Students to be ambassadors at World Expo

A group of USC students will soon be on their way to Shanghai for the long-awaited Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Beginning May 1, the expo is a chance for nations to display their impressive resources. It will host pavilions from countries around the world who will use the opportunity to present their most influential businesses and non-governmental organizations.

To prepare for the expo, the U.S. State Department decided to recruit students to represent the country and chose to ask the USC U.S.-China Institute to run the student program.

“Our selection is an indication of the global orientation of our university and the impact that the U.S.-China institute has made in its short history,” said Clayton Dube, the associate director of USC’s U.S.-China Institute. “We were a natural choice to be involved in the project.”

Students interested in becoming an ambassador had six weeks to apply, a process that included sending transcripts, letters of recommendation and an essay, and required students to have a minimum two years of Chinese language training. A national committee of evaluators considered all 599 qualified applications before selecting 160 ambassadors to attend the expo, some of whom are USC students.

Ying Jia Huang, a senior majoring in history, international relations and East Asian languages and cultures, said being an ambassador will be beneficial to her future.

“I plan to work in China for a couple years in the future and pursue graduate studies in international development, so serving as [a] U.S. student ambassador would be an insightful experience for me personally,” Huang said.

Student ambassadors will receive funds for airfare, housing and daily expenses, such as food and transportation. At the expo, students will have the opportunity to do various jobs at the U.S. pavilion, including working with government, NGO and business delegates.

“These responsibilities are heavy because most of the people the ambassadors will work with are VIPs,” Dube said.

For Huang, the most exciting thing will be experiencing many different cultures at all of the pavilions, especially China.

“At the expo, I will have the opportunity in meeting people from all walks of life, to experience firsthand the various microcosms of China’s growth,” Huang said.

The 2010 expo, promoting the theme “Better Life, Better City,” will emphasize discussion of urban issues that affect cities all over the world, such as migration, education, the environment, job creation and transportation. With a total budget of $45 billion, Shanghai was able to prepare itself sufficiently for the gathering. The city has constructed subway lines, bridges and an entire district to make room for the expo location.

The USC Thornton School of Music’s orchestra was invited to perform at the Shanghai Expo, but ultimately declined the invitation.

“The performance venue they are providing is much better for popular music concerts than a symphonic concert and we thought it would not feature the Thornton School, nor USC, in a very good light if we were to perform,” said Dean Robert Cutietta.

The Trojan Marching Band will be traveling to Shanghai to perform as part of the American performance. Multimedia will also be an important part of the expo. Conferences will be connected via satellite that link American activities to China so that an event held in the United States can be projected into the expo. These discussions will focus on anything, like issues about video gaming technology.

The United States was almost left out of the expo because sufficient funds could not be raised. Upon becoming Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton decided this was crucial for the country’s image. After receiving donations from 34 corporate sponsors, the U.S. finally committed to the event last summer.

“It would have been unimaginable for the United States to be just about the only country on Earth not to be represented in a global event of this size,” said U.S. commissioner general Jose H. Villarreal in a recent LA Times article.

Dube said the expo also represents a huge opportunity for China.

“The Shanghai Expo is really one of China’s great opportunities to demonstrate the enormous changes that have occurred there in recent decades and to show China as a major global center,” Dube said.