Job Gives Student an Inside View of a World's Fair
Shanghai Expo Was a One-of-a-Kind Experience for Junior
Nov. 5, 2010
The site was twice the size of Monaco. More than 400,000 people visited every day, arriving from scores of countries and speaking almost as many languages.
That was a typical day on the job for Cathy Xie recently as one of two Texans chosen to be student ambassadors to World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
The junior with a double major in literary studies and neuroscience spent four months working in the USA Pavilion for the logistics and facilities department. The job gave her an inside view of how an international exposition works.
Her most memorable Expo moment came when the New York Stock Exchange wanted to host their opening bell ceremony in front of the pavilion, but the NYSE ceremonial bells and other items were stuck in customs.
“Since this happened almost as soon as I started working, I didn't have much experience to fall back on, but I was able to successfully get their items through customs in a few hours where it normally takes up to a week, and delivered to them literally 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony,” said Xie. “The NYSE was so grateful, they gave me one of the bells used in the ceremony and the CEO Duncan L. Niederauer and Marshall N. Carter, chairman of the NYSE, signed it for me.”
Another memorable experience came during the opening ceremony of Texas Week as Xie was asked to translate for Texas Governor Rick Perry.
“I was a little nervous when they handed me the script five minutes before I had to go on stage,” she said. “There were a few deviations, but thankfully nothing that was not out of my Chinese vocabulary. This is one of those moments I will remember all my life. I was pleased to represent my state and UT Dallas halfway across the world. Afterwards, I relaxed and thought that that was the end.
“Imagine how surprised I was when I went to visit my grandpa at the hospital that night, and I saw myself on the evening news!”
Xie, who aspires to be “a neurosurgeon by day and a writer by night,” gained a new perspective on living in an international community and society.
“As cliché as it sounds, I feel like the World Expo experience was like getting glasses,” she said. “I read literature and hear the news with a different mindset, one more open and understanding of the differences in the cultures that influence people.”
Xie secured her volunteer position by successfully navigating a competitive application process with assistance from Dr. Douglas Dow, who oversees the University’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships.
“One of the things I loved about this opportunity was that Cathy looked at this from a broad perspective,” said Dow. “She viewed the Expo ambassadorship as a way to grow herself personally as well as professionally while a student at UT Dallas.”
The World Expo, held in Shanghai from May 1 through Oct. 31, represented the first time a developing country has played host to the mega-event. The Expo welcomed 246 countries and international organizations, more than 100 foreign leaders, and over 60 million visitors in the past six months, making it the largest World Expo to date.