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Global Business Journalism alumni photo gallery

Alumni profile: Betsy Joles thrives as a freelance reporter covering conflict zones, pandemic


Global Business Journalism reporter


The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the sustainability of a career in journalism. The closing of newsrooms and furloughing of staff has left journalism students struggling to navigate an uncertain future.


But one recent Global Business Journalism program graduate, Betsy Joles, has discovered a path forward. The 26-year-old from the United States has carved out a thriving career as a freelance journalist across Asia specializing in the human side of war and the aftermath of conflicts. Equally adept at words and images, her multimedia work has appeared on well-known global news platforms including Bloomberg News, Foreign Policy, NPR, The Economist, Al Jazeera, Politico, and CNN.


“It is very hard to make a living as a freelancer,” said GBJ Professor Lee Miller, the editor-at large and chart of the day columnist for Bloomberg News. “But the fact that Bloomberg has also used her photos in very competitive market spaces says she has a lot of talent and has an eye for the story.”

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Joles has family members spread across the American Midwest. She grew up swimming and fishing in Wisconsin, which she calls her second home.

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in International and Global Studies. Joles admits that her career change to journalism was prompted by her curiosity to gain practical experience during the Syrian refugee crisis, which she had learned of in her undergraduate classes.

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in 

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Betsy Joles has reported from conflict zones around the world.

International and Global Studies. Joles admits that her career change to journalism was prompted by her curiosity to gain practical experience during the Syrian refugee crisis, which she had learned of in her undergraduate classes.


“I moved to Turkey during my junior year of college with vague aspirations of becoming a documentary photographer,” Joles said. “After some months of uncertainty and confusion, I started a photo project documenting the integration of Syrian refugees into Turkish society.”


The field experience changed her career path.

“I was struck with a clear realization that I wanted to approach humanitarian issues at eye level, instead of from a bird’s eye view,” she said. “Journalism felt like the most authentic way for me to understand complex lived experiences without demeaning them.”

With her passion in sync with her career, she began to cover stories “on the aftermath of conflict and the human side of geopolitics in the Middle East and East Asia.” Joles expanded her knowledge and skill set, as her work was published on international media platforms.


She enrolled in the Master of Arts in Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University in September 2018. She credits the program as an avenue that allowed her to “live and report in China – one of the most challenging places in the world to do journalism.”


The move to China, like any of her international experiences, presented her with a chance to own her career.

“I got to cover some of the biggest news events of my life from the epicenter, with the safety net of Tsinghua underneath me,” she added.

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Alumni profile: South African journalist Nico Gous seeks cross-cultural education in China, wins award for his reporting

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Nico Gous on the Tsinghua campus

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Nico celebrates South Africa's world rugby championship at a Beijing bar


Global Business Journalism reporter


Nico Gous had proven his versatility by working for eight years in South African media as a print reporter, video journalist and web editor, among other roles. But he wanted to expand his horizons by experiencing other cultures and continents.


After a few years of work, one of his friends told him about the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University. Immediately attracted to the program, which is known for its multicultural makeup and international outlook, he applied and was accepted in 2019.


“I wanted to experience a new country and culture, something different than Western and African countries that we see a lot of on South African television,” he said. “The GBJ program appealed to me because it is taught in English and is presented in partnership with Bloomberg [News]."

Gous was rewarded for his efforts. On June 25, he graduated with a master's degree and won the best thesis award for his insightful portfolio of journalism stories on the impact of the Chinese short video site TikTok on South African culture. 

For Gous, it was an unpredictable path to success. During his two years studying at Tsinghua, his classes shifted from in-person to online after the coronavirus outbreak spread worldwide from Wuhan. The COVID-19 pandemic forced him to spend three of his four semesters away from the Beijing campus that he found both beautiful and inspiring. As a top student at China's top university, Gous has received several job offers in China, but he remains unable to return from Africa due to coronavirus travel restrictions.


Still, Gous says coming to China for studies enabled him to connect with people from diverse backgrounds, giving him a better understanding of many cultures, particularly Chinese culture. 


“Many people I know in South Africa have misconceptions about China," he said. "However, it is such a different country, and the only way you can really learn about it is to experience for yourself."

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Alumni profile: Eugene Aferin's work as journalist in China aided personal growth, professional skills, global networking


Global Business Journalism reporter


It’s a nice spring morning in Beijing. The smell of the flowers is filling the air. The blue sky contrasts with a pallet of pink, yellow and white blossoms. Eugene Aferin is walking by the beautiful ivy-covered journalism school building and plunging into pleasant recollections of his Tsinghua University years spent here.


“Know your audience” flashed through his head – this golden rule of journalism taught by Professor Rick Dunham has been firmly imprinted on his mind. And this is what he, himself, is now teaching his students at a center for professional skills training in Shanghai, where he is coaching debate and public speaking. As Aferin learned during time in the Global Business Journalism program, journalistic knowledge and experience always pays off, whatever field you ultimately end up in.


Aferin, a 28-year-old from Russian Siberia, came to China in 2015 for the first time to study in the Global Business Journalism master’s degree program at Tsinghua University. His digital diary reflects the challenges he faced and the cheerfulness that kept him going as he was immersed in a very different culture.

“I'm facing plenty of problems typical for any ‘laowai’ [foreigner], but other positive things offset all the downsides," he wrote in his blog on his third

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Eugene Aferin celebrates his graduation with Global Business Journalism classmates, 2017.

day in Beijing. “Everything around delights and amazes me."


Aferin’s difficulties – including only a modest proficiency in Chinese – became challenges to surmount, and soon he dared to interview people solely in Chinese – and succeeded.

“He's a brave man ... and he is not afraid to try

and fail,” said Professor Dunham, an American of Russian ancestry on his mother’s side. “He accepts challenges and learns from errors. This kind of self-awareness and commitment to improvement have made him an outstanding professional and will allow him to continue to excel in whatever he chooses to do.”

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