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My BRATs experience

My teammates! I’m in one in black, standing in the middle.

On the day the BRATs name list was published, I was seated in Nandos, frantically checking my phone for updates while I waited for my order. I screamed with the rest of my classmates when I found out I was accepted. It was my birthday.

It has always been a dream of mine to be accepted into the BRATs programme. However, I’ve never taken the initiative to apply as I believed that I wasn’t good enough to get in. That all changed on the day that I did. I had relatively high expectations when I set foot on Malaccan soil. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed.

I took a bus down from Puchong with two other girls and arrived at Melaka Sentral at 11:30am, already late for orientation. A girl named Clarissa (who later turned out to be the senior assigned to my group) actually called us while we were in the taxi heading to Quayside, which was the hotel we were staying in. When we arrived, we were given a kit consisting of a BRATs t-shirt, cap, notepad and name tag.

Day One
The first day, we didn’t do much. Ian Yee, the R.AGE editor and a few accompanying journalists, gave us a crash course on journalism, teaching us news values, photography and writing skills in the span of only a few hours.

Later that night, we were given our first assignment: interview one of the R.AGE journalists and produce a 3 minute video and an article. My group ”Team Bazinga” got Sam Ong, a photojournalist from The Star who was documenting the camp. We struggled at the beginning as we weren’t really well-prepared, and we had only an hour or so to produce both the article and video, which wasn’t a lot of time. I didn’t manage to get the subtitles into the video, which was a huge bummer. However, as it later turned out, we were the ONLY team who managed to produce a video, as the other teams had software compatibility issues.

Day Two
The participants were broken up into groups of three, and were assigned to three different places within the heritage site. We had to produce three articles one main and two sidebars, a video not more than 4 minutes of length and a set of 7 photographs per article. My team was assigned to cover a shop lot on the historical Heeren Street called number 8, which is looked after by a man named Colin Goh.

Mr Colin is 68 years old and a true-blood Malaccan, who is an active advocate for ongoing preservation efforts in the heritage site. Through our time with Mr Colin, we learned a lot of trivia regarding Malaccan architecture. For instance, did you know that some houses along Heeren Street had long front compounds, as wealthier families utilized the space to flaunt the cars they owned? Apparently, owning a vehicle was a pretty big deal in the early 1920’s.

Mr Colin himself was a walking piece of history; he is descended from Portuguese, Dutch and Peranakan blood, an epitome of Malacca himself. Eventually, we decided to base our main article about the house, one sidebar about Mr Colin and another about the lack of preservation within the heritage site. After lunch, we rushed back to finish our assignment and continued to do so until 11pm at night, which was the deadline. We had short intervals of rest periods in between such tea time and some games.

It was pretty stressful even though we had a significant amount of time to do our work. I was assigned to videography (again) and I worked non-stop, eventually producing a video that was only 2 minutes long. It made me realize that I had really underestimated the amount of work journalists actually did. I have so much more respect for them now.

Day Three
Our last assignment was about traditional trades. We hit Jonker Street on our third day and interviewed three businesses: a blacksmith, a watch repairman and a barber/tailor shop. The last one was a particularly interesting story as the barber and tailor were lifelong friends who met during a karaoke session more than 50 years ago and later decided to open a shop together. We learned that they used to be part-time Chinese opera singers, but have since retired. The tailor told us that she used to make her own costumes in order to save cost.

After compiling the footage, we went back to the hotel and reviewed our stories before working on our assignments. It was a particularly hectic day, as I had to master a new editing software and immediately start work on the video while having very little time to do it. I worked so hard that it came to a point where Ian and the other journalists told me to leave the room because I was missing dinner.

Later that night, we had performances. My team did a New Zealand war cry which was inappropriately funny (it included a lot of pelvic thrusting in Ian’s direction), Team 1abe did hilarious jazz poetry, and Team Kool Kidz performed a Just Dance video to Kesha’s Timber. The deadline was later extended to 12am that night, and even then we all struggled to complete our work. I handed in my video nearly 40 minutes after deadline due to an error in one of our voiceovers, but I was satisfied with the final result. I headed back to my room for some well-deserved rest later that night, but woke up at 4am to my roommate Mitchel Ann knocking on my door. Apparently, the other BRATs were having a party while I was snoozing away. I’d slept through all the noise.

Day Four
On the final day, we reviewed everybody’s work. I was pretty nervous, as I was worried that I did not do enough with the videos. It was a defining moment of my life when our video was received with thunderous applause, and Ian praised our camera work and editing. It is a pretty big deal when the editor of Star R.AGE thinks you did a good job. I am pretty proud of it. We dispersed around 2pm that day, after receiving our certificates and a quick lecture about internships at The Star, which I’m seriously thinking of apply for after foundation ends.

Suffice to say, BRATs was an amazing experience. I felt sad even as I bid these people these wonderful people who I have known for only a short three days, but felt as if I’ve known them my entire life. It is an experience that I would not forget anytime soon, and I urge whoever that is interested in journalism or writing to apply for the programme. 


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