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Nathalie Sala at Studio Hirondelle RDC in 2021. ©Justin Makangara / Fondation Hirondelle Nathalie Sala at Studio Hirondelle RDC in 2021.

Testimonial: keep training to make your voice heard further

Nathalie Sala has been a journalist for several years in our project Studio Hirondelle RDC and is now doing a master's degree at ESJ Lille. She tells us about her experience in France, which aims to perfect her training and broaden her journalistic palette.

Blogging, radio, web article, Nathalie Sala is a jack of all trades. As a young journalist involved in our Studio Hirondelle RDC project between 2016 and 2021, she decided to improve her media training by taking up a big challenge: an expatriation to follow a Master's degree with a double diploma (ESJ Lille and Sciences Po Lille). We talked about her experience, a few days before the start of her internship in the regional daily press at the newspaper "Sud-Ouest" in Périgueux.

How did your first year of the master's programme at the Lille School of Journalism go?

This year went well. It was my first experience in Europe and in France. Environmentally, it was a shock. Lille is in the coldest region of France. It was necessary to acclimatise. But the school has organised the reception of international students very well.

In terms of the schooling itself, it was a bit complicated at the beginning. The environment was unfamiliar to me, and we were thrown straight into the field for collective informations collections in different communes of the metropolis. The leads I was on were not successful and I was frustrated. It was an exercise that challenged me a lot, I had to bring something back. The individual collection was about the status of carers in France. I had to find out everything! But I met some good people who agreed to answer my questions. I did interviews with doctors, and one of them even became my care doctor (laughs)! In the end, all these difficulties allowed me to get my bearings.

What did you study, and were there any courses that particularly affected you?

Yes, there is the course on solutions journalism. I discovered this form of journalism while working with the Hirondelle Foundation in Kinshasa, but I hadn't really received any in-depth training. Thanks to this course, I got it.

We worked in pairs and I collaborated with a classmate from Mali. Our work was about menstrual insecurity in the student environment in France. This is a subject that interests me and on which I had worked, from another angle, at Studio Hirondelle RDC. Menstrual insecurity concerns many women and young women, 500 million worldwide according to the WHO. Around me, I saw people suffering in silence because menstruation is still a taboo subject, and even more so because of the precariousness linked to it. At school, the association Nouvelles Règles distributes free sanitary pads. I was curious to know how it worked (internal organisation, financing, achievements, impact and limits) as was my Malian classmate. This resulted in an article of more than 10,000 characters that we presented to the whole class.

Together, we worked on the new issue of the magazine Latitudes, which is produced every year by the Master 1 students. I wrote an article on the burial of nuclear waste in Bure, in the Meuse (p.80). With another student, I went to meet the farmers and anti-nuclear activists who have settled there. I also talked to the communication department of the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra), which is managing the Cigeo project. When I left the Congo, I never imagined that I would be dealing with this kind of subject. Writing about nuclear power, I really didn't think about it (laughs)! It's a nice article, and I'm proud of it.

Did you feel/observe any differences with your previous training in Kinshasa?

Yes, at the Ecole supérieure de journalisme in Lille, the training is practical. You spend a little time laying the theoretical foundations, then you immediately start practising in the field. This is very different from what I experienced at the journalism school in Kinshasa (far be it from me to denigrate it). ESJ Lille also has all the equipment you need to be able to walk away with a camera, mobile journalism equipment and audio recorders.

You've done a short stint in TV (RTNC2), blogging, radio and now print. Which medium do you prefer to work in?

For me, radio is still a must. It is the most followed media in my country. In towns and villages, and even deep in the rainforest, people get information and entertainment from radio. But multimedia is growing and gaining ground. Even though I am far from the DRC, I am still very attached to it, and what I learn here is to share with my fellow journalists. It is essential to know how to produce sound, images and video, how to write for the print media, how to enrich papers for the web and how to produce news content for social networks. For my second year of the Masters, I will specialise in digital journalism. I would like to be able to touch everything and be comfortable in all these media. 

How does the next stage of the training look for you? Do you already have an idea for the future?

Next year, I will be on a sandwich course. I will spend part of my time at school and the other part at the Africa Department of Le Monde newspaper, where I will have a lot to learn. At the moment, I am fulfilling one of my dreams, and this is largely thanks to my late father. He always encouraged me to dream big. He taught me that if I want something and work hard, I will get it. What I am doing now is building my skills to become a real value for myself, for my country and for the world as well. After my master's degree at ESJ Lille and Sciences Po Lille, I would like to continue to practice my profession while specialising in one, two or three important areas for the development of Africa in general, and the DRC in particular (health, education, etc.). I would like to be able to make relevant analyses that carry my voice far, far away. I don't know what tomorrow will bring or where I will be, but I hope for better days. I have a lot of ideas, and I will find my way.