First Impressions

Well, I’m here.  I’ve heard about this place my entire life. I’ve read about it, seen the pictures, watched the movies, played the sports, and witnessed the other members of my family traipse across the pond, leaving me behind. Until now. Now, I’m in England, and I’ll be able to experience the country in a way they never did.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be covering the London Olympics, as a journalist, while staying in and traveling around the country.  We’ve already hit Brighton and Oxford. Stonehenge is next on our list. The Opening Ceremony is Friday.

Four days ago, when I first set foot on European soil, I was jet-lagged, dazed, and a little cranky.  I never sleep well on planes. But after riding a double decker bus through London and recording a protest on London Bridge, I’m getting into the groove. The journalistic groove. I will be learning how to navigate the trains, tube, and other forms of transportation (i.e. my own two feet) until I can weave through London like a local.

This trip is equal parts work and wish fulfillment. I can’t wait for that torch to arrive in London, to the cheers of millions of people from around the globe. To experience a once in a lifetime opportunity in the field I want to work in, this is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Journalism has its perks

This trip is full of surprises. Since I am an aspiring journalist, I don’t mind. I think surprises are what make my life entertaining. Surprises, like the car that speeds by, drenching me with a mixture of puddle water and dirt, or the first taste of cereal when the milk that you poured surprisingly has been bad since a week or two ago.

I love surprises. Little did I realize, I would actually enjoy the surprise I received on Wednesday.

But first, Monday: After class we toured The Guardian, a national British newspaper in Berliner format. It was beautiful. I loved the modern, edgy news station. It had colored furniture, a laid back atmosphere, and coffee everywhere. I could see myself working in a place like The Guardian. My classmate and fellow Londoner, Holly Moody describes our tour way better than I ever could.

Wednesday:

Kayla and I were interested in a couple of the wrestlers on the Olympic team for stories. Coleman Scott, the wrestler from Waynesburg that I mentioned a few posts back, was someone I really wanted to do a story about. He grew up 15 minutes from my house and he has a huge following in that area, and now he was in the games. Kayla and I applied to go to wrestling practice as journalists and our credentials were thankfully accepted. So off we went to the University of East London. This is where Women’s and Men’s basketball practices are as well. We made it just in time at 11 a.m. I saw Coleman just sitting on one of the benches by the mats, listening to music while the rest of the wrestlers were being surrounded by media. I approached him and reached out my hand.

“Hi, I’m Melissa and I’m a journalist from Morgantown,” I said. His face lit up.

When I asked if I could ask him some questions he did not mind at all, he was humble and happy to speak with me. I love when athletes are like this. He was easy to talk to and I enjoyed the interview. I am currently working on getting the story up so I don’t want to spoil it! Keep a look out on ourLondon site! His wife will be here on Saturday to watch him compete. Saturday will be a huge day for him, I wish him the best of luck. Go USA!

Photo by Kayla Hanley
Coleman Scott and I at USA Men’s Wrestling practice

As Kayla and I were leaving the wrestling practice, feeling very good about our interviews and content, we saw Kobe Bryant walking to the restroom right in front of us. I could not believe it!

A few of our friends in our group had access to the practice today, but they could not make it because the practice was moved up to earlier in the day. So Kayla and I attempted to get it. They let us. We walked into the gym to see the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, among many more.

Kayla and I walked around and tried to blend in with the other journalists. We tried to act like we knew what we were doing, but we didn’t and we were too ecstatic to even be there! I could not believe I was staring at these phenomenal players with my own eyes. So many of the players were surrounded by ESPN, NBC and more. It was so hard to get an interview.

Once we saw people leaving LeBron James’s side, we scooted closer. I got the recorder out and Kayla started filming. I noticed he was sort of staring at us. I looked behind my shoulder to see if there was someone else behind me, but there wasn’t. He saw our Ohio University polos, and I knew that’s what grabbed his attention.  As I got closer he finally turned towards me and said, “I like your polos.”

Kayla and I gleamed with excitement. I told him we went to school at  OU. He obviously was familiar with the school. Once we started talking I could  see a gentle smile come over his face. He realized we were so grateful to be there, and he felt that Ohio connection. I could tell he was sick of hearing the same things from the same kind of journalists. I think he felt refreshed by our bubbly presence. I asked him what emotions/feelings were different from the last Olympics and how it has felt to be a part of so many. He also talked about his mom in Akron and how he spends time in the summer there. I asked if it would be OK if we got a picture with him. He said of course. Little did we know, that is not allowed at these media practices and security started rushing towards us as the picture was snapped. LeBron spoke up defensively and said, “It’s OK. They’re from Ohio.”

After living in Ohio for a few years I started to build up my own resentment towards LeBron since many “despise” him. Today that all melted away. I remember watching “The Decision” back in high school. I never thought I would come face to face with the man who was “taking his talents to South Beach”.

Photo by Kayla Hanley
LeBron and I at the USA Men’s Basketball practice

That left my mind today. He was overall a decent, sweet man. I did not expect that attitude or kindness to come from him, but it did. He saw us as just two girls from Ohio trying to chase their dreams. I think he saw a little bit of himself in us deep down somewhere. Today I saw a soft spot in Mr. James’s heart. It was one of the highlights of my life so far to say the least.

Until next time,

Love from London,

xoxo, Mel

Once in a lifetime opportunity

As a soon-to-be sophomore in college I have learned about professional journalists and their experiences in many of my classes. Some of these writers worked their whole lives to get to where they are today.

Some journalists who are in the sports writing field have only dreamed about covering the Olympics and only a few do. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be given that experience at such a young age.

Meeting Candace Parker at Team USA’s practice on Saturday, Aug. 4.
Photo By Jillian Fellows

Coming into this program we knew what was expected of us for the program, but it hadn’t hit me that I was going to be meeting and interviewing professional and Olympic athletes. These are really the best of the best in the business.

So far this experience has been a whirlwind. From learning the train and tube systems, to speaking with organizations to gain access to the athletes and practices has put my head on a continuous spin.

However, this is a spin I never want to end. This trip was really a test for me and how I was about to see my future in journalism. I am officially convinced that this is my path for what I want to do with my life. All the hustle and bustle of emails, meetings, practices, and late nights of writing and editing is what I am passionate about.

Being so driven once I stepped foot onto London ground has made me grow up and mature in a journalist’s sense. I know the hardships that professionals go through to get their contacts and stories out on time just by experiencing the difficulties that I have had here thus far. I know this is only the beginning of my journey, but I am very lucky to say that I have been in those situations and worked through them to get my job as a student journalist accomplished.

Interview with forward Maya Moore from the Minnesota Lynx at Team USA’s practice Saturday, Aug. 4.
Photo By Jillian Fellows

I have met with professional athletes I grew up watching on TV and have even grown close with some of the families of central Ohio who have children competing in the events.  On some days here I have forgotten that I am a young college student from Ohio University, and when it hits me I can’t help but smile. I am following my dream of being a well-known journalist.

This is one of the first “big steps” I will take in my career path and even though growing up playing sports I wanted to be the one competing in the games, I am now the one covering them and that is one of the best dreams come true.

 

The day a stranger in London confirmed my future

Many times during these last few years as an aspiring journalist in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I have second guessed my future. This usually happens after I fail a journalism ethics exam or when I struggle with a story deadline.

Right in the middle of the Women’s Cycling Road Race with rain pouring down on my face, I realized that not only did I pick a major that fit me, but I also picked one of the most unique and rewarding career paths on that Student Orientation tri-fold.

Journalism.

I was talking to Chris, a volunteer for the Olympics. After giving myself my routine 30-second pep talk, I started to ask him all of the questions I was curious about for my story on the atmosphere of the event. He was friendly, helpful and once I turned my recorder off, very entertaining.

We talked about the funny differences between Brits and Americans. I told him all about my embarrassing train ride where I hit an English man with my baguette on accident. He shared stories of growing up in London. We were guessing why dogs seemed prettier in England and why lamb tastes so much better back in the states. I did my best British accent, which is absolutely terrible. I even confided in him about the few rude encounters I have had with some Brits. He gave me advice on how to make the most of my time here.

“Don’t take us so seriously,” he said.

He was right. I was too focused on fitting in. Talking with Chris was entertaining and interesting. If it weren’t for my role as a reporter to approach strangers and engage them, I would have never met Chris. I would have stood on the side of the road with my fellow American friends having a much more mediocre version of the road race.

I had overlooked this side of the job until London. Students studying abroad in other career fields may not have met all of the wonderful foreigners I have so far. They would not get to know a Brit past, “Do you know where Big Ben is sir?” As for my journalism friends and I, we’re filled with names and life stories in just a few days of being abroad. All of the strangers that I have gotten to talk with downtown, on the train or even in the pubs, have helped shape my time abroad.

The skills I have developed in Scripps have not only taught me how to get the best quote I can for my story, but also how to experience places and people on such a deeper level. I have not traveled much in my (almost) 21 years in this world, but being in England and being a journalist have made all of my confused stars align.

If you are not a journalist yourself, it may be hard to understand what I am getting at. However, you do know the feeling after having a really rewarding, intriguing conversation with someone you just met. Journalists get to do this everyday.

People may think they’re just helping me do my job, but really they’re helping to open my eyes.