Erin Fish's Uruguay Blog11.14.2018
Erin Fish (middle, in red) attended the 2018 NSMA Awards Weekend, as part of the NSMA's partnership with FOX Sports University. Because of the relationships built during that weekend, she applied for and was accepted to the AIPS (International Sports Press Association) Young Reporters Program, covering the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Uruguay.
Erin returned home to New York on December 3 after three weeks in Uruguay. But before she left Montevideo, she was declared the winner of the Young Reporters Program contest. The 16 Young Reporters were in competition with each other during their time in Uruguay. Congratulations and well done!!
Don't Dream it's Over
Bittersweet has never been a more perfect word.
As I sit here with my American cup of coffee, which is essentially water according to the rest of the world, I reflect on three difficult, draining but mostly rewarding weeks in my life.
I am happy to be home with my family and to come home to my beautiful Christmas tree, but I feel a sort of emptiness that is hard to explain. It is almost like Uruguay and the 16 Young Reporters as well as the three mentors each walked away with a piece of me.
People say if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life and I truly think I have found my passion in covering sports. I love being around sport and telling the stories of athletes.
There, I felt purpose. I woke up early every morning ready to conquer the long days of hard work in sports journalism, but I loved every single second of it. More importantly, I loved the people that I was surrounded by.
When I am home, in between jobs, I am overcome with the stress of what is to come next in my life. It made leaving this amazing opportunity and these amazing people that much harder.
Lizzy (Ji Hyun) was the first to leave. She had her sister’s wedding in South Korea so she had to leave a few days earlier than the rest. When she left it started to hit us all, we all had to say goodbye.
My last few days in Uruguay were amazing for many reasons. We covered the World Cup third place match and the final, and I was selected to take place in a FIFA Instagram takeover, so some of my content that I posted on my Instagram account was posted on the FIFA World Cup Instagram account.
We watched two intense matches, first between Canada and New Zealand for third place where New Zealand took the bronze and then between Mexico and Spain where Spain became the World Champions. Even at the under-17 level, it was awesome to be in attendance and to be able to watch these young women achieve such excellence.
At halftime of the final we were handed our diplomas by FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer, Sarai Bareman and three women’s football legends, Karina Leblanc (Canada), Aline Pellegrino (Brazil) and Veronica Buquete (Spain). They gave welcoming cheers and hugs for each and every one of us as we were recognized for our hard work. It was a humbling moment.
After the games we went to dinner at El Tigre for our own awards ceremony and celebration. Over the course of the three weeks the 16 of us had been in competition with each other earning points for various tests, assignments, opportunities, etc. The mentors gave out various awards for different categories and the top five young reporters were recognized with trophies.
For the majority of the time in Uruguay I was in third place behind Phillip from New Zealand, an amazing sports journalist who has been working in the industry for many years now. He was above and beyond exemplary for what we were all looking to be as reporters. I also trialed Daniel from Spain, who is another extremely talented journalist. He works in radio and has a knack for storytelling and is a very hard worker.
The last week the mentors did not tell us where we were in the rankings and when they announced the top 5 it was as followed:
5- Hinni from Finland—A hard-working journalist who is passionate about football and she always speaks her mind.
4- Anne from Germany—A competitive investigative reporter who specializes in sports and politics. She is extremely smart and asks brilliant questions.
3- Phillip from New Zealand—As a mentioned before, an extremely talented journalist who provided excellent coverage of the historic u-17 women’s football team from New Zealand throughout the entirety of the three weeks. He wrote 21 stories for his home outlet as well as providing coverage for AIPS… Very inspirational for me.
2- Daniel from Spain-- As mentioned before, another talented sports journalist who specializes in radio broadcasting. He provided coverage of the Spain u-17 women’s team who won the World Championship. He is extremely knowledgeable of all sports across the world and is someone I have a lot of respect for.
1- Me—I climbed two spots at the end after putting together a video for the AIPS website and pulling an all-nighter to edit the video to get it done by the deadline. It was a shock to me, but I was honored.
Then just like that, it was over. It was time for the worst part: Goodbyes. We received the list from Keir with our departure times to head off to the airport. We made sure that we met in the lobby at each departure time to see each other off. Every time tears were shed.
Clara and I had the same departure schedule. My plane was scheduled for 8:30 p.m., hers for 8:35. We left for the airport together and made it in time to catch our mentor, Martin for an emotional goodbye.
Then we sat and waited for hours, feeling sick.
I’ve never met someone like Clara. Although she is only 20-years-old she has so much life. We instantly clicked as friends and she is someone that I will always trust and remember for the rest of my life. She was more than just a roommate to me. We had many talks about life and what we were meant to do. She knows me and I know her better than some of the people I have claimed to know for years.
When we said goodbye, it hurt really, really bad. There were a lot of tears, but she said to me, “I know I will see you again soon. I feel it.” And I believe her.
The worst part about all of this is that I know that Uruguay will soon become a memory for me as much as I want to hold on. It was the most amazing experience and I know I will take many lessons I have learned with me into my career and my life.
I very thankful for Dave Goren of the National Sports Media Association for recommending me, and for AIPS for giving me this opportunity.
Thank you all for reading,
There is that old expression that
says, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
I’ve also noticed that as I get older the days, weeks, months and years seem to fly by much faster. I’m starting to wonder if it is because I am having fun or if it is just how things work as you start to get older?
With this trip I think it was a mixture of both. The days seemed to fly by because we were so busy every single day with classes, travel, the actual soccer games and then the writing that followed. (It’s quite funny because I want to type football now instead of soccer… I think everyone here has changed me). But I actually have not once questioned whether or not I was having fun, and I think that’s important to take note of.
When I decided I wanted to go back to graduate school at Syracuse to study sports communications, I knew that it was because I loved sports and I wanted to make a career out of my passion. Being a young girl and playing soccer growing up, I of course imagined that one day I would be playing in the World Cup. I never imagined I would be covering one, but this is definitely the next best thing.
Although the United States were knocked out in group play, my favorite part about the trip is still going to the stadiums to watch the matches. I love the energy of the fans and the emotions of the young 15, 16 & 17-year-old girls. I was once their age playing the sport that they love as much as I did, and I can only imagine what it is like to play at this stage. But when I talk to them I and I am able to tell their stories it is extremely rewarding.
I can’t believe we only have one week left.
On one hand it feels like the program has flown by, but on the other I feel like I have known these people for my whole life and I’m going to miss them so much when I leave them next Sunday. I guess that’s what happens when you spend every single day with the same people.
We had our “off day on Friday. It was technically an off day because we were off of classes and soccer matches, but we still got together for activities, which I’m glad we did because it was a great day!
We toured Montevideo, had a nice lunch and then went to the Estadio Centenario Football Stadium and Museum to learn about the history of Uruguayan football and what the sport means to the country and the world. The first World Cup was held in this Uruguay in 1930 and the country eat, sleeps and breathes the sport. We see people every day playing, it’s really an amazing environment.
We also got to see the beautiful city of Colonia, which is about two hours and 20 minutes away from Montevideo and that is where some of the group play and quarterfinal matches have been held. It is an extremely old colony of Uruguay and you can see the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina across the Rio de la Plata there.
The past few days of games have been incredible to watch with three out of the four quarterfinal matches going into penalty kicks. (Everyone thinks it’s weird that I refer to them as PK’s because around the world they just call them penalties…) Anyway, it was a very intense way to watch three teams be eliminated from the tournament and a very exciting way to watch three teams move into the semis.
The semifinals will be New Zealand vs. Spain and Canada vs. Mexico. I’m looking forward to covering them and watching how these young women play. I’m predicting a Spain vs. Canada final with Spain as the U-17 World Champs, but we will see how it plays out.
Thankful for Change
All day my heart hurt, and I felt an emptiness inside that I haven’t felt since my first week away from home when I left for college. I was homesick.
It was my first Thanksgiving away from my family and I was 5,500 miles away from home with people from all different countries, all of which do not celebrate the holiday.
The food has been quite strange here in Uruguay. We mostly eat at the restaurant in the hotel which has the same menu so I rotate between dishes. On Monday, we went to a Yacht Club with the AIPS representative of Uruguay, Ernesto, and he treated us to Asado—which is essentially like barbeque.
They came out with a big plate of grilled meats that were absolutely delicious. I picked up one that looked a bit strange and asked Clara what it was. She said I had to put lemon and salt on it and try it. She said, “Chinchulin”. I said, “it looks like an intestine.” She said, “Just try it.”
GUYS. I ATE A COW INTESTINE. IT WAS SO GROSS. (I have a video... maybe I will share on twitter at somepoint).
This made me want Thanksgiving dinner even more.
The next night we were sitting at dinner when the professional basketball players who play in Montevideo and stay at our hotel came by. They are all from America so they have been extremely friendly. They asked me what my plans were for Thanksgiving and I told them how sad I was to miss my first one. Being basketball players, a lot of them have missed Thanksgiving for years now so they made me feel better about it. One of them said that every year on Thanksgiving he does the most American thing he can think of on Thanksgiving and he goes and eats and Burger King… I didn’t do that.
Instead, I woke up and texted my family group chat to let them know how much I love and miss them.
I showered, got ready, had some breakfast and coffee and went on with my day of classes and writing stories. It felt like any other day here in Uruguay, except I had major FOMO (fear of missing out).
Every year my family has the annual turkey bowl at my high school where our family and friends get together and play a good old-fashioned game of Thanksgiving Day football. I was tagged in photos on Instagram of my family at the game and I opened the app thinking I would just find pictures of them playing, but instead saw pictures of them all holding my fathead from my senior game of soccer in college. They are the best. I couldn’t ask for a better family.
After my busy day of classes and writing I watched the Cowboys vs. Redskins game in my room with Clara and was explaining “American football” to her. After the game we went downstairs for dinner and joined the others. The restaurant made a special of chicken cordon bleu and Clara told the waiter in Spanish that my favorite dish at home for Thanksgiving is mashed potatoes, so he made the entire group mashed potatoes. She is the best. I didn’t’ have turkey, but my meal was delicious. The group even went around the table and each told me what they were thankful for. They really are a great group.
I said, “I am thankful because even though I can’t be home with my actual family, I’m so happy I can be here with a new family from all over the world that has made me feel so special today.”
After dinner a bunch of people from the group came back to our hotel room to watch the Thursday night football game between the Falcons and the Saints. I had a blast with my new friends.
I tend to struggle with change, but this Thanksgiving I realized that different is OK.
My 1st Week in Uruguay
Apologies that it has been so long since the last post. I have been extremely busy!
To be honest, the past few days have been completely mentally and physically draining for me, but boy have I learned.
My brain has been tested.
My morals have been tested.
My confidence has been tested.
But whenever I stress and whenever I am tested, I have to remember that I have landed on my feet up until this point in my life, there is no stopping me now from getting to where I want to be.
On Friday and Saturday I spent a total of 12 hours traveling in order to cover games and put together all of the interviews that I have needed. The trip to the beautiful Colonia, Uruguay is a little over two hours and it has almost become a part of my daily routine because that is where the US team is stationed for Group play.
I made a day trip with my mentor, Martin and one of my fellow reporters Anne, from Germany down to Colonia to get some interviews from the US team. I planned to interview the newcomers on the U.S. team as well as one of the veterans who had just returned from an ACL surgery. Interviewing them was comfortable for me, because I could relate to them as young soccer players which I was not too long ago. They were nervous at first, but they quickly warmed up and each gave me some great answers.
After the interviews were through, we went to lunch and I asked Martin to order us something we could only get down here in Uruguay. He ordered us chivitos that came out on one plate and Anne and I split it. I ate so much of it, but it looks like I had two bites.
I feel so spoiled every single day to be a part of this program. We are staying in a beautiful hotel in the amazing city of Montevideo for three entire weeks. We eat breakfast, lunch (sometimes to go) and dinner at the hotel restaurant. We have transportation to all of the games and interviews which in Maldonado and Colonia are two hours away. Life as a journalist is not a lucrative job as most know, and we have been given an amazing opportunity to have our expenses paid for by AIPS. I really am so thankful.
OK—now for a funny story.
A bunch of young reporters sitting around the lunch table and Mbali, the young reporter from South Africa was smiling cheek to cheek because she was surrounded by her new friends and because she had just received a cappuccino. Although she knows many languages coming from South Africa, she is not familiar with Spanish at all.
She raised her glass and said, “cheers” in her African accent and looked down the table and yelled to my friend Clara, “How do you say cheers in Spanish!?”
Now because Mbali’s accent is so strong, to Clara it sounded like Mbali had asked how to say cheese, so she told her, “queso.”
Mbali raised her cappuccino, looked at the rest of the table with her big smile and yelled, “QUESO!”
I LAUGHED SO HARD. I love language mishaps.
So I also realized that as an American, I have been DEPRIVED of good coffee my entire life. My morning routine consists of a nice cup of coffee either from the pot or the Keurig and I am always extremely content.
To everyone else here, the way I drink coffee is disgusting. American coffee is too watered down apparently. Instead, they either drink espressos (which is like one sip of coffee I laugh every time we get one here) or cappuccinos. I just think they’re all being divas. We drink our coffee black in America! OK I like mine with cream.
On Sunday my roommate Clara and I walked to the beach to clear our heads. She introduced me to dulce de leche and we sat and talked for over an hour. Since I have been here, Clara has taken in all of these moments with me and experienced every step with me. For being only twenty years old, Clara has an amazing mind and is incredibly mature. I know her future is so bright. I also know I have a life-long friend from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I know my blog has been kind of all over the place and I haven’t exactly had the time to update it daily, but the point of it is to share some of the experiences that I am having. While some have been tough, some have been funny, and some have been eye-opening, I have had an amazing first week here in Uruguay.
FOOTBALL -- A GAME THAT CONNECTS US ALL
(Posted November 15, 2018)
I told you I would be sitting in my comfy hotel bed beaming with excitement after meeting wonderful young reporters from all around the world. I never thought about the logistics of getting together a group of 16 people all from different countries, it is actually quite hilarious, and we had so much to talk about.
After I arrived at the hotel, scaring my roommate Clara at 3:30 in the morning and immediately jumping in the shower, I went to sleep by 4:00 a.m. and was up by 8 for breakfast and a bus to the stadium to get our credentials. The young reporters and mentors welcomed me with open arms and were all very happy to have me there.
We attended the opening press conference for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup with a panel with people like legendary FIFA player Diego Forlan and FIFA Chief Women’s Football Press Officer Sarai Berman. They both recognized the game of women’s football and how it is just as important as the men’s game. Berman and FIFA have recently launched a global-strategy for women empowerment that I would love to develop a story on while I am here because she and I both believe media members can be a useful tool in spreading the word for this new global-strategy.
The best part of the day had to be ordering lunch and dinner with individuals from all different countries. You do not realize how complicated this task is. Although it is required for all of us to be able to speak English, some do not speak it as well and that does not necessarily mean the waiters understand English either. So thank goodness for our translator and literal godsend, Alexia!
Alexia is a 19-year-old local Uruguayan woman that the Young Reporters Program hired to help out in Uruguay. She organizes everything for us from our meals to our busses and she even translates for us. She has to walk around the table for 16 different people explaining to the waiter what we all want and how we want It, except for those who speak perfect Spanish of course. Alexia even bought me a coffee when I was sleep deprived and didn’t have any pesos yet. She is THE BEST.
We have reporters from Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Columbia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea and Spain. Our three mentors are from Argentina, England and Italy. Out of all of these incredible people, Phillip from New Zealand and I are the ONLY ones who only speak English... but I know some Spanish… un poco. I’M TRYING OK!?
DAY 2 – November 12, 2018
Every day we have classes in the morning with our three mentors where they teach us about media and journalism and things we should know before we head into covering the matches. Today was only our second day of classes and it was the first day of the matches for the World Cup, but today’s class really stuck out to me.
Martin, our mentor from Argentina gave his presentation on women’s football and the prejudice against the sport. He showed a video that sarcastically portrayed the Finnish National team as incompetent players. From there he went on to lecture us on how we should all be writing about these young women in our articles and that we should not act as though it is a surprise to see a woman playing soccer.
My stomach started to feel nauseous as I looked around the room. After class, I talked to many of my new friends about soccer (football to them) in their countries and if they played growing up and what it was like for girls to play in their country and the sad truth was that for many of them, it is not as common as you would think to play organized soccer growing up.
This is something I completely took for granted. When I was five years old my mom and dad signed me up for rec soccer, bought me cleats, shin guards and a mouthpiece. I was handed a blue Moreau Recreation jersey and off I went. From five years old to 21 I never stopped to think that women in other countries were never given the opportunity to play this game.
When I had the game taken away from me after three knee surgeries, I was heartbroken. I worked hard day in and day out to get back to playing the game because it was something that I loved. There are young women in other countries that love the game too, but are too afraid to play or may not be allowed to.
Life for women in the United States is not perfect by any means and I know I will fight a battle every day as a female in this world, but I am blessed that I had the opportunity to grow up playing the game that I love.
Read Erin's latest story from the AIPS website here.
Read Erin's story from the AIPS website on 11/13 here.
Safe (& very long) Travels
(Posted November 13, 2018)
I thought I would be writing my first post in a comfortable hotel bed at night beaming with excitement after meeting the incredible reporters and mentors that have flown in from all over the world for the AIPS Young Reporters Program. The funny thing about media… when you have a plan it never works the way you want it to.
We boarded the plane shortly after that at around 10:00 p.m. The flight was scheduled to leave at 10:45. Everyone got situated, stuffed their luggage in the overhead bins and nestled into their seats to prepare for the 10.5 hour fight. (I even popped two Dramamine.) After sitting for a half an hour, the captain told us over the loudspeaker that we had to evacuate the plane due to a maintenance issue with one of the exit slide doors. Then it got crazy.
I took Spanish 1-5 in high school and am fairly good at picking out words while people are speaking it and I can communicate with basic Spanish if I have to. As the night went on it became more and more stressful that I did not know the language that every person on my flight was speaking. Minutes after I got back from getting my bagel, my phone buzzed with an update.
EST. DEPARTURE TIME: 2:00 p.m. – Is this a typo?! P.M.!? If people were unhappy before you can only imagine how angry they were when they found out that “a miscommunication on [American Airlines] part” had caused the flight to be moved to the next afternoon. Like I said before, I can pick out words in Spanish. I heard a lot of yelling and screaming happening and I knew that something was wrong. Over the loud speaker we all heard a voice telling us that there is no hotel availability left in the Miami area and that if people are from Miami they would compensate them for travel. Where were we supposed to sleep? Have no fear, I set up shop. It wasn’t ZEN beauty sleep but I got through it.
People were fuming. There was a large group rallying around the customer service desk chanting and yelling at the airline representatives. One guy even jumped the counter and was escorted by a policeman. While all of this was going on, an 86-year old woman named Marian was sitting patiently with quiet smirk on her face.
At 2:15 we received the last update. EST. DEPARTURE TIME 3:17— But we did not leave at 3:17, it was delayed another 15 minutes after we got on the plane. Just one more pushback to make me even more anxious than I already was.
But on this 10.5 hour flight I realized something; It wasn’t just Marian, Lelen and Tavo. Those were just some of the names I remember. I came on this trip to advance my knowledge and abilities as a journalist. I was upset that I missed orientation, but I was able to meet and learn the stories of at least a dozen people in that 17-hour delay that I probably never would have talked to otherwise. I was talking to people and discovering their stories, just like any good journalist would do.