Yuan Yang, an Eller College of Management student majoring in Management Information Systems (MIS), volunteered in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Why did you seek out a volunteer opportunity at the 2018 Winter Olympics? I’ve always been a fan of the Olympics as a stay-at-home spectator, and have always loved the message of unity that it delivered. Applying was honestly just a spur of the moment and impulsive decision. I wanted to experience something completely new and get out of my comfort zone!
Where did you volunteer? Pyeongchang, South Korea!
What were your duties? It was a hospitality role so I was basically just chatting with the people inside the USA House and checking that they had the credentials to enter since it was private for athletes and sponsors.
How did you find the opportunity? There is a website to be an official volunteer for the Olympic games itself, but I had missed the deadline so I looked up opportunities for the USA specifically. I reached out to my career coaches, Marisa Allen and Nancy Roberts, and they were able to provide me with a contact from the United States Olympics Committee. I then reached out and applied from there!
What surprised you the most about the experience? How friendly everyone was! The South Koreans that I met were all so welcoming and eager to share their culture with us! I was also able to meet other volunteers from Switzerland, Canada, Slovenia, Holland, and more. It was such a unique environment and It didn’t matter what country you were rooting for, everyone was just so excited to be there. There was just such a strong sense of unity for everyone involved.
Another shocking part was seeing the infamous cheerleaders from North Korea, they were sitting across the stadium and are just as in sync as the viral videos online.
Do you have a favorite memory from the experience? I have so many! It was so cool getting to see Red Gerard win USA’s first gold medal in the games, but my favorite would have to be when I got free tickets to go see Men’s Figure Skating and it was amazing. Figure skating looks beautiful on TV, but in person, there’s just a whole other element of grace and elegance to it. And NBC typically turns the sound down so they can commentate, which can take away from the performance, but being there, you could hear the awe and whoops every time a skater landed a quad or a collective gasp and encouraging cheers after a fall. You were invested and rooted for every skater as a person and not by the country they represented.
How do you think this experience will affect you in the future (or shape your future goals)? Well, I’m basically planning on going to every Olympics from now on, either as a volunteer or a spectator.