Where in the World is Miami Wednesday: PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics

Miami FSB students at the 2018 Olympics in Korea.
Miami FSB students at the 2018 Olympics in Korea.

By Megan Schulte, student study abroad ambassador

Can you tell me a little bit about your program?

It is a three prong trip. We did a 2.5-week tour of Beijing (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, P&G Innovation Center), Shanghai (BestWay Corporation, Pearl Tower, Nanjing Road), and Seoul (Samsung Delight Center, Hyundai Motor Studio, Papa John’s Pizza Dough Factory). Then we volunteer at the Olympics until the end of February.  Then we study abroad at Yonsei University: Wonju Campus from March until June.  

What is the most exciting aspect of working at the Olympic games?

Collin: Getting a chance to interact with the athletes and meet people from all over the world is by far the most exciting aspect of the Olympics. I enjoy hearing the various stories, backgrounds, beliefs, and reason(s) for being at the Olympic Games. My favorite athlete encounter was when Chris Mazdzer was going for the Silver Medal in the Single Men Luge. As he came out of the locker room for his fourth and final run, he could not have been a more relaxed, nice guy. He gave me a wink and smile, and we began to head down to the start; I felt more nervous than him. It was incredible to see him start the run and be by his coaches’ side as he completed his run. Following the silver medal, I headed down to the finish line where I got to experience the emotion and thrill of his coaches, family and friends, and USA fans. The energy was some of the best I have seen at any sporting event.  

Catie: The coolest part of working the Olympics is definitely meeting and seeing athletes from around the world. Growing up, I was a little tomboy and played every sport that a girl could, and so having the opportunity to volunteer at the largest sporting event in the world is an absolute dream come true. Surprisingly, mostly all of the athletes I spoke to were just as excited to hear about my life and our program. For example, Summer, the American Luger, didn’t have the privilege of attending college and so she absolutely loved hearing about our program and what each of us were studying. Additionally, all of the athletes were more than willing to take pictures with me and even let me hold/wear their medals!

Students holding up a Miami Redhawks flag at the Olypics.What will you be doing as a volunteer?

Collin: My job at the Olympics is Athlete Escort for the Luge area. Basically, I make sure the athletes are accounted for when they are at the Sliding Center. We make sure they go from the locker room to the start then to the media when their race is finished. In addition, we work security/control around the sliding center. We work about 5-6 days a week and about 6-9 hours a day. There are over 15,000 volunteers.

Catie: As a volunteer, I am an athlete escort for the Luge Event. Depending on the day, I am either at the start or the finish line. At the start line, I, along with one other volunteer, have to make sure that each of the athletes arrive to their event on time and slide in the correct order. At the finish line, I am responsible for escorting athletes as soon as they step off the ice. I must take them to put their sleds up and then immediately to the media for interviews. Depending on how the athletes’ run went, they were either very willing to talk with me and listen to what I’m saying, or very uncooperative.

What event are you most excited to watch?

Collin: I enjoyed watching the USA vs. Russia hockey game the most. I got lucky and had tickets in the sixth row at center ice. The atmosphere was incredible, especially since both the USA and Russia fans traveled well. Russia ended up winning the gold medal, so it was neat to see them play in the round robin round. I also had the opportunity to talk with families of the hockey players. I truly admired their perspective and dedication to helping their sons to succeed in USA Hockey. Also, I ran into Rachel Platten which was pretty neat.

Catie: My favorite Winter Olympic sport has always been speed skating and so that is definitely the event I was most excited to watch! After seeing the trials, I knew I wanted to see Maame Biney, the 17 year old short track speed skater, compete. Unfortunately, I bought tickets to a final she ended up not making it into, but nonetheless, I was still able to see the United States advance in a few Men’s events. Speed skating is such an intense sport and seeing it up close was insanely cool.

Collin at the Korea OlympicsWhat is your favorite place that you have visited so far?

Collin: The Team USA House was my favorite place to visit. The USA House is open to athletes and their families. A few of us were lucky enough to meet the right people, and get passes to go inside. At the USA House, I had the chance to meet Bobsled Silver Medalist Lauren Gibbs and The Gold Medal USA Curling Team (Miracurl on Ice). The atmosphere could not have been more electric. We were there all day and night watching/celebrating Team USA.

Catie: The Great Wall of China has no doubt been the best visit thus far. We went our second day into the trip and it is the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen. A ski lift takes you to the top and that alone was beautiful, but the view at the top is everything. I honestly can’t think of words to describe it’s beauty other than if you’re in Beijing, you absolutely have to go. It’s a moment I will never forget for as long as I live.

What else have you gotten to do or see during your time abroad?

Collin: We got to see downhill skiing, the Dutch Team House, the Switzerland House, the Lindsey Vonn skiing event, and the Jamaican and Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Teams. We also got to pose with gold and silver medals, visit culture sites in Shanghai and Beijing, play baseball with Koreans, eat authentic Korean BBQ, and meet new people!

Catie: During my time abroad, we had a packed schedule every day and saw so many things. In Beijing, we spent a lot of time touring historical and cultural parks/temples. It’s amazing. You walk in expecting to see a couple of rooms and then the parks and temples just keep going further and further back. I love how much the people value their tradition, and it’s one thing I think the United States forgets about sometimes. Additionally, in Beijing we learned the art of bargaining when we visited the infamous Silk Market. Although I definitely overpaid for the item I bought, the atmosphere was incredible and was unlike anything I’ve experienced.

In Shanghai and Seoul we did the bulk of our company visits and then also went on a few cultural excursions in our time off. Seoul was very cool because we reunited with a group of Miami alumni over dinner at Papa John’s (owned by a Miami alumni). It was amazing to hear about their lives in Asia and their time at Miami. Many of them shared that they lived abroad in Asia during their time at Miami and never wanted to leave. Who knows, maybe that will happen to me!

Catie holding an American flag at the OlympicsAny other insights?

Collin: This trip has given me the opportunity to interact with such a diverse group of people. Whether it is learning about a new language, food, or tradition, the FSB Korea Olympic program has exposed me to such a wide variety of lifestyles. In addition, it is truly an honor to serve as a part of the Passion Crew Volunteer Team at such a tremendous event like the Winter Olympic Games. More importantly, Koreans are some of the kindest, patient, and hardest working people I have ever met. They truly are great people to work with, and treat you with the utmost respect.

Catie: I just want to share that one of the things I’ve been most impressed with here is the respect shown to each individual. Every time I’ve spoken to someone, student or adult, they always bow and treat me with the utmost kindness and respect. It doesn’t matter that I am an American or unable to communicate with them most of the time, I am always greeted with a huge smile and bow of respect.

Catch us next week as we continue to travel around the world to feature the amazing opportunities that Miami students are taking!
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