Pulitzer Center winners

Svanika Balasubramanian (left) and Nicole Brigstock 

The Pulitzer Center announced that College junior Nicole Brigstock and 2018 Wharton graduate Svanika Balasubramanian are among its 2018 student fellows.

The Pulitzer Center, a news and media organization that sponsors reporting on social and political issues around the world, offers 43 undergraduate and graduate students a chance to travel and report on overlooked global issues through a yearly fellowship. 

Every year, two student applicants from Penn are selected for the fellowship, one associated with Penn’s Middle East Center and the other through the South Asia Center. The selected fellows travel to their respective regions of study and report on current issues in the region.

At the end of the summer, each of the fellows is expected to complete a full-length article and a multimedia project, both of which will be published on the Pulitzer Center’s website. Each fellow is assigned a Pulitzer Center mentor to help them with their projects.

Brigstock, who chose to report on human rights for her fellowship, applied after hearing about it from the South Asia Center. She was interested in returning to Nepal, where she had spent part of her gap year learning about anti-human trafficking efforts.

Photo from Nicole Brigstock

In Nepal, Brigstock will work for SASANE, an organization that raises awareness of trafficking, educates people on common trafficking schemes, and provides services to trafficking survivors.

While she is there, Brigstock plans on doing work beyond the scope of her organization — interviewing survivors and local leaders and extensively researching the current trafficking situation. She said that she hopes to produce an article and a video that focus on how survivors of human trafficking in Nepal manage to continue their lives.

“I really want to focus on how people can turn their lives around and create futures for themselves and for each other,” Brigstock said.

Balasubramanian, who also received the President's Engagement Prize, will be reporting on the lives of Indian migrant workers in the Middle East. Mainly, she said, she will be focusing on Indian workers in Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Balasubramanian said that she has been interested in the issue since high school, when she worked for a nonprofit that helps migrant workers in Oman, where she is from.

According to Balasubramanian, the current dilemma facing Indian migrant workers in the Middle East can be divided into two main issues, both of which she plans on covering. 

The first, Balasubramanian said, is that poor individuals in India are scammed by middle men into believing that they will be provided with well-paying jobs and a better quality of life. Second, the "kafala" system in the Middle East binds migrant workers to specific sponsors, preventing them from achieving upward mobility and financial freedom. 

Balasubramanian said that both of these issues keep migrant workers in debt and low-paying jobs with little support from local government. She said that her article will hopefully educate Indians about the truth behind jobs in the Middle East, preventing them from falling prey to false offers.

“What I’m most looking forward to is the opportunity to really hear a lot of these stories and the opportunity to give these people an opportunity to tell these stories in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Balasubramanian said.

In addition to the article, Balasubramanian plans on producing a small podcast series to fulfill the multimedia project requirement.

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.