Roving Reporters - Where Are They Now? - Cherese Sonkkila
Cherese Sonkkila may be a budding scientist, but she left her cold empiricism at the door when it came to picking a university. "I was drawn to Melbourne University because it's a bit like Hogwarts," she says.
Cherese changes tack a little, noting the university's location and social side, but never denies the influence of certain schools of magic and mischief. "I like it," she says. "It's pretty cool."
But Cherese isn't there to study charms, potions, dark arts or divination. No, her interest lies in "muggle studies" (science to you and me). She says she's focussing on psychology and ecology, but after three years still hasn't settled on a major.
Cherese's lack of focus might be put down to indecisiveness, but it seems more the result of broad interests. "I hope to do a lot of different jobs," she says. "I think journalism is a really good way to hone your skills at communication, so I think that's one reason I'm doing it - why I do little bits here and there."
Little bits? Modesty, modesty, modesty. After leaving the Youth Central ranks in 2009, Cherese has kept herself busy. She's writing a monthly column for Melbourne University's Farrago magazine, for one.
"That's pretty good, they're pretty nice people," she says. "We meet up every now and then, and I help with the editing process and contribute ideas to the magazine."
"Actually Do Things, Please."
When not pitching ideas to other people's publications, Cherese works on her own: In Brief (new window). "It's a magazine that my friends and I started up at the start of the year," she says. "There's about twenty of us working on it, which makes it quite easy to get through each issue."
In Brief is a quarterly magazine, the watchwords of which seem to be "short" and "smart." It deals in snappy essays on art, culture and politics. Cherese has written snippets on writers and on urban gardening, but has contributed much more than these brief works. "I'm one of the editors and on the general committee," she says. "So, I advise on layout and make decisions on how we distribute - things like that."
It's been a great experience, Cherese says, and something she'd highly recommend to people wanting to get into journalism. "It's a really incredible thing to do," she says. "Not only are you writing for it, but you're also learning how to put together a publication - you know, you're working out how to do the layout, how to sort out distribution, how to this, how to that."
Starting a zine of your own might be simple enough with some experience, but what about those who lack basic know-how? Cherese offers four words: "Actually do things, please." She's talking to a younger self here, offering advice she wishes she had heeded. "I think of my younger self and I'm like, 'Why wasn't I writing for Farrago then?'" she says. "Just go out there, write things, find places. People will accept you. It's just not a big deal."
Passion is Important
Hard work and go-getting isn't all there is to it, though. Cherese says a passion for what you write about is important as well. "Obviously I keep my audience in mind, but I always want to write something that inspires me," she says. "That's why I write that column for Farrago, because it lets me write whatever I want about whatever I want."
Cherese says her time at Youth Central gave her the confidence to go out and follow her own advice. "It gave me some confidence," she says. "It was really good to have that starting leg-up and to see it's not just people who have done courses in journalism who can write."
A Good Place to Start
Would Cherese recommend Youth Central? "Yeah, it's a good place to start," she says. "Try any local publication you can get into. There are a lot of youth-run organisations that I'm sure you're aware of: Voiceworks, school and uni magazines..."
So, she's past Youth Central, but where to now? "I think I'd really like to get into science research and be a student forever," Cherese says. "You know, doing research here and being professor of something or other."
Cherese stops there, but then starts again: "But I can definitely see myself doing science journalism along the way." That she will - with an internship at COSMOS magazine lined up for early 2013, it seems she'll be on her way soon enough.
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Reviews written by Soren
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