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Jing Feng - USA Pavilion Student Ambassador

USA Pavilion Student Ambassador from Concordia University, now serving at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo
May 6, 2010

Interconnectivity and Communication                                 April 27, 2010

In my two weeks of being in Shanghai for the World Expo, I noticed that the network of Pavilions functions like a diorama of the world. Through visits to or from neighboring Pavilions, each country’s cultural outreach efforts come closer to total fulfillment. With the participation of 192 countries in this micro-model of the world, visitors have the chance to experience global cuisines, languages, histories, and products with a quick walk or bus ride (less time waiting in line). The internet brought the world to one’s fingertips, but the Shanghai World Expo 2010 takes one extra step to capture the essence of the world and present it in Shanghai. Guests experience sensory overload via the smells and tastes of delicious ethnic foods, the feel of major country exports, the sight of diverse people, and the sound of music and oral traditions.

Even within the USA Pavilion, the staff is interconnected. Of course, we contribute our collective talents to form a show that will entertain and educate the masses, but our interest in Chinese culture unites us. Every additional day we spend together adds another layer of awareness (and hopefully appreciation) for diverse backgrounds, even within our own group.

On a communication standpoint, the USA Pavilion Student Ambassador network is fast-paced and highly accurate, almost like an online social network. For example, in the early pre-Expo days, not all SAs purchased a phone or internet plan, so some SAs may have been difficult to reach after training. Not to worry, though – our USA Pavilion SA network may not be as lightning-fast as fiberoptics, but it quickly relayed messages to the other SAs, such as dinner plans or other social get-togethers. One may liken this to a Tweet or a Facebook Event invite, in which one can instantly receive the message and RSVP.

Yet, with little time spent on the internet these days, I find that Word of Mouth gives me options and sometimes serves as a source of news when I cannot go online. In any case, the strength of Word of Mouth is staggering. On the fourth day of living in Shanghai, I celebrated a friend’s birthday with a medium-sized group at a Thai restaurant. The food was so scrumptious that a few days later, one person within the group went there to eat again. Four days later, the second group of SAs arrived in town and not too long after, another birthday was celebrated…at that same Thai restaurant, just because someone heard from someone else that the restaurant served delectable dishes. Just a few days ago, another birthday group celebrated at the same restaurant. Within my three weeks of being in China, at least three medium-sized groups already visited the same restaurant because of Word of Mouth. I will continue to ponder the power of Word of Mouth (positive and negative) as I continue exploring my marketing interests.

Of course, the rounds of messages passing through people can sometimes become a game of Telephone. Perhaps the first ten people correctly pass on the message, but the eleventh person misses a small detail that becomes important in retrospect. I have not personally experienced this at work, but I am sure it is applicable anywhere there is human communication.

The other day, I jokingly suggested to a friend that the entire queue (approximately 500 people) play “Telephone” as a source of entertainment, but I later remembered that 1) it would take too long and 2) Chinese telephoners are smart. Case in point: when I taught university English, my students would correctly pass on the message until the very end; each “Telephone line” had been about 15-20 students. It was not until later that I discovered that the teller would whisper the message, while the receiver would listen and whisper back the message to check it for accuracy. No doubt that if the queue took my idea seriously, all of them would finish with the correct message (or would quickly tire of the game in the hot sun).

As the Expo continues, I may return to this idea of interconnectivity and explore the other ways we (humans, or a combination of humans and inanimate objects – not unidentified flying ones) may be interconnected.

Picturesque Panoramas                                                    April 17, 2010

Every evening I come home from work (except for those foggy nights, in which I cannot even see my hands), I notice a beautiful, multicolored bridge. From my window, I am able to gaze at the night sky and clearly perceive the cable-drawn bridge bursting with a spectrum of color.

One night, I had a very romantic date...with myself. I treated myself to a splendid view of the aforementioned bridge, the "Nanpu Bridge" (南浦大桥). Walking through a dark alleyway was scary, especially since I kept terrifying myself with my squeaky shoes. This high-pitched sound gave me the impression that I was being followed. The end prize, however, was spectacular. I spent over 30 minutes on the dock underneath the bridge, taking panoramas, scenic pictures, and timed portraits. It was a fantastic time had by yours truly.

Nanpu Bridge, just north of the Expo

Exceeding Expectations                                                    April 13, 2010

Even after learning about my acceptance into the USA Pavilion Student Ambassador Program, I did not know what to expect. My initial impression of the position was that I would be using my Chinese abilities to take groups of Expo attendees on tours around the exhibitions, with the majority of attendees being Chinese. After attending a few sessions of training, I was excited to find that the Student Ambassador Program was composed of many departments. Some positions even allow for rotations. As I am fervent about learning about business via practical application, I was enthusiastic to learn the inner workings of a start-up company, which is essentially the USA Pavilion.
Additionally, Student Ambassadors were given computer-rendered images of their apartments in China before their departure dates. USA Pavilion staff notified us that certain items, such as cookware and towels, would be provided. However, the staff did not confirm how Student Ambassadors would do laundry, which was one of my many concerns.

Fast forward to that fateful night of arrival, the night we would learn about our living quarters. My Californian roommates and I stumbled into our apartments, jetlagged and hungry. I entered the living room with a look of amazement on my face. The living quarters were the exact images the staff had given us, plus more.

Best temporary apartments…EVER.

We had an apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. Within our kitchen, we were pleased to find a Haier washing machine and drying rack. Outside in the living room, a medium-sized flat-screen Haier TV sat on the shelf waiting to be watched. Furthermore, we found a box of goodies provided by Wal-mart - our generous sponsors gave us laundry detergent, liquid soap, dishwashing equipment, extra towels, power strips, hangers, and bottled water.

What would I do without the sponsors' generosity? Their donations have touched my life by helping me feel comfortable in a new city within a foreign country. Indeed, the theme of hospitality is interwoven in Chinese interactions and was evident in this instance.

I am certain that my Student Ambassador experience will bring even more pleasant surprises in the months ahead.

Introduction                                                                         April 11, 2010

Who am I? I am one of the chosen 160.

My name is Jing Feng and I am a Student Ambassador (SA) working for the USA Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. The World Expo, formerly the World's Fair, began in the 1850s and primarily transformed technological ideas into reality, until the 20th century, when cultural exchanges were emphasized by the participants. The Eiffel Tower, Seattle Space Needle, and Disneyland's "It's a Small World" rides are permanent structures resulting from such fairs, while telephones and escalators were unveiled at the World's Fairs of the past.

This year's World's Expo is held in Pudong and Puxi areas of Shanghai from May 1, 2010 to October 31, 2010. In the Shanghai World Expo 2010, many countries and organizations are invited to present an exhibition relevant to sustainability or technology - in total, 192 countries and 50 organizations are participating. Within the Expo grounds, one can visit countries vicariously via each pavilion's exhibit (though some do not have their own pavilions).

As for the USA Pavilion, its interior is a surprise (:D). There are four main rooms for attendees – I highly encourage all to visit. Through its building architecture, the USA Pavilion endeavors to illustrate an eagle spreading its wings, celebrating freedom and optimism, embracing diverse cultures and novel challenges, and allowing ideas of innovation to take flight. Indeed, by solving problems with technology and sustainability efforts, all can fulfill the goal of a “Better City, Better Life” – this is the Expo theme, also translated as “城市,让生活更美好。”)

For the next three months, I will be stationed in Shanghai, experiencing its lifestyle and cuisine, and working at the world's largest event, which is expected to draw 70 million international guests. I anticipate once-in-a-lifetime experiences and four months of cultural enlightenment. Join me as I savor this amazing experience.