Postcards from Sochi: Asbury at the Olympics

On the news!

News packages produced by Asbury University students in Sochi have appeared on air and on the website of television station LEX18. Take a look!

Asbury Graduate Credits Kentucky for First Steps in Career that Led to Sochi

Asbury Student Working in Sochi to Bring Back Experience, Culture

Bluegrass is Known in Sochi ... Kind of


Rest day

Feb. 16, 2014

Today began by filming footage of pin trading, an addictive hobby that people at the Olympics quickly pick up. After that, we met for lunch — “pancakes,” or crepes stuffed with meat inside them — and headed to Adler to enjoy some shopping in a Russian mall.

At the mall, we enjoyed some scrumptious ice cream at a small ice-cream shop run by a sweet Russian woman. Though she didn’t speak much English and we barely spoke any Russian, it was cool to be able to communicate despite the language barrier. Just like other Russians we’ve encountered, this woman was one of the kindest people we’ve met so far.

After strolling around Adler for a while, we happened upon an Olympic festival called Sochi Live Stream where we stopped to enjoy an outdoor concert.  The performers were a group of around 10 kids singing and dancing in Russian. Though it was raining and the temperatures were dropping, we couldn’t resist watching the kids sing and dance. Their moves were up there with Michael Jackson, and there was nothing we could do to stop our hands from clapping and our heads from bobbing.

We split up for dinner. Half of us went to a small Russian diner close to the hotel, while the other half of the group went at a Burger King in a nearby mall. Although we have enjoyed getting to try many Russian delicacies, a taste of home was much needed.

We will all be resting up tonight for a trip up to the mountains tomorrow. It will be the first time there for some of the group and we can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Asbury University journalism students
Asbury student film crews become part of the scenery for bystanders at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.


Olympic Spirit

Feb. 15, 2014

Instead of our normal routine of hitting Olympic Park right after breakfast, today we took things a little slower. We spent the better half of the morning laying out our stories and deciding what extra footage we would need to make them ready to air on LEX18.

Following our team meeting about the stories, we decided our best bet to get the extra footage would be returning to Olympic Park. What we didn’t factor in was that it’s Saturday and everyone in Sochi was wanting into the park as well. We were unable to get tickets.

Asbury University journalism students
Asbury student Alex Heath films a television intro near Olympic Park.

Part of what we have been learning on this trip is flexibility, which means you always need a plan B. This meant we had to think fast in order to make the most of our day and stay productive. We decided to shoot as much as we could without going into Olympic Park.

The IBC (International Broadcast Center) seemed like the best opportunity for footage. We shot Alex’s promo and intro for a story we are working on for LEX18. Following that we took the train back and filmed a few more promos and enjoyed the coastal view.

This evening for dinner we ate a delicious restaurant called Laluna, where they had the hockey game between Russia and the U.S. playing. We were obviously outnumbered in cheering on the States. However, when T.J. Oshie scored the game-winning goal, the true Olympic spirit was revealed. Several Russians came by our table and congratulated us on the win.

Moments like that remind us we are truly living out a great experience. Not only do we have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cover the Olympics in Russia, we are also able to represent the States and Asbury University alike.


Thoughts on Kentucky

Feb. 14, 2014

It’s our fourth day here in Sochi and things are in full swing. Our team has become more of a big family and we are learning how to function as one. We started our day as usual with traditional Russian breakfast at the hotel and a team meeting to establish what adventures the rest of the day would hold.

On the agenda for today: productivity at its finest. After breakfast, we packed up just about every piece of equipment that we brought and headed out to film three separate stories.

Asbury University journalism students
Junior Cassie Gerhardstein interviews an Olympic spectator about pin collecting.

Our first stop was the International Broadcast Center, which is the building where all the international news coverage is located. After a surprise visit from some fellow Asburians working in different venues at the Olympics and shooting a short interview with Asbury senior Chard Warner about his experience at the games, we were ready to get to work. While we will get to take a tour of the building tomorrow, our goal today was to hunt down dedicated Olympic pin traders that set up camp outside the main door and trade pins for hours on end. Lucky for us, there was no shortage of pin entrepreneurs. We ended up interviewing a man named Doug, who has been pin trading at every Olympics since 1984.  

After a good amount of time wheeling and dealing for pins, we jumped on a train and headed to Olympic Park, where we filmed a story about Russian perceptions of Kentucky. It was surprisingly hard to find Russian natives who not only spoke English, but also were willing to be interviewed on camera. Our group got a good chuckle out of hearing what our new foreign friends thought of when they heard “Kentucky.” Of course, Kentucky Fried Chicken was one of the most popular responses. We were amazed at how our very own chicken joint is an international phenomenon.

After a long day of work, our stomachs demanded a reward. We settled in at an adorable Georgian restaurant in downtown Adler, a suburb of Sochi, for a family dinner where we feasted on amazing food and left with full stomachs. Adler is also responsible for the most breathtaking part of the evening: a photo shoot in front of Olympic rings that overlooked the Black Sea at sunset. The rest of the night was spent editing and preparing for another busy day tomorrow!


Filming, editing and ice cream

Feb. 13, 2014

Today, we got to sleep in and recover from the busyness of the last couple of days. After we met for a late breakfast, we again split up into two groups to make the most of our day. Professor Leckie and Mrs. Owens took Madison and Meredith to the beach and the Olympic Park train station to capture extra footage. While at the beach, Meredith and Madison captured footage of people swimming in the balmy 57-degree weather.

Meanwhile, Cassie, Karis, Ashley, Aaron and Alex stayed behind to finish editing news packages on Asbury students at the Olympics and the unusually warm weather and to finish writing articles on Olympic bobsledder Dallas Robinson and professional skier Jay Panther.

When we all met up again, we filmed Cassie reporting in front of the Caucasus Mountains as the sun was setting. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, and the snow-capped mountains reminded us once again that we were most definitely not in Kentucky.

Later, we went to the Russian Kitchen, a restaurant in our complex to enjoy some Russian food while watching ice skating on the television. Tomorrow, we are going to Olympic Park in the coast to shoot extra footage and hopefully do a few interviews with different people. In the evening, we’ll go to Adler to see the sunset over the Olympic rings.

Asbury University journalism students
Junior Cassie Gerhardstein reports a story in front of the Caucasus Mountains.


An athlete's perspective

Feb. 12, 2014

If you would have told us when we woke up this morning that our day would consist of standing three feet away from silver and gold medalists and sitting in a Russian McDonalds with an Olympic athlete, we would have told you that was too good to be true. But after today, anything is possible in Sochi.

Asbury University journalism student Meredith Schellin
Journalism major Meredith Schellin was part of a team that interviewed athlete Dallas Robinson for a television news package.

This morning when we met for breakfast we were informed that we had an amazing opportunity to interview the only athlete competing in these games from Kentucky. His name is Dallas Robinson, and he's a bobsledder for the USA team. He competes on the four-man team and is a two-man specialist, which means he'll compete in two different bobsledding events, yet he still graciously gave us an interview.

Professor Lecki split our team in half and took Aaron, Ashley and Meredith to meet up with him at the Olympic Park in the mountains, while the rest of the team worked on other stories in the coastal Olympic Park. Once we met up with Dallas in the mountains, we did several different interviews with him.

Following our interviews, we all went to McDonalds and we had casual conversations about his family, what life holds for him after bobsledding (this is probably his last season), his love of coaching track and his faith.

Once we finished our meal, Dallas showed us around the Olympic Park and we finally got to taste Russian ice cream, even if it was just the Russian version of Baskin Robbins.

We ended our day with getting extra footage of the mountains and the people at the park, observing the athletes and TV crews around us, pin trading with NBC correspondents and security workers and checking out the local shops and restaurants.

This evening we will edit our footage from today and get back out there tomorrow and do it all over again. We continue to be amazed with the opportunities God and Asbury has provided for us on this trip and can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store. 


Unexpected friendships

Today Madison, Cassie, Alex and Karis trekked to Olympic Park to see our first official Olympic Event (hockey: Germany vs. Sweden) and a fellow Asbury student who’s currently working at the Olympics as a Camera Assistant. After we cleared security and made it into the park, it was nothing but true Olympic spirit. As we made our way through the crowd, we happened upon a Russian man named Anton. He was so excited to learn that we were Americans. We decided to give him an Asbury pin as a token of our newfound friendship. Pin trading is a fun and unique element of the games. Corporations give their employees pins to represent them at the games. They serve as a great conversation starter and have become the “official currency” of the games throughout the years. Spectators collect them and trade them with others, and pin trading has become a common language between the different nationalities.

This afternoon Alex and Madison had the opportunity to enjoy some traditional Russian dancing and conversation with Anton (courtesy of the iTranslate app). We were able to truly expand our worldview by getting to know a Russian native on a personal level. Madison was also able to get to know and interview a Russian fashion designer today, Susanna Makerova. After their interview, Susanna generously gave Madison a handcrafted scarf from her line to remember her by. All in all, today was just so full of pleasant surprises and unexpected friendships. We are so thankful for the hospitality of the Russian people.

Later we received a text saying that we had been invited to view a live taping of the NBC Today Show. We were just feet away from Matt Lauer, Meredith Vierra, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker as they taped their remote broadcast from the Olympic Park. It was absolutely incredible to be so close to people that we as journalists have looked up to and been so inspired by. We were even on the Today Show for a moment! After that we called for Al, who very willingly took a photo with us.

After a busy day of filming, networking and walking we decided it was time for some dinner and quality editing time back at the hotel. Just beyond the train station entrance we saw a perfectly placed set of Olympic rings. Directly behind them the sun was setting above the Black Sea. We all felt beyond blessed to see such a beautiful image of God’s creation.


Getting settled

Feb. 11, 2014

After almost 30 hours of travel, we arrived at the airport in Sochi around 7:15 p.m. Russian time and 10:15 a.m. Kentucky time on Sunday. After a much-needed Russian snack we headed straight to bed in preparation for our first day.

7:30 a.m. came early the next morning and we started our day with a Russian continental breakfast complete with porridge and pancakes (the Russian version of crepes). After fueling up for the day, we walked to Olympic Park to get spectator passes which will allow us to see events, and saw our first Sochi sunrise over the mountains.

We were surprised to find that Sochi is a large region with many suburbs. Our hotel is located in Adler, a suburb about 45 minutes (by train) away from downtown Sochi. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly Olympic mascots — the polar bear, hare and leopard — who allowed us the honor of getting a picture with them and kicked off our Olympic adventures.

Asbury University journalism students
Students used a broadcast on the beach to illustrate Sochi's surprising weather.

From there, we headed to the Sochi Media Center, where we received our press passes and became official journalists. Sochi is a beautiful resort town on the Black sea, and the rocky beach and crashing waves became the backdrop for our first story. With junior Ashley Walls in a bathing suit and fur hat, we filmed our first story about the unrealistic weather perceptions of Russia. Because Sochi is subtropical, the weather is warmer here than any other location that has ever hosted the winter Olympics. The high today was over 60 degrees and will remain in the upper 50s through the end of the week.

Between the intense jet lag and some exercise, we are exhausted but wouldn’t have it any other way. We are loving every second of this beautiful, energetic city and the opportunity we’ve been given, and we are so thankful to Asbury for making this trip a possibility.

--Asbury's journalism team

Asbury University journalism students
A team of journalism students from Asbury will spend the next two weeks in Sochi, Russia, to cover Olympic events.


Asbury Students to Help Cover Olympic Games

Feb. 5, 2014

When millions of global citizens turn on their televisions on Friday to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, they may not see any Asbury students — but they will definitely see the impact of their work behind the scenes.

Asbury University students at the London Olympics
Asbury students have worked both as freelance journalists and as part of broadcast teams in various venues.

Since 1984, Asbury students have served in various capacities as paid employees at each Olympic Games location. This year, 29 Media Communication students and three professors have traveled to Sochi to help broadcast different Olympic events to the world. Tasks for the students who work at Olympic sporting venues include filming events, working with microphones, research, transporting and setting up equipment, handling cables and other opportunities depending on the student’s particular job.

In recent years, media outlets in the United States have engaged additional Asbury students to cover the event for their audiences. A group of seven journalism students have partnered with Lexington, Ky., news station LEX18 as well as other media — magazines, Web sites, newspapers — to put together news packages and report human-interest stories from the event. LEX18 viewers were introduced to the students and Asbury Assistant Professor Sarah Leckie during a spot on Monday. (Click here to watch the video.)

Asbury junior Cassie Gerhardstein will travel with the journalism group for her second Olympic experience — she also worked as a student journalist in London during the Summer Games in 2012.

Asbury University student Cassie Gerhardstein
Cassie Gerhardstein '15 interviewed visitors to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.

“When I look back on the past three years I've spent at Asbury, I'm so grateful for all of the amazing experiences I've had; however, going to London is definitely the most memorable opportunity thus far,” she said. “On top of it being my first time out of the country, it was also my first time getting hands on, professional experience in my field of study. I learned so much on that trip, and when I found out that there was a chance for me to go to the Sochi games, I had to go. It’s such a unique opportunity that Asbury students have the chance to take part in. I’m also excited that I’ll be able to use what I learned in London to make our experience in Sochi even more successful.”

As Gerhardstein approaches graduation in May, she is eager to see how the opportunities she’s taken advantage of at Asbury will influence her next steps.

“Although I'm not exactly sure about the professional direction I want to go in post-graduation, working at the Olympics has sparked a passion for traveling and experiencing other parts of the world,” Gerhardstein said. “Asbury's motto is ‘Start Here. Impact the World,’ and experiencing all of the cultural diversity that the Olympics has to offer has allowed me to see how I can use the foundation I've gained at Asbury to make a difference beyond Kentucky or even the United States. There is so much world out there to see, and I hope that the Olympics are only the beginning of a lifetime of traveling that I can somehow use to make a difference.”

Asbury’s journalism students will provide digital “postcards” from the field about their experiences throughout the Olympics. Check back often for the latest updates and photos of Asburians in action!

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