On Air

Understanding each other through storytelling: Volunteering @ CFMU - M. Harrison Shin

Blog/FavouritesMarch 6th 2020
Olivia Fava

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson about the importance of independent media in Hamilton. Given that Ward 1 includes McMaster, the conversation naturally turned to non-commercial campus radio as a medium for student voices. Councillor Wilson’s excellent point was that student media can help the community to better understand and relate to students’ experiences. When she said this, my mind immediately jumped to Accented Tales, one of our newer shows from the Fall 2019 season.

Accented Tales is a show hosted by two first-year students, M. Harrison Shin and Jani Panda, that speaks specifically to the experience of being a first/second-generation immigrant in Canada, and the cultural differences one might encounter. Essentially, it’s two students coming together to share their unique perspective and to connect with the community – a perfect example, to my mind, of what Councillor Wilson was talking about.

In this installment of our volunteer spotlight series, I interview M. Harrison Shin, one of two co-hosts of the show. If you’re a fan of the broadcast or a student looking for a sign to send in your own application, this is an interview not to be missed!

What year are you in at McMaster? What’s your major?

I’m a first-year undergraduate Humanities student in McMaster University! I haven’t chosen my major yet, since it is my first year, but I’m seeking to be part of the Honours Bachelor of Communication Studies and Multimedia degree in the future!

Anything else about your life as a student?

Sometimes, being a university student definitely provides me with an excessive amount of stress, for sure. Academic challenges are more challenging than I expected in high school! Though, I love spending time in the station, preparing for my show, helping out others, or even doing my schoolwork!

Describe your favourite things in five words or less!

CFMU, Rush (the rock band), Kimchi, Breaking Bad, and Timmies!

If there’s one thing you’ve done that would sum up your personality to someone who doesn’t know you, what is it?

I made a very unusual decision, which was starting to become more independent from the age of 15. I was born and raised in South Korea for 15 years, moved to a boarding school in China at grade 9 and learned English and Chinese for two years, moved to London, ON and finished my high school diploma in a local high school, and now here I am, attending one of the most prestigious universities in Canada! I honestly have no idea where I got that courage to move to a different country at that age, but I think that sums up my personality. I think (well, at least I want to) that I am a mature human being and very open-minded!

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[Photo: Harrison on the mic in our recording studio.]

So, what’s the premise behind Accented Tales?

On our show, Accented Tales, we want to introduce how life is in other parts of this globe, especially in real-life encounters. If you want to learn about different parts of Korea, you can pick up lots of information about it on the Internet, such as YouTube videos, blogs, or encyclopedias. But there is deeper information that people just cannot get, because this information is not really available on the Internet. It is how Koreans really live. Additionally, by introducing these stories to our listeners, we hope that they can understand what kind of culture first-generation/second-generation immigrants are coming from and what kind of cultural knowledge they have.

Where did the idea for the show come from? Who is it intended for?

The idea for this show was actually quite quick to come up with, if I remember correctly! After we [Harrison and co-host Srujani] visited CFMU’s booth during the club fair, we were walking back to our residence (we live in the same residence building). On our way back, we discussed various possible concepts, and when we arrived in my residence room to discuss deeper, we settled on this idea: introducing different challenges/stories/knowledges/conceptions that first-generation/second-generation immigrants encounter. After that, we started to fill out our volunteer applications and new show application!

As I mentioned above, our show is a storytelling show, at least that’s what I think it is. I never really wanted to focus on a specific group of an audience, because I think the stories and knowledge we share can be offered to everyone. I want people to use our episodes and stories we offer to understand each other better.

By introducing these stories to our listeners, we hope that they can understand what kind of culture first-generation/second-generation immigrants are coming from and what kind of cultural knowledge they have.

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[Photo: Harrison sorts through some vinyls in our music library.]

Do you have a favourite episode of the show?

I do! I think our first episode, “Names”, was my favourite! Not only did Jani and I put a lot of effort in for our first episode, but also the episode was quite personal to me, since my real name does not resemble the name I use, Harrison, at all! The episode went deep into the personal meanings and dignity associated with our names.

I have been living as Harrison for five years, and I personally associate different personalities with my names. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to tell how I feel about my “fake” name, although I feel like the name Harrison is an enormous part of my life.

How did you meet your co-host, Jani? How would you describe the two of you as a team?

The story of our encounter is actually very random! I moved into my residence a day late, because I was flying from Seoul to Toronto a day after the move-in day. The next day, I had to go to Walmart to go purchase some required household things, like bed sheets and pillows. After I arrived back to residence, trying to open up all of my items, I realized that I forgot to buy a pair of scissors! I randomly messaged my residence, asking strangers if I could borrow a pair of scissors from them. Jani was the one who first replied to me. That’s how we met! Because of a pair of scissors!

As a team, I think we have a very professional but also friendly relationship. We never hesitate to share our blunt opinions including, but not limited to the main topic of the episode, researched information, and habits that can negatively affect our show. But at the same time, we can also joke around during our weekly meeting for rehearsal. We can get along with mutual respect and professionalism, for our show! From a friendship perspective, she is definitely one of my closest friends and I will not hesitate to roast her. (Sorry)

[on his co-host] That’s how we met! Because of a pair of scissors!

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[Photo: Harrison researches the next episode of Accented Tales in our lobby.]

Describe how you felt when your application was accepted and during your first show.

When our application was accepted, I was almost in shock because of this exciting news. I was thinking, ‘Woah, I am actually going to be a radio show host?’. Shortly, I was able to control my increased heartbeat, and dove into work. I wanted my first episode to be perfect.

During my first show, I was extremely nervous. Realizing the fact that my voice will be on the airwaves of the QEW and 403, my body started to release excessive amount of adrenaline. I mean, think about it; your voice is playing in a number of cars that you won’t be able to own in your life! I think it was one of the most memorable experiences and turning points of my life.

Are there any particular skills you’ve learned or gotten better at since you started the show?

I definitely got better in articulation and proper usage of the English language. The more I research about my topic and practice saying it out loud in front of the microphone, the more I learn how to modify, articulate, and release information for my audience. Although I have been learning English for almost my entire life, it is always one of the challenging languages, comparatively, as a native Korean speaker.

[on radio] I mean, think about it; your voice is playing in a number of cars that you won’t be able to own in your life!

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Photo: Harrison spins a record on the mini turntable in our music library.]

Do you have a message for your listeners?

I do! I cannot express my gratitude enough to our lovely listeners! Thank you so much for tuning into our story that we wanted to share. We will always work hard to bring the content that we think will be interesting to not only us, but to you!

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in applying for a radio show?

Do not hesitate, get your application, and send it in. Everyone in this station will help you navigate and make your show come true. Be yourself, and if you encounter any problems, do not hesitate to ask for help! We all are here for you and to help, we won’t bite you!

I never really wanted to focus on a specific group of an audience, because I think the stories and knowledge we share can be offered to everyone. I want people to use our episodes and stories we offer to understand each other better.

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[Photo: Harrison in our music library with two vinyls from Rush, his favourite band.]

It's always great to hear a passionate host excitedly give a description of their show, and the description of Accented Tales as a storytelling show is one of my favourites. Traditionally, storytelling has always a powerful way of connecting people and bringing them together - and that's exactly what Harrison and Jani do, as well.

Also, I've heard my fair share of interesting stories about first meetings, but I think a pair of scissors is a new one, even for me! I wonder if Jani still has the infamous friendship-starting scissors themselves...

Olivia Fava is a 2019 McMaster linguistics graduate, the current Community Outreach Coordinator at CFMU, and the host of MorningFile. Contact her through email at cfmucom@msu.mcmaster.ca.

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