You ask about how to approach people for interviews and information while you are “ONLY” a student. No. Sorry, you misunderstand. From the very moment you go into action, you are a freelance journalist. Remember my 7th rule? Please take Rule 7 seriously:
Rule 7: Start submitting immediately
Think of yourself as a freelancer BEFORE being awarded a diploma. I push you to submit to publications before you win your diploma.
Do not wait until the end of a course to start submitting. Overcome your natural fear of rejection and start submitting your best work to your target publications from now on.
If you tell someone: “I’m a freelance journalist and I’m researching and writing an article on (XXX) and will be submitting it to National Geographic”, there’s no lie if you are in fact doing those actions.