A Voice for the Voiceless

Advocacy journalist Sydney Allen shines a spotlight on underrepresented regions.

April 7, 2023

Ava Miller '25

Sydney Allen.
Sydney Allen '19 is an associate editor and Green Voices coordinator at Global Voices Online.
Photo credit: courtesy of Sydney Allen

Since graduating, Sydney Allen has worked remotely for a global news outlet while traveling around Southeast Asia. Read more about Allen in this After Oberlin Q&A.

Sydney Allen graduated from Oberlin in 2019 with a major in English and minors in rhetoric and history. She worked at the Oberlin Review for four years, serving as editor-in-chief her senior year. A student-athlete, Allen was a member of the varsity women’s lacrosse team. She was also a Peer Advising Leader (PAL), Peer Listener in the Peer Support Center, Sophomore Opportunities and Resources Program Facilitator, and worked with the Writing Associates Program

A native of Indianapolis, Allen has held internships with Indianapolis Monthly, the Chronicle-Telegram in Northeast Ohio, and her hometown congressional representative in Washington, D.C. In 2019, she was selected as a two-year Oberlin Shansi Fellow, which took her to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to teach writing and introductory journalism courses at Universitas Gadjah Mada. In June 2021, she began a position as an associate editor and Green Voices coordinator at Global Voices Online. 

We caught up with Allen to learn more about her path in journalism.

What was it like traveling across the world after graduation and immersing yourself in Indonesian culture as a Shansi Fellow?

Shansi does a great job at preparing the fellows, letting people know what to expect, and sharing tips on how to get acclimated. It was definitely a challenge, but I clearly loved it because I’m still in Asia now. When I first moved to Indonesia, I studied Bahasa (a language in Indonesia) for two months, which was excellent. That really gave me the foundation I needed to continue learning Bahasa. 

How did working in leadership and mentorship roles at Oberlin prepare you for teaching students at an Indonesian university?

The Writing Associates Program helped me communicate more effectively and give feedback in ways that are kind and compassionate. There’s a pretty clear trajectory between my roles at Oberlin and how my career has progressed so far. I see a very direct link between the skills I learned as a writing associate and the work I’ve done. Also, PAL was helpful in establishing connections with students who are interested in different subject areas, as well as learning how to mentor younger students. The Writing Associate program and PAL gives students a different side of Oberlin and provides a lot of value. 

Tell us about how you found work as an associate editor and Green Voices coordinator at Global Voices Online in Indonesia.

Shansi Executive Director Gavin Tritt informed me of this remote position that matched my interest in advocacy-related journalism. It’s turned out to be incredibly fulfilling and an endless supply of perspectives. Green Voices is a collective of journalists and researchers who mainly write about the Global South—a region that’s been overlooked by mainstream media. Most writers are volunteers, citizen journalists, and people who have been overlooked by larger outlets. We have 40 languages that we translate to bridge linguistic silos, so many people have accessible information. 

What kinds of stories have you worked on at Global Voices Online? 

I’m editing and writing news stories about Indonesia, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and Central Asia. I’m also coordinating Green Voices, which is a group of environmental journalists around the world. This is a support mechanism to meet once a month and discuss the heavy topic of environmental issues while also forging connections. Mutual understanding and support between journalists can be really uplifting.

Can you provide some advice for Oberlin students interested in journalism after graduation?

Get involved in as many things as you possibly can. It’s worth it to take advantage of many opportunities and go outside your comfort zone. See what appeals to you and push yourself to try new things. Getting into college is only a quarter of the battle. Finding out what’s important to you is a major part of your career journey. Find out what you like, and learn how to talk about it. I got this job through Shansi because I have always been vocal about what I’m interested in. Getting people to know about your interests and being able to talk about what you want in a way that is clear, concise, and confident is important.

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