Beyond Chicago

Young female soccer journalists chase dreams through Football for Friendship program

By Drake Hills
Medill Reports

MADRID — More than 14 million people in the United States watched this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final in France, beating the total for the men’s World Cup final one year ago and the previous Women’s World Cup title match in 2015. As the growth of country participants and its viewers continue, so may the total number of women capturing its moments.

USA Today, ESPN, The Athletic and the Los Angeles Times were just some of the media outlets represented by women covering the World Cup. Nancy Armour, Alyssa Roenigk, Meg Linehan and Helene Elliott, respectively, proved that women are emerging in sports press boxes around the globe.

Just a week before the tournament began, a series of youth soccer events were held at the Dehesa de Navalcarbón Sports Complex, found in the western limits of the Spanish capital. Nearly 100 12-year-olds representing 57 nations sported their ocean blue, green and white Football for Friendship jerseys, blending in as one soccer contingent. On the sideline closest to the stands were youth journalist participants. Since the Football for Friendship’s birth in 2013, a growing number of those aspiring storytellers have been girls. Continue reading

Wushu master brings martial arts and Chinese culture to Buenos Aires

By Carolyn Chen & Tianqi Gou
Medill Reports

BUENOS AIRES —

Chen Min, a former national Wushu champion in China, opened a martial arts school in Buenos Aires 11 years ago.

In this video story, we see the ways Chen Min tries to create a special chemistry between Chinese and Argentine cultures — at her school and in her home.

Carola Fernández Moores contributed reporting from Buenos Aires. 

Photo at top: Children learn Wushu at Chen Min’s Wushu school in Buenos Aires. (Carolyn Chen & Tianqi Gou/MEDILL)

Transgender woman challenges South Africa to open a new conversation about LGBTQ+ discrimination

By Thomas Ilalaole
Medill Reports

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

According to a recent government study,  three million South Africans present themselves in a gender-non-conforming way. But in the city of Johannesburg, the LGBTQ+ community continues to struggle for acceptance.

In South African society, stereotypes and expectations of masculinity are deeply ingrained, and identities that don’t exist on the binary—or sexualities that are anything other than straight—are not widely accepted. Although the South African constitution says “the state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, sexual orientation…” the LGBTQ+ community still faces prejudice.

Nicole Louw is a transgender female photographer, model and rugby player. She  grew up as a heterosexual, masculine man. She says as a transgender woman, she still has had relationships with gay men, as well as gay women. However, she says, heterosexual men and women still treat her differently. Continue reading

Solar Decision: The long road and hard work required to bring solar energy to Puerto Rico

By Noah Broder
Medill Reports

For people in the mountain town of San Salvador in Puerto Rico, recovery from Hurricane Maria was a community effort. “This community was the one that cleaned up this community after the hurricane, nobody else,” said resident Tara Rodriguez Besosa as she stood in the center of this rural town.

San Salvador is a small town about 30 miles south of San Juan in the municipality of Caguas. It is the most rural and least populated town in the municipality, and like other small towns across the island, Besosa said they were without power for nearly a year following the hurricane.

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Students apply science to make an environmental difference in Cambodia

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

SIEM REAP, Cambodia – From looking at religious merit release practices in and around Siem Reap, to exploring “pet culture” and animal welfare in households, to investigating the effects of noise pollution on a vulnerable bat population, students at The School for Field Studies in Cambodia are doing more than just studying abroad.

These students are investigating environmental concerns that face Cambodian communities today with hopes that their research can help inform environmental policy and action in the future. Through their programs, SFS is training students to do community-relevant research – that is, research that can make a difference.
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Reflections from Puerto Rico: Medill Explores 2019

In Puerto Rico, I learned that butterflies are more resilient than dinosaurs
By Justin Agrelo

(Justin Agrelo/MEDILL)

There’s a square in downtown Adjuntas, Puerto Rico that when standing inside of it feels like you’ve hopped into a postcard or a history book about Spanish colonization.

The square is paved in white cement and gray cobble. Its fountain, benches, and pillars are all polished in white. Small patches of vibrant, neatly trimmed grass break up the monotony of the space.

Colorful Spanish colonial buildings line the square and a mountain can be seen in the distance, just above the bell tower of the town’s central church.

The square and its surrounding streets are almost empty except for three older gentlemen. The men break from their conversation and coffee to examine our group of unfamiliar faces, standing not far from them with cameras around our necks and cell phones stretched out.

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Cambodia meshes traditional and modern worlds in Khmer New Year celebration

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

SIEM REAP, Cambodia – Click. I duck. Click click. I take two steps back, one to the left. Click click. I lift my camera. Focus. Click the shutter once, twice more, and spin around, clutching my camera to my chest and catching a stream of cold water on my back. I’m rapidly getting soaked, but my camera is dry.

With eye-catching decorations, reverent religious ceremonies and near-constant water fights, this past week’s Khmer New Year celebration is every photographer’s dream – and nightmare. Sprinkling people with water is a blessing in many cultures, and while Cambodia’s New Year’s water fights hark back to those customs, holding a camera doesn’t give you immunity to blasts of water from the hoses, buckets and neon water guns that nearly everyone above the age of three seemed to be wielding.

Nevertheless, capturing the beauty of the city festooned in decorations, of Cambodians and foreigners alike diving into the games and water fights, is worth the certain soaking.

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The trials and tribulations of freeze-casting to manufacture materials in space

Medill News Service journalist Lauren Robinson is embedding this spring with Northwestern University researchers studying freeze-casting for a planned space launch.

Click the first photo in the gallery above for a photo essay showing how a freeze-casting suspension is created.


Krysti Scotti’s enthusiasm for her pioneering freeze-casting work at Northwestern University is contagious enough to brighten the coldest and wettest days.

Scotti is hosting my embedded-reporting assignment at SpaceICE, where scientists in professor David Dunand’s lab are preparing to test freeze-casting — a way to manufacture materials — in a NASA satellite mission and on the International Space Station. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is building the actual CubeSat satellite for the mission.
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Hyderabad, India, captures a nexus of ancient and modern culture

By Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

I traveled to India for the first time in my life for an all-too-brief three weeks’ of learning how farmers are adapting to increasing drought in the central province of Telangana with water conserving greenhouses.

Hyderabad and environs are about as far inland as can be at this latitude.  But in the heart of the city, the human-made Hussain Sagar Lake serves as a community hub. The lake is surrounded by parks and temples, and you can take a ferry to a statue of the Buddha in the middle of the lake.

Hussain Sagar Lake at sunset. Aaron Dorman/Medill

My first day in Hyderabad, I walked along the beautiful lake’s east side. It’s cut off from the rest of the city by an elevated highway, the “Tank Bund,” and layered with litter and trash along the banks. Near the hotel where I stayed, a family of feral pigs picked at garbage on a dry river bed that feeds into the lake.

Fruit vendor along the Take Bund in Hyderabad. Aaron Dorman/Medill.
A temple on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad. Aaron Dorman/Medill.

A province  conservation group has put up signs asking people to keep the lake shore clean and trash free. The group established  a row of planters filled with palm trees to beautify this portion of the waterfront. On the other side, fruit vendors and cane juice stalls offer respite from the 95-degree weather. A cold bottle of water will only set you back 20 rupees, or about 30 cents USD.

Swastika graffiti is a common site in Hyderabad; here it is a symbol for peace. Aaron Dorman/Medill.

Visitors should come prepared for the high volume of swastika graffiti and understand that it means “all is well” in its use by Hindus and Buddhists long before Nazi Germany adopted the symbol. Here, the former meaning persists. Tthe swastika also has been used as a symbol for the sun dating back millennia.

Elaborate mosques and temples line the other side of the Tank Bund.  Some of these structures are ages old, such as the one across the street from my temporary home in Secunderabad.

My first friend in India, the stray who has discovered that the Kheyti staff will give him food and water. Aaron Dorman/Medill.

Meanwhile, at the Kheyti Project office where I am embedded as a reporter, a street dog has discovered that benevolent humans there will feed him. He and I have become friends. Kheyti’s work here involves providing farmers with efficient greenhouses that help them grow crops in this drought-ridden area, providing harvests and easing poverty.

Kheyti has installed nearly 100 greenhouses already and project founders hope to have as many as 1,000 in place by the end of the year. My reporting will focus on the moving target of sustainable farming as climate change threatens the farmers’ crops and livelihood within coming decades – or even sooner.

A Hindu Temple in downtown Hyderabad. (Aaron Dorman/Medill)

Life at a research lab in Israel’s Negev desert

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

SDE BOKER, ISRAEL — Two hours south of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where political drama unraveled amid Tuesday’s Israeli elections, I finished my morning coffee and stepped out into the blinding desert sunshine.

I’m spending this month at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, which are part of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The main BGU campus is located in Be’er Sheva, the Negev desert’s largest city. But I’m at the BIDR outpost 45 minutes south, in Sde Boker, where I’m embedded with researchers tackling water stewardship in the Middle East. I’m reporting by observation and taking notes I’ll later use for Medill News Service stories.
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