Thursday, October 16, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Swimming Around the World

Danielle Sills

Oh the Places We'll Go
I have a Spanish minor, I spent three months in Pamplona, Spain, and I love the Spanish language and culture. With all the time and energy I have put into my Spanish studies, I have really developed an appreciation for unfamiliar people, places, and ideas.

So, I'll jump at any chance to report on a story about people from different cultures and countries. Ok, not any chance. But my interest in people with diverse backgrounds and histories comes naturally, and rarely would I pass up an opportunity to learn more about them.

A Fear of Sports
On the other hand, reporting on sports is not really my specialty. It's not that I don't enjoy watching a game every now and then. I'm a big Cleveland sports fan, and I have always loved supporting the teams at my high school and at Ohio University. Yet I still don't understand all the rules of every game, and I cannot come close to keeping track of records and other sports stats. I just don't feel completely qualified to tell people what's going on in the world of sports.

So when I had the opportunity to report on international students on the Women's Swimming and Diving Team, I was elated. I had a chance to focus on something I was truly passionate about, and I could avoid working on a story that focused on a game that I was uncomfortably unfamiliar with.

Making Ohio Home
My story focused on why women from Canada, England, and Brazil would come to Athens, Ohio to compete on OU's swim team. After studying abroad, I know what a big step it is to move to another country – especially a country that has different traditions and a different way of life. I was impressed by these women, before talking to them, just for the fact that they had the courage to live so far away from home for four years.

When I interviewed a few of them, their answers were truly interesting. These women are so driven. They came to Ohio purely for the love of their sport. Their determination to excel and improve their swimming or diving skills is HUGE.

Petra Chomicz came all the way from England. She says she had a good relationship with OU Swim Couch Greg Werner, and so she got on a plane for the international student orientation. When she got to OU, she fell in love with the campus. (Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine who wouldn’t.) She really wanted to find a school that would challenge her, and now that the swim season is underway, she feels like she is working hard and improving.

Laura Stasiuk came from Ontario, and she is another swimmer that gained my respect. She drives back and forth between her hometown and OU, spending two 12-hour days in the car. But she said universities in the United States provide more scholarship money and more opportunity. A big draw for her to come here was the fact that people in the states are “a lot more into sports” than they are in Canada.

It's More Than Just An Interview or Two
My admiration for these women doesn’t stop at their courage to live in a different country and adjust to a different place. They practice for hours every day, immersing themselves in their sport. Their true passion for swimming or diving is obvious when talking to them.

I am so glad I had a chance to talk to them. Every time I can learn more about what makes people tick, it clarifies things that seem foreign. And by foreign, I don’t just mean different countries and cultures. I don’t just mean the number of laps in a 100m butterfly or the number of dives in a meet. I mean being able to understand why people do what they do, and why they are the way they are. I just hope that as a journalist, as I’m learning more about the world and its people, I am helping other people do the same.

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