05 Jul 2012

10 things I wish I knew before coming to the UK

So, I’m starting a new series. I’m going to post a “10 Things” post. Everything from 10 things I wish I knew (like today) to 10 things I’m wishing for to 10 really great books I’ve read. The possibilities are endless!

For now, I’m kicking it off with (in no particular order)….

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming to the UK

1. Everyone smokes and apparently it’s no big deal.

I mean everyone. Cute mothers pushing babies in strollers (also called “buggies” or “prams”), 12-year-old girls sitting outside stores and everyone walking down the street. I guess I hadn’t realized due to all the smoking bans and laws in place at home that smoking has become a bit of a taboo thing. Not the case here.

2. Drink sizes are WAY different.

As in, the “veinte” at Starbucks (hello, 20 ounces!) is smaller. There is no such thing as a fountain drink or free refills. Bottles are teeny. Cups are teeny. How do these people stay hydrated, or over-caffeinated?!

3. Everyone dresses to impress. All. The. Time.

I am not kidding and wish I was. For this girl, who loves to rock a t-shirt and jeans every day, it has been tough to keep up with the super trendy British chicks. I have yet to see a British girl wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt, a hoodie or even sneakers. It’s always skinny jeans, shorts with leggings, cute dresses, oversize sweaters that look perfectly thrown together, flawless makeup and perfectly mussed hair. Boys aren’t even allowed into bars if they’re wearing Converse. It’s crazy.

4. The coins are confusing.

At home, I’d be pretty embarrassed to pay for a $5 item in coins. But here, it’s no big deal. That’s because there is a £2 coin, a £1 coin, 50 pence coin, 20 pence coin, 10 pence coin, five pence coin and the one pence coin, called the penny. So if something cost £5, you can pay for it with three coins. Even though I’ve been here for almost a month, I still find myself holding up the line at the checkout counting out all the coins. I think it’s because their five pence coin is the size of our dime, so I always get tripped up thinking I’m counting tens when I’m counting fives. What a bother.

5. People think we are Canadian.

Apparently the only people who sound like Americans are Canadians. And apparently Canadian visitors are more common than American ones, at least in Worcester. Everywhere we go we get asked, “Oh my gosh, are you Canadian?” When we respond, “No, American,” they say, “Oh yeah, that makes sense. Canadians are way louder.” Whatever that means.

6. They have never heard of Modern Family.

There are no words for this one.

7. Even though they speak English, we can only understand them half the time.

I thought it wouldn’t be any trouble to get used to the slang terms they use. Um, wrong. Even though our languages are technically the same, it’s really hard to follow along when people are speaking here. There are so many slang words and terms that I am unfamiliar with. And the reverse is true as well. When a cashier asks if I need a receipt and I say, “I’m good,” they stare at me blankly.

8. They have very different ideas on travel.

For example, when we said we were going to Edinburgh, a 4 1/2 hour train trip, people were amazed. “You’re going ALL the way to Edinburgh for the weekend?” was the response. To us, four hours is no big deal. You can drive four hours and not even get from the north end of Indiana to the south end. I thought in a country this small people would be way more apt to travel more frequently. Not true at all.

9. They really love their queen.

That’s fine with me, I’m obsessed with their royal family as well.

10. They have good design everywhere.

I mean REALLY good. And it’s EVERYWHERE. It’s going to be hard to go home to Indiana where we have town names in comic sans on the water towers ;)

Valerie Carnevale | Graphic Designer, Photographer

@vmcarnevale

READ MORE
02 Jul 2012

What happens when reverie becomes reality?

Here’s the deal—I wouldn’t consider myself a world traveler. My mind does drift abroad on a regular basis, but that doesn’t require luggage and travel arrangements.

What I’m getting at is that reverie, my friends, can be a wonderful instigator of travel. It always wins. So, I did what any avid daydreamer would do and signed up for my first trip to Budapest, Hungary.

I’d be lying if I said I had any idea where Budapest was when I signed up. It wasn’t until after the initial meeting I finally decided to Google the place. Call it impulse or whatever you want, but it really didn’t matter where I was going, what mattered was that I was going. It was the thrill of a new adventure—and that feeling took over.

A few months later, I packed my things, boarded a plane and jetsetted across the Atlantic with five strangers. Aside from a few roadblocks (namely, food poisoning and ringworm) the trip was phenomenal and fueled my inner traveler more than daydreaming ever could.

A lot changed for me during the trip. I suddenly felt undereducated. You can only learn so much without experiencing something first hand. All of the sudden I was consumed by the depths of a culture outside my own. I was thrown into a part of the world so different than mine. It was scary, yet inspiring. It was my ignorance of foreign land that ignited something in me: I should always yearn for international perspective, if for nothing else than personal enlightenment.

That’s why when Ryan Sparrow first talked to me about joining the group going to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, I couldn’t say no. (I would be CRAZY to say no!) It didn’t take much to convince me. Actually, 10 minutes after he brought it up, I called my parents. Their response: “You’d be crazy not to go.” I think you know how the rest of the chapter goes.

So now I sit here, awaiting the next chapter of my journey. We have a few more weeks to go until we leave for London, and I can hardly contain my excitement. Not only does this trip mean I get to visit Europe again, it means I get to attend a gathering of the world’s finest athletes. It’s surreal.

My expectations, you ask?

The truth is, I don’t have any plans or expectations. Plans will find me and my expectations will be met.

I am excited to travel with a group of talented and extraordinary students. I am excited to immerse myself in yet another European culture. But most importantly, I am excited to see the world come together for no other reason than a soccer game, a triathlon or badminton match.

The way I see it, there is really only one question to ask: Are we there yet?

Jena Levy | Public Relations

@jenalevy

READ MORE
28 Jun 2012

The power of passion

I’ve attended and watched many sporting events in my lifetime, but there have been very few occasions where I was nervous. For example, when my Packers stomped the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, I was nervous the entire game. Or when the Cubs won the… yeah, never mind. But for the first time in my life, I was nervous watching U.S. Olympic Diving. Why? Because I made a friend.

By now, most of you know I’ve spent my entire life growing up on a dairy farm, and believe it or not we did have a television, so I was able to watch the Olympics growing up. I remember watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia Luikin win in Beijing back in 2008. But as I watched Diver Thomas Finchum try to make his comeback during the prelims for the U.S. Diving Trials last week, it was different. I knew him. I knew his story. I had told it. I knew what he had been through to make it back to the diving trials and I knew how much it meant to him to make it to London. It wasn’t just him though; it was all of the divers competing for their spot in London. I had interviewed them as well. I knew all of their stories.

As I watched the diving trials at 1 a.m. with my two farm dogs, Barney and Duke, that’s when I realized that this trip to London isn’t about our group; it’s about them.  They’re the ones making the sacrifices, and we’re telling their stories. As much as I wanted Finchum to qualify for the Olympics so I could do another story on him for BSU at the Games, I wanted him to qualify for himself more.  My stomach turned every time he did another dive. My mom even asked why I kept screaming from the living room at 1:30 a.m. and my answer came easy—each story I do on these amazing athletes gives me an insight into how passionate they are. They get little recognition, but they don’t let it faze them. They want London more than anything.

Finchum didn’t qualify for London, finishing third place in the finals. The top two travel to the games. I know he was heart-broken, and so was I. When you spend months getting to know these athletes, their success means so much more. And when they come up just short, it hurts the same. Since the trials, Finchum has announced his retirement from the sport of diving. He’ll never get his chance to go back to the Olympics, and yet his spirit never wavered. He said on Twitter, “Today has been filled with so many emotions… one chapter of my life is almost over, but there’s so much more to come with @Northern_Nights.” He’s right.

A wise man once told me it’s about building relationships and getting to know the people whose story you’re telling. For years Thomas Finchum was an amazing Olympic diver. Not enough people know that he’s a lead singer of an up-in-coming country band called Northern Nights. I just hope the story I did on Thomas and Northern Nights has made some kind of impact, because I know it’s impacted me. I’ve invested so much into the 2012 Olympic Games, and because of that I’ll never look at them the same. My friends will be out there representing the United States of America in London, and I’ll be cheering as loud as I possibly can for them to fulfill their dreams. 

Josh Blessing | Sports Reporter

@JoshJBlessing

READ MORE
25 Jun 2012

Wish you were here–greetings from England!

Hello from England! I’m part of the University of Worcester group, so I’m already over here and have a full week of classes under my belt. It’s weird that I’ve only been in this country for three weeks because honestly, it feels like a LOT longer! It’s cool how quickly you can settle into your surroundings. My surroundings right now are beautiful–old brick buildings and winding cobblestone streets, some dating back to the Tudor times! The town of Worcester sits in the shadow of the massive Worcester Cathedral, which began construction in 1080. SO OLD.

It finally feels real that I’m in England, but it still doesn’t quite feel real that I’m covering the Olympics. THE OLYMPICS! I thought it would sink in once I got here, but nope! Maybe it’s because I’m not in London where all the action is going to be, or because I’ve been so busy getting acquainted with Worcester and starting classes, but it’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, the rest of the Olympic crew will be here and the whirlwind of interviews, planning graphics and shooting photos is going to begin.

That being said, the excitement of the Olympics being held here in just over a month is palpable. There is bunting everywhere. Bunting, in case you were wondering, are those little flag pennants you see all over Pinterest that have suddenly become very trendy for DIY weddings. And yes, I’ll be using it all over the reception at my own wedding because it’s so cute! And cheap and awesome and cheery. But literally, every store window is draped with it. The streets of Worcester have red, white and blue bunting criss-crossing overhead, and Colleen picked up several strands of it for her and Ryan’s flat. It’s addictive! As if the bunting overload isn’t enough, there are union flags hanging everywhere from house windows to giant ones all along Oxford and Regent streets in London and from every official-looking building.

One of my professors here at the university told our class that this display of patriotism and national pride definitely isn’t the norm, but due to Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, everyone is trying to “beef up the Britishness” and really reclaim what it means to be British and proud. Which is why, even aside from all the amazing things we’re doing with BSU at the Games and all the incredible content we’re going to produce, this trip is so worth it. It’s so fun to be part of the atmosphere and soak up the energy of the country as it prepares to host international athletics’ biggest stage.

My professor says that it’s a very exciting time to be British. I would one-up that and say that regardless of being British or not, it’s a very exciting time to be in Britain period. It’s already been one of the best experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to see and experience everything as the Games draw closer.

Cheers!

Valerie Carnevale | Graphic Designer, Photographer

@vmcarnevale

READ MORE
19 Jun 2012

Learning from a media pro led to a big realization

Today Anne Marie Tiernon and her WTHR crew came up to Ball State to shoot some footage of BSU at the Games, a task that I told our team while recruiting them would take no more than an hour. Two hours of filming later, I’m in awe of the things I learned and just how much potential this project has. 

Anne Marie is a force to be reckoned with. She is poised, confident and extremely knowledgeable in her trade. And though I’m not going down the news-reporting path, I found that watching her work and hearing her “tips from the real world” were immensely helpful for anyone who will ever work with the media.

After my star struck phase began to pass, I also realized what an awesome experience I’m

Anne Marie Tiernon from WTHR and I hanging out after the shoot!

getting as a public relations student in this program. I just planned/organized/managed a media shoot for an NBC affiliate. I will work directly with WTHR in London to make sure our partnership is operating smoothly. Anne Marie told me I was very well-organized. WOW. I couldn’t buy this kind of portfolio work.

After my PR-nerd phase wore off, I began thinking, ‘WE ARE A BIG FREAKING DEAL!’ BSU at the Games has become a project of scope I could have never imagined. Honestly, I just wanted to go to London and see King Henry VIII’s castles. I had no idea—as I’m sure no one else could have—the outrageous media attention we would receive or connections we would make. Social media brings me new surprises every day. Like 135 retweets on a post we made about equestrian. I have never seen that many retweets in my life! Athletes taking time out of their busy day to talk to students. And not just Indiana athletes—Olympians from around the nation… the globe even!

I think all of this attention boils down to the bottom line that we are meeting our goal. We wanted to be different. We wanted to provide coverage and spawn relationships that were different. We wanted to share stories of the people, places and culture of the Games—not just the score. Athletes love us, media praises us, other students want to be us. And I believe it’s all because of this mission.

Can’t wait to see what’s in store as we cross the pond!

Kait Buck |  Public Relations
@keightbuck

READ MORE
19 Jun 2012

For greenspace—and green ideas—don’t miss the Olympic Park

Heading to the 2012 summer Olympics? Wondering what to do?

With all of the chaos and excitement going on, there is something for everyone, from shops and restaurants to leisure activities. Check it out.

The Olympic Village is in the Olympic Park located in Stratford, East London. This park is not only about grab-and-go stands filled with food and souvenirs, but also much, much more. Providing a green background for the Games, the park is where all of the activity goes on outside of the stadium.

What’s in the park? Along the riverside, there is a northern and southern part to the park. The northern part–the “festival area”–has:

  • Developed industrial land, created just for the Games
  • Riverside gardens
  • Markets
  • Special events
  • Cafes and bars

The southern part (it may be safe to call it the more relaxing and less chaotic area) has:

  • Quiet space
  • Green ways to manage flood and rain water
  • Designated space for rare species to live…such as otters and kingfishers!

This park is no joke. There are 250 acres of new land developed by the Olympic Delivery Authority. They planted 4,000 semi-mature trees over 300,000 wetland plants, more than 10 (10!) football fields-worth of annual and perennial meadows. The development was so in-depth that they just finished planting everything as of November 2011!

The Riverside London 2012 Garden is half a mile long, located between the Aquatics Centre and Olympic Stadium. It boasts 120,000 plants, including 250 different species from all over the world.

The park is so developed and “futuristic” that even the trees were carefully selected. These trees are said to be able to withstand years and year of climate change and unexpected weather patterns. To make it even cooler, they are mostly all native species of London.

Finally, the art in the Olympic Park is something that could take an entire day to experience. For more information on how to see it, check out Olympic Park Art.

It is said that wherever one is in the Olympic village, the park will provide a scenic view with access to a path that opens up a whole other world of activities and memories to be made.

Sara Schaefer  |  Features Reporter
@Sara__Schaefer

READ MORE
13 Jun 2012

Heard any good songs lately?

Starting these things is always the hardest part, so I decided this would be the easiest way to do it.  I am very excited to be traveling to London for the Olympics!  To prepare this summer, I have been working with media on freelance work for our reporters and photo people, as well as bragging to my friends. One thing I am really nervous about though is flying. I am not what you would call a comfortable flyer and am typically on edge the whole flight.  Considering this will be an eight-hour flight, I’m sure you can understand the anxiety. That still won’t stop me from going though!

While we are over there I think it would be awesome to see a Team USA basketball game or a soccer (or football, depending who is reading this) game. Those two also will be some of the most expensive tickets, along with swimming and gymnastics. Really, when I think about it though, I would be interested in going to any event. All of these athletes are the best in the world and I’m sure they are able to entertain.

Another thing I’m nervous about is what American songs I will be able to sing around London. Most other countries have traditional pub, sports or just leisure songs that everyone from the country knows. I have been thinking about it and I can’t think of any old-time traditional songs that I will be able to pull out, besides “American Pie.” This is something that I am really not very nervous about but yet VERY nervous about at the same time … Weird feeling.

My overall feeling about the trip though would be described as bubbling excitement.  I have never been to Europe, never been to the Olympic Games and never had the opportunity to do the work I am doing with this trip. It is the trifecta.

Jordan Dimit  |  Public Relations Team
@sirjordandimit

READ MORE
13 Jun 2012

So I’m totally an athlete too—if athletes are uncoordinated and weak

I don’t really like sports, but I love sports movies. “Hoosiers,” “Breaking Away,” “Rudy,” “The Blind Side.” I even liked that Brad Pitt baseball movie with all the math.

Movies give you the dramatic climax of the sports experience, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” and very little of the tiresome monotony of practice—unless, of course, it’s in some brief, musically scored montage. Sports movies are for people too impatient to commit to actual sports, people like me who never quite mastered the cartwheel in pre-school tumbling, only lasted one season on the grade-school basketball team, regularly convinced her dad to write her notes to get out of gym class.

It should be no surprise, then, that I love the Olympic Games. They offer three weeks of sports cinema, all those years of numbingly repetitious practice and toil telescoped into a few sentimental minutes of narration by Bob Costas so we can dwell on the crossing of the finish line and the tears on the medal stand. The Games, like a great sports movie, offer us a metaphor for all human endeavor, made more poignant because most of the athletes aren’t superhuman celebrities but ordinary people who committed beyond all common sense to a dream.

I have a dream too. This winter I sat in a chair every single day for six months and wrote a first draft of a book. It was boring and it often sucked and I would rather have been doing almost anything else—although when I did do something else I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would write next. And then I finished. And though nobody called me from ESPN and nobody handed me a gold medal and I remained painfully conscious of all the ways I could have done it better, I had done it. I had beaten my own record, clocked my best personal time, jumped an inch farther than I had jumped before.

It’s cheesy but it feels true. It’s the reason so many people love the Games, even people like me who hated gym.

If they can do it, maybe we can do it. Whatever it is.

Colleen Steffen  |  Features Editor

READ MORE
11 Jun 2012

Olympians prove friendly and accessible

Meeting Olympians can be an intimidating thought. To even be given the opportunity to meet them is enough of a challenge. Ironically, Olympians Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva are just like us. They like to have fun, make jokes and even interact with others. To have two Olympians be as friendly as they were with me only a few months before the biggest event of their lives was incredible.

We started the day at the Natatorium in Indianapolis. With a few others from the BSU at the Games crew, we shot video and conducted interviews. We got there around 9 a.m., and Killman and Koroleva were already in the pool practicing. It wasn’t until 12:30 p.m. that we saw them get out of the pool after some rigorous training.

We interviewed Koroleva shortly after the practice, which consisted of her talking about her Russian background, injury, life at Stanford and love for swimming. The best part of the interview was hearing her speak Russian. She even endorsed our site by encouraging potential viewers to check it out.

From there, we traveled to the St. Vincent Sports Performance facility. It was here that Killman and Koroleva had a spinning (cycling) workout. As we shot more video, the two athletes really started to loosen up—laughing while we recorded them and even making faces at the camera. Eventually, they finished their workout and began stretching.

The Olympians, along with their trainer, were using foam cylinders to stretch, and I became curious as to what it felt like. The trainer told me to grab one of the cylinders and then helped me with the stretching technique. It was a fun experience interacting with Killman, Koroleva and their trainer.

After all of the fun, we headed back to the pool to interview Killman. The interview was very similar to Koroleva’s. We were able to get a lot of good information about her and her history with the sport of synchronized swimming.

Finally, the crew packed up and headed home. After all was said and done, I think it’s safe to say we built lasting relationships with these two athletes.

Slowly, but surely, everything is falling into place for London.

Michael Nauman | Sports Reporter
@itsmichaelbrah

 

READ MORE
06 Jun 2012

A journey through balance beams, bars and media row

My classmates and I won’t be landing in London to cover the 2012 Games for another 46 days, but our work behind the scenes is already well underway. Another chapter in our preparation for the London Games will take place this week as we visit the Visa Championships at Chaifetz Arena at Saint Louis University.

Seeing that I’m from St. Louis, Chaifetz Arena is just a short drive down I-64. Having this fantastic opportunity is beyond what words can describe.

The Visa Championships will feature men’s and women’s gymnastics, with gymnasts in both the junior and senior divisions. This week-long event will determine the U.S. champions, as well as which gymnasts advance to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, which are scheduled for June 28 through July 1 in San Jose, Calif.

This year’s event marks the second time the Visa Championships have been held in St. Louis; the last time was in 2000.

Today is media day, with multiple training sessions open to reporters as well as opportunities to interview the gymnasts prior to competition, which begins Thursday and concludes on Sunday.

As I sit alongside the balance beams and bars sifting through the profiles of all these remarkable athletes, I take a minute to reflect on what I’m doing and how I got here. I’m within a few feet of these athletes who could be heading to London to compete for a gold medal. These are the best gymnasts this country has to offer. How cool is that? I’m most looking forward to having the opportunity to interview a few of these athletes and write about them.

One gymnast that caught my attention is Brenna Dowell of Odessa, Mo. Dowell is a member of Great American Gymn. Express and has been on the women’s national team for one year. Dowell brings a hefty résumé into the Visa Championships. She tied for fifth in vault, placed sixth in the all-around, uneven bars and came in eighth in the floor exercise in the junior division during the 2011 Visa Championships in St. Paul, Minn. Dowell tied for third in vault and placed fifth in the all-around and uneven bars in the 2011 CoverGirl Classic in Chicago. She also competed in the 2010 Visa Championships in Hartford, Conn., placing fourth in the uneven bars in the junior division. In 2009, she tied for first in the vault and tied for second in the all-around free exercise during the Women’s Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championships.

Another athlete that caught my eye is Sarah Finnegan, a native of St. Louis. Finnegan, also a member of Great American Gymn. Express, will compete in the women’s artistic program. Finnegan placed second in the free exercise during the 2012 Secret U.S. Classic in Chicago. She also finished third in the all-around junior division during the 2011 Visa Championships in Saint Paul, Minn.

So as I continue to sit along media row, I ponder the possibilities of what I can accomplish on this day, the interviews I can conduct, the precious stories I can write and I can’t forget about the athletes, who’s stories are so remarkable. From just skimming the roster, I’ve noticed a pair of athletes from my home state, which is awesome. Having the opportunity to go to the U.S. Olympic Trials by winning the Visa Championships in your home state has to be exciting.

After all, the Visa Championships are in my own backyard and I’m looking forward to taking full advantage of every interview I get, story I write and connection I make.

Tyler Poslosky  |   Sports Reporter


READ MORE