The traveler that journeys with an open mind and an eagerness to learn wherever he or she goes comes home with more than souvenirs and memory cards full of pictures; they come home with unparalleled experience. Despite cultural differences, language barriers and behavioral disparities, those that can find the beauty in these obstacles can appreciate the non-traditional splendor of travel.
For Jenna Lebel, it is just this that made her experience in Beijing, China at the 2008 Summer Olympics a gratifying memory. An Integrated Marketing Communication graduate student at Emerson College in Boston, MA, Jenna applied for one of the 33 available spots at Emerson to work at the Olympics for two months as a volunteer. Her school was selected as one of five in the US to attend the Olympics, along with roughly 300 other international students and 100,000 volunteers in total.
Through July and August 2008, Jenna had a front row seat in classes such as Chinese edict, language, culture, business, and social behaviors. She quickly found that her preconceived notions of the country prior to her arrival in China left her pleasantly surprised, and she was fortunate to witness many amiable aspects of the country. Her willingness to embrace everything China had to offer in its glory of hosting the Olympics, made it easy to enjoy her time there. The experience had such a great impact on Jenna that she is not only looking to return, but she is also considering employment in China once she graduates in December 2008.
Shortly after her return to the states at the end of August, I spoke with Jenna about her experience at the Olympics and how it has since affected her.
inTravel: What was the purpose of your trip?
JL: Emerson, where I go to grad school, was chosen as one of five US colleges and universities to send students to the 2008 Summer Olympics (August 6th – 24th) in Beijing to volunteer for the Olympic news service. I just applied on a whim. I was actually more interested in the China-aspect of it rather than the Olympics. I thought of it as giving me a reason to go to China and I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise gone on my own. I knew it would be an amazing experience but it gave me a reason to go. Originally, I didn’t think I’d make it because I’m a marketing major and this position was more journalism-focused. There were three schools from England and two from Australia that also went.
The application process involved an essay at first, then mine got selected and I had a round of interviews with the Vice President of Academic Affairs, the Dean of the School of Communications, and the Dean of the School of Arts. They picked 33 students from Emerson and there were 300 total international students between all of the schools.
We then got divided into different roles and locations at the games: 20 of us Emerson students worked at the national stadium (“Birds Nest”) and did flash quote reporting, which is basically getting sound bytes from athletes after they compete. Three other people and I worked at the main press center (MPC) - home to international and national photographers and journalists – and I worked as a media assistant. Other students were dispersed as “Media Operations” among different venues like where volleyball and boxing were held. We were there for two months total, including one month before the Olympics started. We stayed at the Communication University of China dorms (CUC).