Student Immersion Experience

Immersed in Rio – Part 1

By DeVry University

Hundreds of thousands of people descended on Brazil for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. There were athletes, coaches, personnel and spectators. There were also two students, Ue Lisa Cha and Demetrius Graham. The pair was participating in the DeVry University Team USA Student Immersion Experience, during which they gained on-the-ground, real-world experience working with USOC IT professionals. This is their experiences from their time at one of the largest sporting events in the world. 

July 27-July 28

Ue Lisa Cha: Three flights. Roughly 14 hours in a plane. A travel hiccup with Demetrius not being able to connect with us in Miami (not his fault). Zero sleep because of a dinging noise that kept waking me up, and one sore bottom from sitting on a plane for so long. All worth it, as I made it from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Rio.

After a quick stop to Immigration and Customs and a text back home to let my family know I made it safely, we headed to our hotel at Copacabana Beach.

DeVry University Marketing Director Christy Katzfey and I were so tired. I felt like a zombie. Fortunately, looking out the window at the beach while eating breakfast is an immediate wake up.

I met with the rest of the ground team, and we all went to a quick security briefing. Afterwards went walking down Copacabana Beach and did a little shopping. It took a little bit to get used to reading prices in Reals (Brazil’s currency), but I finally got the hang of it. Then it was another short meeting before gloriously hitting the bed.

July 29

Demetrius Graham: Lesson No. 1 on this trip: Never miss a flight. After my plan took off without me on Wednesday, it took me a whole extra day to make it to Rio, as I finally got into Brazil Friday morning. 

As I drove to the hotel, I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of the country. The forests, grand mountains, amiable population – I’ll admit it was a bit overwhelming at first being that this was my first time out of the U.S.

I met up with Christy and Lisa at the JW Marriot, which was beautiful. Plus, the Marriot being located, literally, on Copacobana Beach made me feel really special and privileged to be here.

Lunch provided a quick Lesson 2: Pick up on some Portuguese phrases. Not knowing simple phrases such as “split the check,” “where’s the bathroom,” or “excuse me sir/ma’am” puts a limit on where you can go as a visitor, and how much help you can get. That being said, the locals we met were all very understanding and kind.

By the way, some key phrases if you ever go to Rio include “tudo bem (OK),” “descluple (sorry),” “obrigado (thank you),” “quanto custa? (How much does this cost?)” and “Oi! (hi)”

With it being a day off, we decided to go to Sugar Loaf Mountain, which uses cable cars to riders to different peaks of the mountain until you’re at one of the highest points. I can’t stress this enough: THE VIEW IS AMAZING! You can see the beaches and the cities that brings the country to life.

After Sugar Loaf Mountain we decided to go to an Italian restaurant where I had … drum roll … spaghetti. I know, not too adventurous, but it was delicious and hit the spot after a long day of travel and sightseeing. 

July 30

Lisa: It’s time to get to work! This marked the first day of the student immersion at the USA House. I couldn’t have been more excited. After a breakfast of cashew apples (I wouldn’t recommend) and passion fruit (definitely recommend!), we all headed to USA House, which is located right by Ipanema Beach. There we met Richard Bittles, associate director IT, Special Projects, for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). He gave us a tour and quickly put us to work setting up wireless connections and VoIP connections in the executive room.

The first day of student immersion was pretty fun. Making CAT 5 cables and connecting all the wires together was interesting. I can see myself doing networking after this experience.

Demetrius: I have to admit, it was pretty surreal being given a USA House badge. In an instant, we were a part of everything.

Of course, everything was still being worked on when we arrived. The first floor was where the USA Store was going to be, the hospitality spots and registration area. The next floor had the IT department, as well as our office, employee lounge and twitter room (still not sure what that room is for, but I am sure it will be trending). Next floor had media team offices, and a makeshift auditorium that housed a hologram image of Rio. Next floor was for executives, above them was an area for more offices, and the last floor was the roof. The view from the roof is amazing because you get a nice view of Ipanema Beach.

After meeting the rest of the USOC IT team, the rest of the day was spent with wires. We shadowed and worked along with Richard, tracing cables placing wireless access points on numerous floors, and creating RJ-45 Ethernet cable for the executive offices.

After lunch, Richard and Dave took us to another USOC camp called Flamengo, one of Rio’s soccer teams. This camp was being used as a training facility for various athletes, such as swimming, rugby, gymnastics and basketball. There we helped with the setup of the installation of a fiber cable.

July 31

Lisa: Day two was almost a mirror image of day one.

We finished up connecting everything in the executive room and making sure the devices in the room are receiving connection. If it wasn’t, we had to find a correct live port in the database hub and connect it to the APP port. We were also making sure to hide all the wires, as it made the place look cleaner and so people didn’t trip on them.

I also got to play supervisor for Demetrius for a little while. You see, I wasn’t tall enough to reach the database hub, so he had to be the person to do the connections. Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to be short.

After fixing some connectivity around the building, we went to eat at a place right next to Ipanema Beach which is just right outside the USA House. Side note: Ever since I got to Rio, I noticed coconut trees everywhere, and I said to myself I had to get a coconut before we go back home. Well, I finally got that chance. It was so fresh, cool and satisfying.


Check back for Part 2 of Lisa and Demetrius' time in Rio with Team USA!