BSU students get assignment of a lifetime in Sochi

Dominique Stewart

The Olympic assignment is one seasoned journalists may yearn for but never get. So imagine the opportunity for a select group of students at Ball State who headed to Sochi to cover the games. They told us it's a resume builder that's hard to believe.

When we caught up with Kourtney Cooper this week in Russia, she was on deadline. The junior at Ball State was working on a story about how the local residents feel about hosting the games.

"Just the negatives and the positives. How will this affect them when the Olympics are gone?" she said, explaining the angle of her story.

Kourtney is one of 24 students who traveled with journalist instructor Ryan Sparrow to Sochi. Sparrow created the BSU at the Games concept, and said it's about overcoming obstacles.

"Being on the spot to talk with foreigners; how to talk to strangers and feed stories out of nowhere; doing it without credentials. Just incredible lessons for them," he said.

The entire group stayed on cruise ship, getting by with the help of two BSU students who speak Russian and who served as interpreters.

"There has been extremely high demand - fights for who gets to go with who; so far it's been great!" said Sakhrob Davlyatov, a senior.

These students also are embracing the opportunity to be teachers.

"A lot of people from Russia are not used to darker complexions, so when they see me, they ask if they can take a picture," said Dominique Stewart, junior.

Dominique says she's been called exotic. She says she doesn't mind.

"Textbooks are great, but being here is a whole different experience."

The students returned to Muncie this week. Ryan Sparrow is already planning on the road to Rio for the next Summer Games. He is securing housing and says he may even take a group of students a year in advance to document the development process. 

Editor's note: Special thanks go to BSU at the Games, who have been sharing their stories and slide shows with WTHR!