Her professional experiences run the gamut from working in refugee camps to international think tanks. News Decoder’s first summer intern has traversed the globe since her time on staff.
News Decoder’s first summer intern, Emma Bapt. (Emma Bapt).
Continuing our series celebrating News Decoder’s young student and staff alumni, this month we focus on Emma Bapt, one of News Decoder’s first ever interns. Bapt joined News Decoder during the summer of 2016, when News Decoder was just a year old. Inspired by her time with us, she returned to her undergraduate studies at King’s College London (KCL) and established a News Decoder Society. This well-received initiative enabled fellow students to engage in News Decoder webinars and discussion fora and to have their articles published.
After completing her degree at KCL, Bapt interned with a U.S.-based think tank and a French government department before embarking on a master’s programme in Conflict Management and International Economics at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, including a year at their Bologna campus. Since graduating in 2022, Bapt has been working part-time for the UN University Centre while looking for other opportunities in her field of interest, conflict management.
We caught up with her at home in Paris.
(Transcript edited for length and clarity.)
ND: What was it like interning with News Decoder in its early days?
Bapt: I was very excited to join a project that was very much in the making. News Decoder had a real ‘start-up’ feel to it. I was lucky that my ideas were listened to and taken in to account: not something you can often say about your first professional experience! My main focus was on generating ideas for stories. At the time, Brexit was hitting the headlines and, since I was studying in the U.K. and originally from France, I decided to make this my focus. I remember the first piece I wrote for News Decoder was completely torn apart by Nelson. Although I felt frustrated at the time, the experience really kick-started my journalism journey. I learned an immense amount in those months about the purpose of journalism and how journalistic writing differs from, say, academic writing. This knowledge I have retained and made use of in the years since. My experience at News Decoder also helped me become a self-starter. I really appreciated being given the space to take the initiative with the News Decoder Society at KCL which was, in many ways, a launching pad for me. All in all, my internship was a great way to start my professional journey.
ND: You remain, to date, the only alumni to have set up their own News Decoder group at their learning institution – a fantastic initiative. What motivated you and how did your fellow students respond?
Bapt: My internship at News Decoder left me thirsty for more. I knew there was interest among KCL students to have their work published and to engage with something like the News Decoder platform. Establishing a society was the most efficient mechanism for enabling this. Very quickly I found myself leading a team of 6 people undertaking communications, collating submissions and doing first and second round edits. We ended up pitching around 10 articles from KCL students a month to News Decoder. Our students also got involved in News Decoder’s first webinars. It was a great experience all round.
ND: Where do you see yourself in three to five years’ time?
Bapt: This is a daunting question, especially for someone who has just finished their formal studies! I haven’t ruled out a PhD, but it isn’t something I would want to do immediately.
I’ve moved somewhat away from my earlier interest in journalism. While I really valued my experience with News Decoder and even considered journalism school after my undergraduate degree, in the end I decided against it. I’m still passionate about writing and continue to make use of what I’ve learned about journalism.
My focus area is the practical application of conflict management, with a particular focus on gender. I’ve generated a lot of experience in think tanks, which I find a very stimulating environment and would be interested in returning to that world. I’m also interested in exploring something new such as work with international organisations, non-governmental organisations or EU institutions. However, since graduating, I’ve found it harder than expected to tap in to actors in the conflict management field.
As a dual French-American citizen, I have found working in government difficult as it requires me to choose aspects of my identity. Think tanks and multilateral organisations are a more obvious route to working in the areas I’m passionate about while remaining objective and neutral.
Formative experiences, notable mentors and a dream dinner party
ND: Who or what has had the biggest influence on your life?
Bapt: I am lucky to have had several mentors who’ve helped me at different career turning points and decisions. I’m proud to say that Nelson Graves was my first mentor and he’s someone whose advice I’ve solicited many times since our first meeting. I’ve had internships in many places – Paris, London, Berlin and Washington – and have met many friends and inspiring people who I’ve stayed in contact with and reach out to when I need advice.
Apart from this, one particular experience really changed the way I see the world. In September 2017, I volunteered with a small Austrian NGO in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Leros which was receiving around 100 mainly Syrian refugees per day. While I was there, I found myself putting aside everything I’d studied about the theory of diplomacy and conflict as I came face to face with the reality of real people fleeing violence. It was one of my life-changing experiences. I only volunteered for a couple of weeks but I’ve thought about the experience again and again. I hope to do further field work in the future.
ND: If you could invite three public figures, alive or dead, to dinner, who would you choose?
Bapt: I have a keen interest in photography so I would invite the war photojournalist, Lynsey Addario. I loved her memoir, “It’s What I Do.” I would also invite Samantha Power, war correspondent and diplomat. I enjoyed her autobiography, “Education of an Idealist.” Finally, I would invite Kristina Lunz, founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, which is an area I’m very interested in. Kristina’s organisation is at the heart of the debate about how we deal with conflict, politics and diplomacy. All three women are role models to me.
Thea Lacey is News Decoder's Director of Development. She has 15 years of experience managing fundraising and programmes for mostly humanitarian and development NGOs, both small and large, including five years based in West and Central Africa. She holds an undergraduate degree in Politics from the University of Edinburgh and a postgraduate degree in International Development from SOAS University of London.