By Danella Smith
When four UniSA students were offered an invitation for June 21, they accepted on gut instinct as they did not know what was really involved.
Gut instinct proved to be a powerful human tool as June 21 turned out to be a day they would never forget.
Although it may seem this way – a university degree is not always boring lectures, early mornings and expensive text books.
Discovering how His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama uses his robe to stay warm on a cold winter’s day was all part of the learning curve for myself and fellow journalism students Iona Maclean, Emily Erickson and Hugh Schuitemaker.
On June 21 the Dalai Lama—along with his contagious laugh—visited Adelaide to speak to a sold-out audience of 5,000 people about what is encountered during the quest for happiness.
Points such as humanitarian equality, love, affection, forgiveness, compassion—and His Holiness’ occasional need to let off some gas whilst travelling by air—were all discussed on the day.
It was intimidating being a member of the media at such a large scale event, with a widely-respected international figure present, but I think we played the part of journalists well.
We certainly got media treatment and competed against prominent media organisations like Channel 9 and 10 for that perfect photo of the Dalai Lama.
Miss Maclean used the photo opportunity efficiently as she snapped pictures of the Indigenous Kurruru Youth Performing Arts dance.
However, once the Dalai Lama walked on stage she was very quickly swamped by other media and was left sitting behind a thick wall of large cameras.
‘I think having the media privileges of being able to record things and take photos, which no one else [people of the public] was allowed to do, means we can now go back and find something that he said as different [news story] angles… It is really cool,’ Miss Maclean said.
‘It was a challenge for me during the photo opportunity because I felt as though I was being disrespectful and not listening to what he [the Dalai Lama] was saying… I felt like a paparazzi!’
Miss Maclean was amazed by the Dalai Lama’s wise words, though sometimes she struggled to understand them through his thick accent and softly-spoken voice.
‘I think it’s not only a learning experience for me as a journalism student but also something for life,’ she said.
Miss Erickson was very excited in the lead up to the event and the nerves kicked in as she stood in line waiting to get through the Adelaide Convention Centre doors.
She became even more excited when she noticed former Greens Leader, Bob Brown, scurry through the line next to her.
‘I’m now in my last six months of my degree so I think it’s a really pivotal time to hear what he [the Dalai Lama] had to say and take it away with me into my working career as media personnel,’ Miss Erickson said.
Miss Erickson became frustrated with the amount of people who approached her and asked where the closest toilet was, thinking she was a volunteer and not a member of the media.
‘We were concerned how everyone would act around us and there were some scenarios where people didn’t actually realise we were members of the media,’ she said.
Mr Schuitemaker was extremely appreciative of the experience and believes it is something he will take into his professional career.
‘It’s an opportunity that very few uni students get, and, at that, very few Australians,’ Mr Schuitemaker said.
‘It is also going to be really great having something like this on my resume!’
Arguably, the ‘quest for happiness’ plays a significant role in not only lifestyle scenarios but also in what the Dalai Lama suggests is the key to a happy and fulfilled life; education.
International journalist and former UniSA journalism teacher Renata Provenzano mentored us through the entire experience.
Miss Provenzano said, ‘the degree [Bachelor of Journalism] has changed to the point students rarely experience real industry until third year placements’; experience which she believes is vital to student development.
‘University is not as much about essays and grades, as exploring this world of majestic civilisations and indulging in our differences.’
Miss Provenzano also said the event showed the final year students their abilities and professionalism.
‘The amount of real-industry learning for the students was fantastic and shows them how skilled they already are at researching an international news story of enormous importance,’ she said.
‘They were also the first local media to report on his visit.’
Miss Provenzano said it is imperative that our future story-tellers attend events on different levels of thinking and rationale to continue seeing the other side of the story.
‘Much like the sand mandala the monks made during the event, our learning is never complete,’ she said.
‘You can see in the design, despite hours of intense, beautiful work, it is not quite finished—some green appears missing and not all the borders connect.
‘These mandalas are swept away as a reminder that everything in life is impermanent and a new one can be created tomorrow.’
For more information on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Australia, visit www.dalailamainaustralia.org