Sunday, August 26, 2012

SUSI scholars attend AEJMC Conference in Chicago

By Lindsay Boyle

From August 9 through August 12, the 2012 SUSI scholars participated in the 2012 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference in Chicago.

The SUSI summer institute — in which scholars from all over the world come to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University to study journalism and media — is funded by an annual renewable grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Study of the U.S. Branch in the Office of Academic Exchange Programs.

The AEJMC Conference is an annual event in which journalism scholars from throughout the United States and around the world engage in panels, presentations and other sessions related to research and teaching.

While in Chicago, the scholars were free to attend sessions of their choice, as well as other events such as a keynote ceremony and evening receptions. Many scholars also used some of their free time to go sightseeing in the city.

Scholar Dr. Aysha Abughazzi said that the conference well organized, but added that she sometimes had trouble choosing among the many simultaneous sessions.

“Other than that, I enjoyed attending sessions, getting to know new people in the field and sharing in the discussions,” she said.

Scholars Prof. Godfrey Danaan, Prof. Alexandre Twizeyumukiza, Prof. Hugo Zarate and Prof. Divine Bisong pose for a picture in between sessions at the AEJMC 2012 Conference.

During the afternoon of Friday, August 9, six SUSI scholars were part of a panel that was moderated by professor Mary Rogus, academic director of the OU SUSI program. The session was called “Arab Spring on TV: Global Perspectives on Coverage by CNN, BBC and Aljazeera.”

The six participating scholars were Abughazzi, from Jordan; Dr. Murad Abdullah, from Yemen; Dr. Alexsandr Kazakov, from Russia; Prof. Hugo Zarate, from The Bahamas; Dr. Ibaa Awad, from Sudan, and Prof. Taimoor Noori, from Afghanistan. They each spoke about various aspects of media coverage and public opinion of the Arab Spring as experienced in their countries.

“I was privileged to participate in such an international conference,” Abughazzi said. “It allowed me and my colleagues — who come from six different countries that are either directly or not directly involved in the events of the Arab Spring — to share with other scholars in the field our side of the story on a very hot and controversial topic.”

She explained that people of different countries watch different news stations to receive information about the Arab Spring based on how trustworthy they think the stations are and what kind of agenda they think the stations have. In Jordan, she said that Aljazeera is usually the public’s first choice, although some Jordanians also tune in to Western media outlets such as CNN and BBC.

SUSI scholar Dr. Murad Abdullah presents during the Arab Spring panel at the AEJMC 2012 Conference in Chicago, Ill.

Abughazzi said that the feedback she and her colleagues received about their panel was favorable.

“Many panel attendees continued the discussion on the various aspects of the topic — coverage of the Arab Spring — following the panel,” she said. “The questions we received indicated to us that people in the west were interested in learning our side of the story.”

On Thursday, August 8, SUSI Program Director Dr. Yusuf Kalyango was a panelist during a session called “African Media, the Arab Spring and Democratization: The ‘Unseen’ and ‘Unmentioned’ Social Side of the News Revolution.”

Specifically, Kalyango discussed media and democratization in Africa in relation to one overarching question: “Is an Arab Spring conceivable in Africa?”

Kalyango also coauthored a paper about social networking in India. The paper was presented in a refereed research paper session on Thursday, and also won the Asian Journal of Communication Award for International Communication Research. One of the other authors of that paper, Dr. Peddiboyina Vijaya Lakshmi, was a 2011 OU SUSI scholar.

The 2011 SUSI scholar Dr. Peddiboyina Vijaya Lakshmi and Dr. Yusuf Kalyango receive an International Communication Research Award sponsored by the Asian Journal of Communication Award. 

In addition, SUSI program assistants Sally Ann Cruikshank, Ashley Furrow and Jim DeBrosse presented a total of eight papers at the AEJMC Conference.

Papers authored or co-authored by Furrow discussed topics such as the mission of Champion magazine, an influential female sportswriter named Mary Garber, and fans’ perceptions of local and national media coverage of college sports scandals.

Cruikshank’s papers examined issues such as media coverage of the genocides in southern Sudan and in Rwanda, as well as media coverage of France’s burqa ban.

One of DeBrosse’s papers offered strategies for reporters to challenge customer access barriers at shopping malls, while his other paper examined the censorship of Wikimedia versus that of mainstream media.

Collectively, OU graduate students had a total of 19 papers accepted into the 2012 AEJMC Conference.

Cruikshank said the benefits of attending AEJMC will last long after the conference is over for scholars.

“It’s a chance to connect with other scholars who share similar research and teaching interests,” she said. “In fact, two scholars from last year’s SUSI program at Scripps enjoyed the conference so much, they came back again this year. It was great to see them there."

Program assistant Sally Ann Cruikshank poses with SUSI scholars Prof. Karlyga Myssayeva, Prof. Suren Deheryan and Prof. Bogdana Nosova at the AEJMC Opening Reception.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Final Thoughts: London OLympics

by Jillian Fellows,
Covering the London Olympics

After three and a half weeks of living out a dream, my time in England is coming to an end.  However, I still have a lot to write about.  I want to try and sum up the last, and busiest, week of the trip.  So sit back and relax, I’m about to cover a lot of ground in a small space.

On August 4th, I got to go to a U.S. women’s basketball practice.  There are a lot of rules and regulations that the media has to follow in a situation like that.  We’re allowed into the gym for the last 30 minutes of practice.  Usually the players are shooting around or talking with the coach at that point.  As soon as the team starts to break up and head to the showers, that’s when the reporters pounce.  If there’s one thing that this trip has taught me is that my chosen profession is very predatory.  We descend on a good news story like a vulture on a slab of road kill by the side of the road. 

On this day, there wasn’t too much media presence.  The U.S. women’s team is a dominant force and are in the midst of a 40+ win streak that dates back to 1992, so there wasn’t much doubt about who would win gold.  (They did indeed bring home the gold after beating France in the finals.)  The relative quiet played to my advantage.  Me and my fellow OU students got to have personal, face-to-face interviews with several of the players, including the star Candace Parker.  It was definitely a surreal experience.  These are players that I’ve seen on television and whose names I’ve heard spoken about on ESPN for years.  Actually seeing and talking to them in real life was pretty cool.

Let’s fast forward to August 9th, when another milestone in my trip occurred.  For the first time, I got to attend a press conference in the Media Press Center in Olympic Park.  Other students in my group have gone to press conferences (some even chanced upon Michael Phelps’ final press conference), but it was finally my turn in the rotation.  Since it was pretty late into the Games and a lot of the events were either done or winding down, I wasn’t expecting too much. 

We walked into the main conference room for the IOC conference.  For those who don’t know, the IOC is the governing body of the Olympics.  They are in charge of everything.  The room wasn’t full so we got good seats and set up our recorders and cameras.  I looked across the nametags on the table at the front of the room to see who would be in attendance.  The big name was Sebastian Coe, the head of the London 2012 bid and Chairman for the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.  Then another name popped out at me.  Gabrielle Douglas.

If you haven’t heard of Gabby Douglas by now, you should have.  She’s America’s new sweetheart.  And frankly, she deserves it.  She’s 16 years old, and she is the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual and team all-around competitions in the same Olympics.  She is also the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become individual all-around champion.  She’s also pretty darn cute. 

She bounced into the room like a bubble and was all toothy smiles and excitement for the duration of the conference.  As one of the darlings of the London Games, it was exciting to see her and have the opportunity to ask her questions.

Following the press conference, we went out into the Olympic Park.  Now, technically, we didn’t have tickets to get into the Olympic Park, we only had our press passes.  It’s a good thing we subscribe to the ‘act like you know what you’re doing so no one questions you’ way of life.  We waltzed through the gates and into the Olympic Park unchallenged. 

Our first stop was the Coca-Cola Beat Box, which was a pretty cool piece of architecture designed to produce music.  As you passed through, you could place your palm on little speakers and create music, or wave your hand in front of it to change the tempo.  On the ground floor there was a dance show, where we all got free Cokes.  I'm a big fan of free stuff.

We walked around for a while and saw the Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome, and Park Live, where a giant screen had been set up for thousands of people to watch.  We spent most of the day there and were reluctant to leave.

The last thing I want to talk about happened on August 11th.  I went to the women’s basketball bronze medal game between Australia and Russia.  It was held in the same arena as the gymnastics event I went to before, so it was interesting to see how they had transformed the floor for the basketball game.

I decided to cheer for Australia, because by virtue of being Australian they were automatically ten times cooler than everyone else.  I chose right.  Australia dominated most of the game, although Russia came back towards the end to keep it interesting.  The final score was 83-74, but as usual, it was the atmosphere within the arena that made the game unforgettable. 

The Closing Ceremonies are now done and finished.  The athletes have all packed up and gone home.  London is returning to it's regularly scheduled programming.  I’m back home now as well.  When my family and friends ask me how the trip was, I struggle to find the right words.  I usually settle on awesome or amazing, but somehow that doesn't quite do it justice.  Those three weeks seemed both unbearably long and tragically short.  My first time visiting England had not been a disappointment and I got to experience things some people only dream about.  This was a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip and I’m so happy I got the opportunity.

See you in Rio in 2016. 

Hopping on the Gymnastics Bandwagon

by Jillian Fellows,
Covering the London Olympics
Guys, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Gymnastics are awesome.

Nobody ever hears about gymnastics outside of the Olympics but trust me, it is something unforgettable to see in person.  I had the good fortune of having (really good) tickets to the men’s individual all-around finals.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I’d never seen a gymnastics event live before and walking into North Greenwich Arena I was impressed by the set-up, but had no idea what I was looking at.  There were some bars, some mats and some rings but I didn’t know how they were going to be used.

I attended the event with three other students from my program.  We had just spent the afternoon hanging around the entrance to the Olympic Village, which is where the athletes stay.  We didn’t have passes to go inside, but there were plenty of athletes coming and going.  We took pictures with Japanese track runners, an American shot putter, and some Argentinean basketball players.  A pin trader displaying his impressive collection gave me a London 2012 pin for free, which started my own collection (I now have seven.)

By the time we got to the arena I was pretty excited.  Gymnastics is one of those events you hear about during the Olympics.  It’s one of the sports people talk about on the streets and follow on live chats throughout the day.  We were lucky to have gotten these tickets; the few remaining seats available were going for about $630.

And our seats were awesome.  We were in the lower bowl, the first section off of the floor.  Our seats were directly behind the horizontal bar station.  We could see everything, and even more importantly, take pictures of everything.

When the gymnasts came out to the loud rhythmic clapping of the spectators, my focus was entirely on John Orozco.  He was the only male gymnast I’d heard of before the event.  A 19-year-old from the Bronx, Orozco was the popular U.S. choice for medaling.

Orozco was in the first group, and their first event was the floor routine.  Maybe this is something those watching at home can’t quite grasp, but there are four different groups of about six gymnasts who rotate to different stations around the arena.  While Orozco and his group were on the floor, another group was on the pommel, a third was on the rings, and the fourth was on the vault.  It was impossible to keep an eye on all the action all the time. 

Things were progressing nicely and I found myself getting more and more enthralled.  I was learning about the sport while I was watching it.  When Orozco stumbled on the pommel, struggling to rise into a handstand, I knew he’d lose a huge amount of points.  When a Japanese gymnast stuck his landing after spinning off the parallel bars, I could tell he’d just moved up in the standings.

And I was also becoming more and more impressed with the gymnasts themselves.  The sheer athleticism on display was staggering.  The strength, precision, and flexibility required for this event were beyond anything I’d ever seen.

One gymnast in particular began to stand out.  Danell Leyva of the United States started to make a case for himself.  Like Orozco, Leyva struggled on the pommel, but brilliant routine after brilliant routine brought him back into the running.  He became my medal choice.  His final station was at the horizontal bar.  His coach (who is also his step-father) hugged him, kissed him on the forehead and then lifted Leyva onto the bar.  If Leyva wanted a medal, he couldn’t hold anything back.  This was his final chance to break into the top three.

Being the tallest gymnast there, Leyva shouldn’t have been as good on the bar routine as he was, but he flipped and flew and spun around like he was weightless.  By the end, when Leyva stuck his landing and pumped his fists toward the crowd, his step-father was running back and forth along the platform, screaming and shouting and grabbing anyone within an arm’s length to hug.

When the final scores were tallied, Leyva was in third place.  He went home with the bronze.  I watched him receive his medal and salute the fans with his bouquet of flowers.

Am I a gymnastics fan now?

I’m not sure.  There’s still so much about the sport that I don’t know, but I will say this.  Those couple of hours I spent at North Greenwich Arena were the most entertaining hours of this trip by far.  If I get the chance to go see a live gymnastics event some time in the future, I’m taking it.  You should too.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

IIJ, African Studies Program anticipate "Year for African Journalism"

By Lindsay Boyle

In recent years, the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism's Institute for International Journalism and the African Studies Program at Ohio University have gradually expanded their collaboration with each other. To showcase that expansion, the two groups have decided to hold a “Year for African Journalism” during the 2012-13 school year.

The abstract program aims to capitalize on a noticeable increase in student interest in Africa by teaching students more about African journalism. It will do so primarily by bringing two prominent African media scholars to the OU campus — one during Fall Semester and one during Spring Semester. Additional events and conferences will be held as well.

One major part of the Year for African Journalism is that Ernest Waititu will be the Glidden Visiting Professor during Fall Semester. Waititu is an OU alumnus who participated in the graduate programs of both the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the African Studies Program from 2003 to 2006, obtaining master’s degrees in both. He is currently the program director of health and digital media at Internews in Nairobi.

Internews is a U.S. government-supported NGO that provides training for journalists throughout Africa and has a goal of promoting freedom of expression. In addition to his work with that organization, Waititu founded an online news digest called Afrikanews, and has contributed to various publications in Kenya.

When he was a student at OU, he covered international news for the Athens News and was able to obtain an internship at CNN. Recently, Waititu hosted a workshop for East African journalists at his Internews offices. The workshop focused on health issues, taught techniques in digital journalism and archival research, and encouraged discussion about ethics and other contemporary issues.

As the Glidden Visiting Professor at OU, Waititu will teach the Foreign Correspondence course, and will assist with International Media Systems course lectures. He will also deliver a public lecture about his work at Internews.

Dr. Steve Howard and Dr. Yusuf Kalyango pose with Ernest Waititu.

Waititu will have many additional responsibilities. He will offer students advice about international opportunities. He will assist members of the African Studies Program and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism’s Institute for International Journalism with creating and launching the Scripps College of Communication’s New African Media for Social Change conference. Finally, Waititu will help plan the annual IIJ study abroad program, which will ideally take place in Ghana during the 2013-14 school year.

For Spring Semester, Kojo Yankah has agreed to come to OU for the African Studies Program’s West African Research Association Residency. Yankah, who has established himself as a prominent and award-winning media figure in West Africa, has also been a minister in the government of Ghana, and is the founder and president of the African University College of Communication (AUCC). Additionally, Yankah has established his own marketing communications consultancy, Yankah and Associates, is currently a fellow of the Institute of Public Relations, Ghana, and has spent time as its president in the past.

Collaboration between AUCC and OU has increased in recent years with the hope of educating more OU students in communications-related majors about Africa. In the past, OU President Roderick McDavis has given a commencement speech at AUCC, and senior E.W. Scripps School of Journalism faculty member Dr. Ralph Izard has taught classes there. Additionally, the two universities signed a Memorandum of Understanding when Yankah visited the OU campus in August of 2011.

During his month-long residency, Yankah will host a public lecture series about African media issues, which will be streamed on multiple university-related websites. He will also speak to Scripps College of Communication student organizations, sit for interviews with student journalists, speak with local media about African economic and political progress, and be interviewed for the West African Research Association Bulletin.

The Glidden Visiting Professor is hosted by the African Studies Program and by the IIJ. Those organizations will combine to pay for event hospitality and incidentals for Waititu. The West African Research Association residency is sponsored by the African Studies Program, which provides housing for Yankah during his residency.

The IIJ strives to prepare students to work as international journalists and to increase overall international communication. The African Studies Program at OU is one of 10 National Resource Centers for African Studies in the U.S.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The day a stranger in London confirmed my future

by Megan Hickok,
Covering the London Olympics
LONDON, England -- 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.
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.

London's Biggest Secret: USA Women's basketball 39 game winning streak

by Megan Hickok,
Covering the London Olympics
LONDON, England -- Carmelo Anthony rewrote history with his 37-point Olympic performance against Nigeria. The team also shattered the overall scoring record with 156 points the same night. The roster has a combined 43 All-Star appearances. They even survived a scare against Lithuania, winning by just three points.
However, these aren’t even the greatest statistics of the Olympics. Their female counterparts stole that honor.
Following Tuesday’s 91-48 victory over Canada, the USA women’s basketball team continues  its 39 Olympic game winning streak. The streak has strengthened ticket sales, and viewers are up by more than 50 percent from Beijing in 2008, according to the Associated Press.

Photo by Jacob Corrigan
Maya Moore, University of Conneticut legend, answers reporters questions about team chemistry.
Maya Moore said the atmosphere among the new team members is supportive.
“We don’t really get the chance to play with each other a lot so we enjoy it when we’re around each other,” said Moore. “Everybody treats everybody well, and it’s a great group to be a part of.”
This 2011 WNBA No. 1 draft pick said she looks up to the experienced captains as she takes part in her first Olympic competition.
“All of our captains lead,’ said Moore. “They have been around and take the initiative whether it’s helping somebody handle something off the court or whether it’s the middle of the game.”
Veterans Candace Parker, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings fill their captain roles well, said Coach Geno Auriemma, head coach of Team USA and the University of Connecticut women’s team.
“They have been great leaders as well as being great players,” said Auriemma. “We have five new players that have never been to the Olympics that are great followers so it’s been a pretty good combination.”
With six wins under Team USA’s belt, the coaching staff quickly realized they got an A+ in chemistry with these girls.
“Chemistry is huge and getting people that don’t care more about themselves is huge in the selection process,” said Assistant Coach Doug Bruno. “We wanted people who cared about the big picture.”
Bruno, women’s basketball coach at DePaul University, said Auriemma puts a strong focus on team building over the few weeks they are together.
“We have the most talented players in the world,” he said. “We just don’t have the longest opportunity to get them together.”
Although Wednesday marked only the team’s 11th practice, they already harmonize on the court.
“Offensively we have great talent, but the offensive chemistry takes time so we have to be able to use our athleticism and depth to create offense out of our defense,” said Bruno.
The women recognized this against Canada as the defense forced three shot clock violations for Canada in the first seven minutes. USA also forced 26 turnovers. This suffocating defense unified the team, said Moore.

Photo by Jacob Corrigan
Coach Geno directs Maya Moore, #7, on how to run the play. This is the team’s last practice before facing Australia.
“It did a lot for us,” she said. “It built our confidence about who we can be defensively and helped us to go into the next game knowing that if we execute our game plan we can accomplish a lot.”
Succeeding at this level means being better defensively, Auriemma said. The USA women must contain Australia’s 6-foot-8 Liz Cambage and 6-5 Lauren Jackson to head to their fifth straight gold medal game. Australia is also one of the favorites to appear in the gold medal game and will represent the U.S. team’s toughest test so far in London.
“I never go into any tournament or game expecting the scores to be what they’ve been,” said Auriemma.
With attention and pressure rising for the women’s team as they approach the semi-finals, some for the first time in their careers, it’s all about focus on the task right in front of them, according to the coaching staff.
“It’s just business as usual,” said Moore.

The people you meet along the way

by Megan Hickok,
Covering the London Olympics
LONDON, England -- Twenty days in the rear view mirror as I woke up to the 48-hour countdown on my time left in London. I don’t want to leave.
Not because I want to attend one last Team USA event or come across one more story to tell at the Olympics. I love the fish and chips, but I could fry them up back home. The train and Underground were never really nice to me, and I could certainly go without paying for drink refills ever again.
Yet I don’t want to leave, at all.
When it comes to memories in my life, it’s not about what I did, but rather whom I was with. I may forget all of the small details of an experience in my life, maybe even London one day, but I will never forget the people who shared these days with me.

Photo by Megan Hickok
Megan Hickok and Colin Brown sight see London on the Big Bus Tour.
Andy, security cop at the Tesco Market.
Better known as Miami Vice, Andy and I talk on a daily basis. He works as the security cop at the grocery in Guildford. On my third day here, while searching through Tesco, trying to deal with my culture shock about food, Andy helped me find the peanut butter. Ever since that day, he always welcomes me with a smile when I come through the doors.
He told me about his trip to Miami and how he bought a pink shirt and white pants last minute to fit in. He didn’t believe me when I said only people in Miami dress like that. I update him on my experiences reporting and socializing in London, and he continues to share his outlook on the world with me.
Tyler and Jacob, football’s biggest fans.
These two popped up during my instant rush to meet a million new people the first couple of days on my trip. After the introductions, they went right back into their heated argument about Arsenal football. I nodded my head along, acting like I knew anything about what they were saying.
Then, I did the unthinkable. I said the forbidden word ‘soccer.’ They looked at me blankly for what felt like a long five seconds, then proceeded to tell me I was going to make no friends in London because I said that. After apologizing 20 times in 35 seconds, they laughed and told me that I could still be their friend. They spent the next 20 minutes teaching me everything there was to know about European football.

Photo by Megan Hickok
A group of Scripps students pose with local police after chatting about their unique helmets and duties during the Olympic games.
French fry guy on the train.
It was a late night catching the trains back from London and I was with a few of our friends. As we walked down the aisles, I noticed everyone indulging in late night McDonalds. I instantly became severely hungry, remembering I still had a 35-minute train ride to sit through before I could eat.
Then, he sat down. French fry guy instantly talked to us about Guildford and all of the London suburbs we pass through on a daily basis. He too was headed home after a day out in London. He munched on his fries, sharing his opinions on everything from football to Americans. Then, as if fate sat him next to me on this train in my time of need, he offered me his extra fries. The fries were exactly what I needed as my stomach growls subsided, but his stories and friendly face are what got me through that late night train ride.
Josh, the waiter at Wetherspoons.
He has seen how far this American has come over the last three weeks. The first time he noticed me, I was sitting at the bar stressing as I counted out my pounds and pence. The money thing over has been a struggle for me. Josh came over and collected the right change out of my big pile of coins sitting across the table. Since then, he checks in with me between my food or drink orders to see how I’m getting along in London. My accent still makes him laugh along with my million questions about unusual drinks and food in Europe. He, along with many others at Wetherspoons, has become a friend of mine.
The names, faces and stories are turning into memories as I start collecting my thoughts and belongings to say goodbye to this place I’ve called home lately. I am so fortunate to have sat 10 rows back from a men’s beach volleyball game. I had to pinch myself as I chatted with Candace Parker about London. I snapped a thousand pictures of the London Bridge and Big Ben. However, these aren’t even the experiences impacting me the most.

Photo by Megan Hickok
Megan Hickok and Danny Medlock pose with the official 2012 Olympic mascot.
As I reflect, I realize all of the people who became friends of mine over the last three weeks made this trip for me. Those long chats were invaluable. I met real people who could share the culture and personalities of London. I taught them everything I could about back home, and they unknowingly opened my eyes to a new outlook on life.
I can say goodbye to Buckingham Palace and even the Olympic Park, but it hit me this morning, I’m not ready to end the conversations.
London is no different than any other journey in my life. It really is about the people you meet along the way.