Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Student travels to Sochi to work Winter Olympics

It’s 1 a.m. when Sophie Rhodes gets home to her apartment after working a 14-hour shift. The laptop she brought with her no longer works, so she must use her iPad to do her homework, which is due in the next few hours. It’s only 4 p.m. in the United States, but Rhodes is half a world away at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Rhodes began working with the International Olympic Club during the London 2012 games, when she worked in the VIP lounge. A junior majoring in American studies, Rhodes is only attending The University of Alabama for one year, but when the opportunity arose to work at the Winter Olympics, Rhodes knew she could not turn it down.

“Working at two Olympic Games has really been a privilege,” Rhodes said. “Both experiences are something that is unique.”

(See also “Sochi Olympic games are sure to live up to expectations“)

During the past few weeks reports have surfaced depicting Sochi as overrun by stray dogs, lacking space for Olympians and having poor hotel accommodations. Rhodes, however, has not had any problems with her living conditions.

“Living quarters for me are actually fine,” Rhodes said. “I am sharing a room with a colleague, and the room is pretty small, but I am not really there a lot, so it’s really manageable. I think Sochi has really struggled with space, though. Lots of people have had problems getting accommodations. They even had to bring in a cruise ship for people to stay on.”

Margaret Peacock, professor of European history, specializes in Russian history and lived in Russia for many years. Although she never traveled to Sochi, she said she heard from many residents of its beauty and said the negativity Russia has received is not a good depiction of Russia as a whole.

“I think that the bad press is far more reflective of the people who are writing the news than the people who are running the events,” Peacock said. “The silly complaints about having to put your toilet paper in the garbage are a reflection of people’s lack of knowledge of how sewage systems work in the vast majority of the rest of the world. In fact, it’s not just in Russia. I think that’s how it works in all of Asia and most of Latin America, and it’s not thought of as being how they’re uncultured. It’s just the way the sewage systems are built.”

(See also “Sochi Olympics reflection of America’s progress“)

Besides the language barrier, Rhodes has experienced other difficulties communicating. The idea of a man not shaking a woman’s hand because of her race or sex may seem outdated, but it is exactly what happened to Rhodes.

“Russian men, particularly in the work place or in a professional setting, won’t shake a woman’s hand, as they perceive them to be inferior in this environment,” Rhodes said.

Through cultural adjustments, Rhodes has continued to maintain her responsibilities while balancing her normal class load. Many of her professors have been understanding about the time constraints Rhodes is under, and they work with her schedule to accommodate her.

One of Rhodes’ teachers, Steven Bunker, professor of Latin American history, has been working closely with Rhodes and has been giving her lecture outlines, reading quizzes and notes taken by a colleague during class. Bunker said his own journey to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics has allowed him to better understand what Rhodes is going through.

“I took my family to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics because that’s where I’m from, so I took some time off as well,” Bunker said. “I think it’s very important for students to travel and see more of the world, and if you’re able to be responsible, I’m happy to work with them.”

(See also “Paralympic skier prepares for Sochi competition“)

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