August 18, 2021

And the Pulitzer Prize Goes to…

This year's Pulitzer Prize winners include Megha Rajagopalan, a 2010 Fulbright U.S. Student to China who recommends going outside of your bubble and keeping an open mind. She was part of the winning team for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting

Megha joins a group of more than 100 exchange alumni - including 88 Fulbright alumni winners, who have won a total of 94 Pulitzer Prizes since its inception in 1917.

Megha, whose work spans reporting on the North Korean nuclear crisis to the peace process in Afghanistan, is an international correspondent for BuzzFeed News. She has been a staff correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in China and Thailand, as well as in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Prior to her time at BuzzFeed, she worked as a political correspondent for Reuters in China.

Alongside two colleagues at BuzzFeed News, Megha was awarded the prize for her recent reporting in China – specifically around the oppression of Uighur and Kazakh citizens and new developments led by the government in the region to repress these minority groups. Her writing focused on life inside Chinese internment camps as well as on new infrastructure, including an extensive new building created by the Chinese government to imprison its Muslim citizens.

When asked about her award, Megha told us that she was inspired by her time living and working in China. During her first job in international reporting at Reuters in Beijing, she was able to cement an understanding of some of the major issues as well as develop new sources.

After getting to know many former detainees and others in the Uyghur and Kazakh diasporas, Megha felt an obligation to keep uncovering more, and thus, after she left China in 2018, she worked alongside Alison Killing, an architect and geospatial analyst, and Christo Buschek, a programmer, to come up with new methods of reporting on Xinjiang from abroad. Together, they published their first series of articles that drew on both satellite imagery and architectural expertise, as well as interviews with two dozen former prisoners, in 2020. 

Regarding her exchange experience, Megha is grateful for the Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA) grant she received while on the Fulbright in China. It was there that she studied at IUP-Tsinghua, an intensive program for Chinese language immersion where she strengthened her language skills to the point that she could carry out interviews and consume Chinese news. She also had the chance to meet and learn from accomplished Chinese journalists and scholars, whose knowledge and advice helped to shape her career path.  

To those considering going on an exchange, Megha recommends going for it. Specifically, she encourages honing in on a language, and getting outside of your “bubble.” 

“I would encourage them [students] to acquire language skills if they can because that's a great thing to spend time on in college,” Megha says. “Also, keep an open mind and try not to spend all your time with your American friends.”

Congratulations, Megha! You can find more on Megha and her team’s work on the Pulitzer Prize website