it. People think that technology gives rise to fake news and that social media is making people lose their trust in the media, which is really sad, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
If you think about it – why do people trust science and research in the STEM fields? Because people see that researchers and scientists go through so much rigor and a very long process before publishing their findings. They are transparent about their methodology, and they make sure their findings are worth publishing. Now imagine, if people see how much thought and analysis and fact-checking is put into a journalistic story. If people are able to see where we get our data, how we analyzed them and made sure our analysis is transparent and reproducible, we can hopefully change the public’s perception of journalism. It only took me a couple of months being taught by Professor Christian McDonald to open my eyes to this, and now I’m super invested.
"Every story is only a small piece of a bigger painting, and the only way you can know where a puzzle piece belongs is if you have an idea of what the picture looks like. And to do so, you have to read and read and read some more."
How was it like adjusting to the U.S. from Indonesia?
To be completely honest, it was a struggle. Actually, saying it was a struggle might still be an understatement. I couldn’t stop crying every night throughout the first week of class. I was still very young, and I didn’t know how to live alone and on the other side of the world from my family. I just missed them so much.
But then I started making friends here and found my community in both the UT Indonesian Student Association and a campus ministry called Chi Alpha, and I soon felt at home. I remember one night during my first semester at UT, my friends and I just decided to go on a spontaneous adventure somewhere at night. I don’t even remember where they took me, but we were all just sitting by the lake and looking up to the stars. It was a moment when I was just taking it all in and just being grateful for the opportunity that I get to just go to school on the other side of the world from where I was born and raised, and to be accepted into an amazing new community with people from different backgrounds.
So yes, adjusting to the U.S. was hard, but I learned so much from the experience. I can’t imagine being anywhere else for college. Adjusting to life in the U.S. also made it easier for me when I had to adjust to life somewhere else, like when I was studying abroad in Germany. The adjustment process was so much more seamless because it wasn’t my first time adjusting to a new environment.
"Studying abroad in Germany has made me a much more confident person. I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin after that experience."
Tell us about your experience studying abroad in Germany.
It was amazing. I think my college experience would’ve been incomplete without it. I studied abroad in the summer of 2018 and I was already taking German classes before then, so I thought I could at least be able to order coffee or buy something at a bakery in German. But it was so much harder than I thought. I was too self-conscious when talking, so I wasn’t really able to hold a conversation in German without pausing every five seconds to think of words and how to express them in a grammatically correct way. I soon got the hang of it. I got used to ordering food in German and having small talk in German. You could say that by the end of the (very hot) summer, ordering ice-cream in full, perfect German was my specialty. But I learned that Germans will appreciate you when you just try to speak the language, even if you don’t speak perfectly. You just need to be confident.
Speaking of confidence, studying abroad in Germany has made me a much more confident person. I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin after that experience. Being in an environment where you don’t know anyone – and no one knows you – can seem intimidating at first, but I eventually chose to make the most out of it. Think about it: no one knows you, which means no one has a preconceived notion about who you are, no one has heard about you from someone else, which means you are free to be yourself and whoever you want to be! No one knows the brand or image you’ve been trying to build at UT, so you can literally just be yourself. It was like getting a do-over. This experience has really made me more aware of who I am, what I like and dislike, and why I do what I do. I’m not saying I’ve figured myself out just yet – life is a continuous journey of getting to know yourself. And it’ll never end. But I’m just saying, three months in Europe? What a great place to learn about yourself!
What has been your favorite part of being a Longhorn?
Everything. If I have to pick a favorite, it would be the people. I’ve loved just being on this campus and meeting so many amazing people. Everyone, literally everyone, has a great story to tell. I don’t think you can talk to anyone and not find anything interesting about them. This is why I’m so privileged to be able to share their stories. I was a reporter for The Daily Texan for three semesters and a news desk editor for one semester, and what kept me going was the excitement of getting to know more people on this campus and learn about the amazing things they’re doing. My job at Texas Global has also been fun for this same reason. I love writing about people and what they’re doing to change the world. It allows me to realize that the University’s motto, “What starts here changes the world,” is actually lived out by the 50,000 students on campus. Right now, during my last semester on campus, I spend most of my time at Texas Global or in the communications school. Every time I’m in there, I’m always greeted by friendly faces. UT is truly a great place to be in.
Tell us more about your job at Texas Global.
I work as a communication assistant, and I am very blessed to have this job. I write features for Texas Global website and help with other communication and marketing-related tasks. So, one of the most amazing things is getting to talk to students from all over the world or students who have been all over the world through study abroad. It’s always a joy to interview students and see their faces just light up when they talk about how their international experiences have impacted them personally. That joy is just contagious. I’m so glad to be working at a place that enables students to have that super impactful experience. I’ve also gained so many skills from being here. I’ve learned how to publish content on the web, improved my writing skills and made great connections along the way.
"I love writing about people and what they’re doing to change the world. It allows me to realize that the University’s motto, 'What starts here changes the world,' is actually lived out by the 50,000 students on campus."
What leadership positions did you take on during your time at UT?
I am a part of the Indonesian Student Association, and I was the vice president in 2017. They were my home away from home. I also, surprisingly, learned more about my culture here even though I’m so far away from home. We hosted cultural events at UT and shared about Indonesia on our campus. It’s so crazy how sometimes when we’re tabling or hosting an event, we would meet someone else who’s had experience volunteering in Indonesia, or is interested in going, or has some other personal ties to Indonesia. It’s a small world after all.
This semester, I’ve also been working with the Moody College Writing Support Program, leading a new initiative to provide resources for international students and non-native English speakers with their writing. We looked at ways to help writing coaches better serve the international student population, which includes not only explaining complicated English grammar but also, how to be a culturally sensitive writing coach. I’ve been working closely with some of the English Language Center teachers at Texas Global and asking them for insights on what important things to keep in mind when teaching writing to English Language Center students. We’ve even had Sarah Episcopo, one of the English Language Center teachers, come over to meet the writing coaches and hold a workshop on how to coach writing to English Language Center students.
I’m really passionate about this because I see that there’s a clear need. The Moody College has so many great resources to help students become effective communicators, and so does the English Language Center department. International students are extremely valuable to the University, and I wanted to find ways to make their experience at UT the best that it can be, and I wanted to create a bridge between the resources we have here at Texas Global and the resources on campus at the Moody College.
What was the most memorable moment of your undergraduate career?
Writing for The Daily Texan was honestly a huge part of my undergraduate career. I still remember my first ever published article – I couldn’t believe it was happening. I also remember my first breaking news experience. It was the first day back after winter break in spring 2018 President Gregory Fenves had announced that counseling services at the Counseling and Mental Health Center was fully subsidized. I had to quickly write up an article, interview some people over the phone and the story was published front page the next day. I’ve had so many more articles before and after that, but I’ll never forget that experience.
Another memorable moment of my undergraduate career was in March when I went to Newport Beach, California, for a data journalism conference with Professor Christian McDonald and four other journalism students. At the conference, I met so many journalists who were already far ahead in their career but were still willing to talk with and help a student journalist like me. I met a data journalist from Deutsche Welle and talked to her about my interest in Germany and my experience studying abroad there. I met a reporter from BBC Indonesia and was also able to talk with her about possibly doing work for them in the future. At that moment I realized just how far I’ve come from the freshman who didn’t know what she wanted to do in life, to making connections with so many people who I’ll hopefully meet again in the future.
Another extremely memorable moment happened just very recently. This semester, I took a class for building a mobile application, together with a team of two computer science students and one other journalism student. We built an app called EventPool, an app to help people find friends to go to events together. At the end of the semester, we presented the app and demoed it to an auditorium full of audiences and a fantastic panel of judges, which made me really nervous. I had never presented anything to such a large audience before, and I was the person starting the presentation and giving our pitch. I was extremely terrified, but as soon as I said my first word, I just had this adrenaline rush and got super excited. In the end, I think we did really great on our presentation. We also won the award for best app icon, which was really surprising considering that I had no experiences with design before working on the app! Looking back, I’m super grateful for this experience. Two years ago, I sat in the same auditorium watching my seniors present their app think it would be really cool for me to be up there one day, and that day actually happened!
What’s next for you?
In June, I will start my summer internship at the Dallas Morning News. I’ll be a copy-editing intern, which I’m really excited about. I’m looking forward to improving my writing skills from the experience, and I’m excited to be a part of a news organization that I’ve always adored since forever. In the fall, I’m planning to apply to graduate school programs, specifically in data journalism. The rest of my story is still unwritten. It’s scary but exciting at the same time!
"You made it here, and that alone says something about who you are and the potential that is in you."
What would you say to current international students at UT?
First and foremost, you are welcome here. Adjusting to a new country, culture, and language may be challenging, but you are meant to be here. Coming to a new country on your own is hard, and I applaud you for your courage. You made it here, and that alone says something about who you are and the potential that is in you. When the challenges of college hit you, remember that what you’re doing here will have a great impact on your future. You can do this.
But you also can’t do it alone. It’s impossible to change the world on your own. So, take advantage of all the resources UT has to offer. There are people willing to help you. Go to writing centers. Go to office hours. Meet with other international students at UT. Find your community, find your support system. Connect with Texas Global and participate in the opportunities they have available. If you’re thinking of studying abroad (while being abroad!), go do it! Coming to UT does not only mean going to classes at UT, but it also includes taking advantage of all the opportunities available. If I hadn’t chosen to step out of my comfort zone and made that first trip to The Daily Texan office, or applied for a job at Texas Global, or went to a study abroad info session, my UT experience wouldn’t have been as meaningful.
I also encourage you to apply for scholarships. There are so many new scholarships at UT specifically for international students. Also, apply to scholarships from your departments. My journey would not have been possible without the scholarships I’ve received from the Moody College and Texas Global.