Back at Ball State
Before junior Kathie Green, a video production major, left to cover the Olympic Games, she was told one thing by professionals, the news, police officers and lawyers—don’t broadcast yourself as an American.
Green and 23 other students traveled to Sochi to cover the Olympics as a part of the BSU at the Games immersive learning program. Now that she’s back, Green said she realizes how wrong American stereotypes of Russia are.
“Before I went over to Russia, I was very concerned about their perception of Americans, and how they would feel about us coming into their country,” Green said. “Once we got over there, that was completely backwards. The Russian community was excited to hear from Americans. They were excited that other cultures were coming in, and they were very proud of their country for hosting the Olympics.”
In Sochi, Green worked with two other students as a part of a documentary team to figure out how people in Sochi felt about different cultures coming into Russia.
“They’re not afraid of us, they don’t hate us,” Green said. “They love the fact that we’re experiencing their culture. America has such a stereotype of Russians, and that was one of our goals going into this documentary. We wanted to either prove or disprove that, and find out what it really was that was left over. Do we have a legitimate reason to be scared of the Russian culture? We don’t. Hands down we don’t. They’re a great, enlightening group of people.”
Kayla Eiler, a graduate student in the Telecommunications department, also travelled to Sochi as a part of the documentary team. She said that she was similarly surprised by how accepting Russians were of Americans.
“The coolest part of the trip was to hear how wrong we are about our view of Russians,” Eiler said. “When we first went, we said, don’t wear anything USA, don’t wear anything university, we need to blend in. On the third day, we went to the team USA store, and said, let’s just buy stuff and see what happens. Then, everyone wanted their picture with us. Everyone was so excited to have Americans there. That was the coolest part—that stereotype being broken.”
Before leaving for the trip, Eiler said she was nervous about her safety, but that after being in Sochi, the security made her feel safer than she does in the United States.
“Initially it was a little bit spooky, just because everywhere you drove, there would be security standing on the road, with machine guns sometimes,” Eiler said. “At first, [I thought], this is like a war zone, but then I [thought], I’m glad this is here, because I know everything is so secure. All my fears were just thrown out because there was nothing to be scared of. I felt more safe walking around in a group of two or three after dark, through a neighborhood,
than I do walking around a mall in the U.S.”
Now that the group has returned to Ball State, they continue to edit and produce work. For Green, being back isn’t easy. After traveling across the world, she said it has made day-to-day life seem mundane.
“When you’ve done something so big, as to travel the world, or to travel to a major event, it’s hard to come back,” Green said. “For me, it’s hard to sit in a classroom because I just want to go explore some more. It’s made normal life hard. It’s motivating, though. It is beautiful out there, and it’s just different. It is scary, going across the world into what Americans believe to be a scary culture, but I think that in the long run, for those people, they will cherish that experience and want to do it more.”
Eiler said that the experience has made her realize that the world is much more than “blue and green patches on a map,” and that it can only truly be understood through experience.
“The greatest thing I learned was just how big the world is,” Eiler said. “When we were flying into Moscow the first time, I was sitting by myself, and I was looking out the window. Just looking down, (I saw) that this is a real place. Landing, and then walking in the gate, I was just crying the whole time, just overwhelmed by just how much bigger the world is than we are ever able to comprehend, just staying in the U.S.”
For Green, this trip meant a lot because it confirmed what she wants to do with the rest of her life—explore the world.
“I would just say that the international experience, it’s life-changing,” Green said. “I can already tell that I view things differently, and it’s not even been a week since I’ve been back. You look at things in a different way, once you’ve experienced a different culture. It’s pretty emotional for me, because my life goals are to experience culture and experience the world. To know that I’ve now started my trek into the rest of the world, not just American culture, is a good feeling.”