In the brief period that I have been representing the United States as a Student Ambassador at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, I have been most struck by the human aspect of the event. Visitors are not at all deterred by the extreme heat and sudden torrential rainstorms, lightning and thunder included. Noticeably apparent is the pride, excitement, and curiosity of the Chinese guests and the thousands of volunteers.
Enthusiasm for this impressive World's Fair is not in the least bit without reason. The Expo provides an unmatched forum for cultures to mingle and the opportunity for each country to represent their interpretation of the theme "Better city, better life." The architecturally striking China Pavilion dominates the remarkable skyline that lines the Huangpu River.
I grew up in a sleepy beach town in the most southern tip of Los Angeles county. Life along the coast is very slow-paced and laidback making it shocking to transition into the vibrant and fast-moving lifestyle of Shanghai. Every evening when I sit on the balcony of my Expo Village apartment I feel as though I am watching the whole world pass by at an incredibly frenzied pace.
Two years ago I visited Shanghai for a weekend when I spent a semester studying abroad in Beijing. The transformation of the city since that time is unbelievable. This is seen in the number of additional bright lights and structures along the Bund as well as the increased ease of transportation marked by several new subway lines, roads, and bridges. China has become a master at altering and adapting as well as producing impressive displays.
Upon arrival in Shanghai, I felt instantly welcomed by the presence of the cheerful Haibao statues throughout the city. The lighthearted openness of the mascot is reflected in the willingness of people to be brought together by the common Expo and city. In Shanghai I have met people from all over the world. A few of the countries include France, the Philippines, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Columbia, Italy, and Brunei.
Shanghai also has proven itself as a place to reunite. In the short month I have been in Shanghai I have visited with countless classmates from my high school and college days. These are friends that I rarely see when I am in the States. It seems as though everyone is in China these days for shared reasons of the opportunity, adventure, and prospects that exist. I am grateful for the chance to be a part of such a colossal event, one that will not only have a huge impact on the development of China but also on my personal growth.
Within all the pavilions at the World Expo, there is the underlying sentiment of hope and potential to shape a bright future. I believe that this theme is not lost on the tens of thousands of visitors that I interact with daily.
In spite of being exhausted from touring the Expo all day, nearly every guest enters the US Pavilion with a smile and an eagerness to learn about American culture. At the same time, I am using my time as a Student Ambassador as an unparalleled occasion to practice my Mandarin and gain insight into the Chinese way of life. To me this is what the Expo is all about -- encouraging interaction and fostering understanding among nations.
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