When you force me out of my comfort zone, I do OK

Two thoughts today. One one familiarity and comfort, one on teaching.

I really don’t get the fascination for duck. But at dinner the other day the students ate everything but the head. I’m happy that they’re enjoying it.

Listening to a familiar song is reminding me of what it’s like to be comfortable. Two weeks away from home is wearing. We’ve been in China for about 10 days (it’s hard to keep track with the time difference) and we’re all showing some wear and tear.

Speaking for myself, being surrounded by difference is not comfortable over an extended period. I had the same feeling in Australia for the Olympics. Even though they speak a form of English there, three weeks away from the foods and routines you know can be disorienting.

Yes, being in a new country is very cool, but I hit a wall when that newness wears off and I long for the familiar. I have traveled more in my life than I ever would have imagined. The experiences are wonderful and have taught me not to be so afraid of the unknown, but I will never be someone who longs for foreign spaces.


One of the great things about teaching — maybe the greatest thing — is seeing the learning and excitement through the eyes of the students. Seven Missouri students are here as a class, learning about China, Chinese culture and sports reporting, all wrapped up in a few days of tourism and 10 days of the China Open. While I couldn’t keep up with them when climbing the Great Wall, I have so much I can offer them in sports journalism.

For most of them everything here is new: from having to wear a credential around your neck every minute they’re here to the thrill of an one-on-one interview with a professional athlete. To see them experience a front row seat in an Olympic venue stadium to the frustration of having an athlete refuse to appear at a press conference is fascinating when seen again through their eyes.

Karen Miller is a journalism graduate student from Tacoma, Washington. She might be having an epiphany here, realizing that sports journalism is where she wants to be. She has been a follower of WTA player Samantha Stosur and we’ve been able to get Karen to those matches, including yesterday’s singles match. Had Stosur won, Karen was scheduled for a one-on-one interview with her. The match was tight and went into three sets. Karen was scheduled to cover the Azarenka match later that night but gave up when the Stosur match went long. It was a tough decision for her to make, but the right one. Then the real heartbreaker: Stosur lost the match. She is not having a good tournament and has lost in both singles and doubles. Karen lost the interview and the Azarenka game. But at least there are more chances to cover Azarenka.

Calvin Lewis works in the media center at the China Open in Beijing. In addition to writing stories, Calvin has served as the producer on the students’ daily podcast.

Calvin Lewis is a sophomore International Studies student from St. Louis has been to Beijing before but hasn’t covered sports. He’s a quick learner and hard worker. When Karen Miller had to give up the Azarenka match, Calvin was called on. He was gracious in wanting to concede the match to one of the more experienced students, but it fell to him and he did a great job. You don’t get better unless you take on bigger and bigger challenges and Calvin had worked his way into this position. He did not disappoint.

You can read and listen to the work these talented students are doing on the China Open website.


One response to “When you force me out of my comfort zone, I do OK

  1. Karen, I can understand the longing for familiarity. Hang in there–you don’t have that much longer. By the way, I would’ve loved to have partook in the duck eating. I first fell in love with duck at a “chinamen” in St. Louis. A half an order of Duck Fried Rice with Egg Foo Young Gravy and a Pineapple Vess soda at the age of 10, what a life changing experience. Can’t wait to see what you experience next.

    AnDrea Jackson

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