For the past month, I had been wracking my brain trying to figure out what else I could do with my life. Go into business? PR or marketing? Set my sights on being a stay-at-home mom? Nothing felt right. I bided my time hoping something would jump into my path screaming, “Pick me!”
Three days into being in England, something did—journalism. For me, it was the thrill of talking to all these people from other countries and hearing their stories that made me fall in love again. It was the luck (or journalist’s instinct, as my editor here said) of picking out the right person in the crowd to get that one perfect interview (Kristin Armstrong’s family, in this case). It was trying to take a day off, yet seeing possible stories everywhere I turned.
And now, here I am, sitting in a London Starbucks down the road from Farringdon Station, nursing my last sips of coffee, preparing for the day’s possibilities, and all that surrounds me is journalism.
At the table behind, two men discuss their careers in journalism. To my left, a young woman is being interviewed for a job and talks about her skills in writing features and editorials.
I don’t usually believe in “signs,” but in this moment I do. Journalism is calling.
Lindsey Gelwicks | Features Reporter
But London is the best so far, and all due to the Olympic atmosphere.
I thought my three months living on the beach in Australia was the best vacation I would ever have, but the best part is that I am only 21, leaving so much time to see more. I’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef, island-hopped on jet skis in Fiji, driven across the countryside in New Zealand and spear fished in the Bahamas, but so far, London is my favorite.
This is actually my second time being in London. The first time, I came on a whim in the middle of my third semester at Ball State. I traveled here with my two best friends and it was a blast, but much of that time was spent pub-crawling and not actually seeing the sites and taking in the culture.
Seeing that the Olympic Games are being held here, I can’t think of a better time to come back. I’ve seen so much that I missed the first time I was here, such as Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.
Another thing that I have found entertaining was randomly finding the very first pub I went to when I was here before with my friends. I was walking down the street and started to recognize the area. Then three minutes later, I ran straight into the George. I immediately took a picture and shared it with my friends back at home.
I have traveled many places, but I have never been back to them. There is something different about London, though. It’s a city that, in the end, I can’t seem to get away from.
Michael Kerkhoff | Sports Reporter
How did I manage this? The power of Twitter.
I sent a tweet last week saying how cool it would be to get to meet some professional journalists currently in England doing Olympic coverage and included his Twitter handle in it. Less than an hour later, he replied back saying he was getting into London on Aug. 7 and would be happy to meet for coffee. When the alert came on my phone, I had to read it over several times to make certain my phone wasn’t playing a trick on me.
It wasn’t. And after a few tweets back and forth, we had arranged to meet Wednesday morning in Russell Square.
For those who don’t know who Wahl is, I suggest you look him up. He’s perhaps one of the most established senior writers at Sports Illustrated. He’s been a senior soccer writer for SI since 2000 and covers World Cups, the Euro Championships and the Olympic Games. His biography on SI.com says he’s written 31 cover stories for the magazine. And he has more than 230,000 followers on Twitter. Getting the chance to meet and talk sports journalism with him is something I couldn’t pass up.
After getting our coffees, Wahl and I sat at one of the tables and he asked me a few questions about myself. I explained to him what BSU at the Games is and what we’re doing, and he was impressed with what we’ve been able to produce despite not having credentials to events. I also got to tell Wahl what I do for the Ball State Daily News and other events I’ve covered in my short career.
But I was more interested in learning about how he got to SI. He said after his internship at The Miami Herald, he received an offer from SI to be a fact-checker. Having just graduated from college, he said it was too good an offer not to accept. After doing some writing on college basketball and soccer on the side, ESPN offered him a position to be a full-time soccer writer. SI matched the offer, and he’s held the position since then.
The best piece of advice he gave me for trying to land a job after I leave Ball State is to have something on a résumé that makes you stand out. He laughed and said my experience for BSU at the Games will be the thing that makes me stand out on mine.
We talked more on how sports is becoming a big player in social media, especially on Twitter, and his experiences covering some of the major soccer events in the world. The biggest thing he is working on at SI is making sure he is being as efficient as possible because of the costs to send him around the world.
We wrapped up our conversation after about an hour, as he had to get in touch with his bosses and prepare for the women’s soccer final. I left the Starbucks inspired to work my way to Wahl’s level. Being able to cover soccer matches around the world, on its biggest stages, would definitely be a dream job.
Having more than 230,000 followers on Twitter would be pretty cool too.
Mat Mikesell | Sports Reporter
We seem to think we always have to be on the go—our mindset programmed to fast forward. Living a life set on fast forward may be good for some, but when I remember to take a minute and press the pause button, I am overwhelmed by an indescribable feeling.
Working on stories, my body had been cemented to the kitchen chair for what felt like only five minutes, but in reality was tiptoeing on six hours. The emptiness in my stomach turned into a nauseating feeling taking over my concentration. When I finally succumbed to the growling noises in my stomach at 10 p.m., my flatmate and I went out in search of dinner.
Our decision was easily made for us as we approached the last restaurant on the strip of South Bank, “Giraffe”. The faultless scenery and perfect weather added to our very European dinner of nachos and bruschetta.
It was while we were waiting on our check I had unknowingly pressed my own pause button. A serene feeling came over my body, and it was then when I finally allowed myself to be in the moment.
Our waiter seemed to enjoy chatting with us and didn’t hesitate to point out that we weren’t from Europe. He began to talk about his childhood of growing up in Peru and the memories he had as a child. For a minute, I thought that I was in the backyard of his grandmother’s house, too.
“Every morning, I would wake up and go sit outside on a swing my grandmother had in her backyard. The sunrises in Peru are unforgettable,” our waiter said. The picture he began to paint felt as if it was just yesterday morning he had been there.
“Sitting on the swing, the sun resting on my face every morning, I will never forget it. I miss it,” he said.
Not only was I living in a “pause” moment, our waiter was too. This moment is a universal place everyone around the world visits—the place we go in our heads that makes us feel at home.
The options of what to do in London at night are endless, and that’s why my flatmate and I decided to do nothing at all after dinner. As we walked home, our conversations subsided and the serendipitous evening we had just had became one of the best moments I have had in London.
Charlotte Dunlap | Features Reporter
While in London, I never expected to go to Olympic Park or the Main Press Center. That changed when I was told I was picked to receive a guest credential pass. I would tour the center and walk around Olympic Park.
I left the flat early in the morning to meet up with our contact, Peggy Manter, that was getting me in. On my way from one tube to the other, I ran into my first problem of the day — the tube I needed was down, so I had to take a train to Olympic Park. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t the case. I only knew where to go through the tube stations and the stops made on the above ground train are not the same. So, now, I am someone who does not know London very well trying to get to Olympic Park. It was very frustrating until I finally asked for help from the people who work for the trains.
I finally arrived at the proper station and got off the crowded train. I walked through the crowd of people, making my way to the area where I would get our guest passes. After about six minutes of battling traffic I got to the proper place. I walked in and received my pass without any problems. I headed to security where I was told I could not go any further without an escort. I spent the next hour frantically trying to get a hold of Peggy. It was the most frustrating part of the whole trip because we had no WiFi outside Olympic Park. Whose idea was that? WiFi outside the park would have made too much sense. So, I had to keep returning to the crowded mall, which was a three or four minute walk, which I had to do almost 100 times. Peggy finally emails me and said she will not pick us up but someone named Nikki would.
Nikki finally showed up about 30 minutes later and took me through the park. She was my ticket to get through security. She walked us through the park, stopping and letting me take pictures of all the amazingly big complexes. I wanted to go inside all of them and watch what was going on. I arrived at the Media Center and was told I could go to a press conference being held.
I knew there was one with Team USA Track & Field, but didn’t know if I could get in. Finally, I get in and I get a big rush as I realize I am a journalist covering the Olympic Games. It was an amazing feeling, making me for sure know this is the career field I want to get into. I sat and listened while other journalist shot questions at the Olympians. It was an amazing experience as I gathered material to write my own stories. The press conference is the best and most enjoyable thing I have been to this whole Olympics.
After the press conference we went to the official Olympic store. It was full of people trying to find the perfect gifts. I found a T-shirt for my younger sister and I got my younger brother, who is about to get his drivers license, an Olympic key chain. As we made our way through the mall, a fellow BSU at the Games student spotted a former New York Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada. I am a huge Yankee fan, so I was star struck. I wanted to go get a picture with him didn’t want to bother him. After thinking it over, I was convinced to go and talk to him because what was the worst we could do? Say no and then we just keep on our merry way? So I walked up to him and shook his hand as I said I am a huge Yankees fan and he was one of my favorites. I then asked for a picture and he said he would. When he said yes I could not stop smiling.
I felt like I was on top of the world.
So, what started out as a rough morning of delayed tubes and not knowing who was coming to get me, ended with a great story to share with people and a picture with one of my favorite athletes.
Charlie Akers | Sports Reporter
I’m the faculty advisor to the features team. I was a newspaper features writer for years, and Ryan and I used to work at papers together. So these long nights, long meetings, long periods of simultaneous exhaustion and exhilaration we’re experiencing here with our 40 students at the Olympic Games seem sort of warmly familiar to me. It reminds me of my early newsrooms, of being 20-something with other 20-somethings who just wanted to do good work and see their names in black-and-white print somewhere.
What has surprised me is how it feels to be 39 and watching it happen from the outside—how it feels to help nudge the process forward, to initiate young people into what has to be one of the most demanding, difficult and wonderful jobs anyone can have.
Working through the night of the Opening Ceremony, with dawn starting to soak through the curtains of my London flat, I looked around at all the students staring down into laptops, complaining, laughing, passing a bag of chips, arguing about ledes, and I found myself thinking of Marilyn Young. She was my best and favorite editor in that period of my life. (She’s at the Jacksonville Times-Union now.) A word from her, positive or negative, could make or destroy my day.
Suddenly I saw myself as she must have seen me then, with my lazy streak, my stubbornness, my flashes of anger and occasional petulance, my imagination, my passionate energy, my bursts of insight and raw talent. I must have annoyed the crap out of her sometimes. I must have delighted her when I did something right.
Marilyn made me a better writer, and she trained me in a job that is also a calling. She overlooked my periodic 20-something dumbassery because she believed in my potential.
Now my little team of features writers is wandering around London getting cussed out in multiple languages, struck down with food poisoning and lost on the Tube, and I’m trying to channel Marilyn. I’m petting, cajoling and threatening them as the situation seems to require.
And when they do something right—for example, when a once-shy girl brought home the perfect interview, and another saw her work published in the Huffington Post—I am proud. I am as proud as if I saw my own name there.
I am hopeful I have given a little of what I received.
Colleen Steffen | Features Editor
I was standing in Victoria Park watching the Opening Ceremony with a mass of people from all over the world, watching the fireworks in the distant sky and singing “Hey Jude,” when it hit me: I am in England—at the Olympics.
This is real life.
And just like anything in life, it isn’t all fun and games.
With the exception of trying to beat jet lag, I have yet to have a full night’s sleep. Between fruit and cider runs to Tesco Express and a morning coffee from Costa or Starbucks, my money seems to just disappear before my eyes. My feet always seem to be dirty, and the rain just doesn’t agree with my canvas shoes.
It doesn’t matter.
We have been in England for just about a week and already this has been a huge and rewarding learning experience in so many ways. Our graphics group has been working so hard, and we are seeing our dedication pay off with published pieces in the Chicago Tribune. As a student journalist, that makes your heart skip a beat.
We began to realize just how big this is and the potential it holds.
Working in the graphics group we have a policy for this whole experience — positivity. It started in the late hours of working in a hot flat for about 14 hours our first day in England. It was one rule, from one member. But now, it has become our group’s policy.
Keep it positive.
One of the first things we learn as designers is Gestalt theory: the whole is greater that the sum of its parts. I say we should apply that to our experience in London. Because no matter how hard it is to find WiFi, and no matter how much your eyes hurt from staring at the screen for too long, it doesn’t matter.
The overall experience is greater than all the little ups and downs.
Just like when I think back on watching the Opening Ceremony at Victoria Park, I won’t dwell on how badly my feet hurt or how I hadn’t had food or water in 14 hours. I will remember connecting with people on a level that transcends language and cultural barriers.
The Olympic Games brings people together, plain and simple. And if that isn’t something to be positive about, I don’t know what is.
Stephanie Meredith | Designer
London is like hairspray—just one spritz is not enough.
Maybe that’s not the best analogy, but I just bought a new bottle at Boots (an English version of CVS) and applied it in my flat while using Photo Booth as a mirror. Don’t worry my curls didn’t suffer.
This is round two for me in London. It’s just as I remembered it. You know, except for the Olympics and all.
This time around, there will be some old and some new. Old is awesome by the way. During my first day in London I, as well as some other BSU at the Games students, walked along River Thames and visited the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge. These sites never get old.
It was a really cool feeling taking my friends, who have never been to London, to see those sites. I felt like a tour guide, and I loved it.
We also worked on mastering the tube system—inventing a “tube route quiz” to really help them get a good grip on it. By the end of the day I’d say they were doing pretty well!
New is just as awesome. New sites (Olympic sites that is), new pubs and new people are all on the agenda.
Did I say new pubs? Let me tell you about the new pubs. A friend and I went to a place called The Cider Tap. Conveniently enough, The Euston Tap was right across the street. We were our own game of pinball—bouncing from one pub to the next. It ruled.
Nothing beats the people of London. Yes, pubs are good for beer, but they’re better for meeting people. Good conversation is waiting to be had over a good English ale. Cheers to Pete, Stu, Sean, the Fro brothers, Sophie and Kerry. Oh, and Rory, the one with the hilarious American impression… “Oh my God, are you from England?”
Moral of the story: you can never use too much hairspray.
Alix Sappington | Public Relations
I’m so excited to have been given the opportunity to partner with The Chicago Tribune. Although I am a senior in college and well into my major, it amazes me how much I’ve already learned from my editor, Alex Bordens, in less than a week!
Currently working in Worcester has allowed me to get my hands on some great graphics work. The projects have tight deadlines, and with the rest of my team working in London, I was able to help Alex out with a few graphics that were due back in Chicago on Saturday. I was a bit nervous, but obviously I took him up on the offer and got right to work.
Slowly but surely I’m going to get faster and better with these programs. I picked up a venue graphic about ExCeL, London’s largest venue, as well as a small locator map and a swimsuit graphic that Emily, Sarah, Jen and I were given a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately, because of the results of one of the races, it seems as though our swimsuit graphic won’t be running any time soon. Looks like the athletes are actually talented enough to win medals without that fancy swimsuit worn in the Beijing Games.
Anyway, working with The Chicago Tribune also means I have to follow its style guide and overall flow of design, work, research, etc. This is a big jump from my usual work, which has always allowed me design freedom and never had a strong student-media focus.
This is a huge step for me, but one that I am happy to take. This fast pace and strict way of working is keeping me on my toes as well as allowing me to explore newspaper design. In the long run, I am confident that this work will improve my overall skills as a designer, and that is something I am excited for.
During the summer weeks when a few other designers and I worked with Alex, we found it difficult to send our files back and forth for editing. Having him here now brings us such relief. I know what to change right then and there, what works and what doesn’t, and what needs more attention—all bettering my understanding of the Tribune’s design style.
I’m still finding myself struggling to really go out and show what I can do. Maybe it’s some sort of stage fright or maybe it’s not—either way I am hopeful that I will be able just to relax and realize that this what I love to do. I shouldn’t hold myself back for fear of failure. Besides, producing multiple drafts doesn’t mean that I’m failing. It means that I am moving one step closer to the final product.
Lastly, can I just freak out about the fact that my name, alongside my peers’, will appear in bylines in multiple issues of The Chicago Tribune? OH MY GOSH. I am so lucky and could not be happier to be in this position. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and one that is stationed in the city of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Best. Summer. Ever.