USA Pavilion Expo 2012

USAP Student Ambassadors build bridges with Korean Students

Sarah Slagle (24) Scarborough, Maine; Arizona State University

Today I got the chance to chat with several students around the USA Pavilion.  They all seemed interested in the ocean and definitely had a chance to learn a lot more about it during their Expo visit.  I asked them about their ocean experiences and about how we can protect the ocean.

Almost everyone I talked to immediately responded that we should throw away trash in the proper places.  This might seem natural to Americans, but Korean streets often have random paper and wrappers in them so it’s an on-going campaign here in Yeosu and all over Korea.  In the USA Pavilion queue, a group of boys from Bokseong High School (복성고등학교) talked about the importance of recycling and also warned against throwing  trash in the ocean.   While waiting in line with her family, Se-eun Kim (김세은), age 9, from Seoul, added that people should “turn off water during teeth brushing” to help protect the ocean.  Students seem to be well-educated about what they can do to help the ocean and the Expo is undoubtedly inspiring them to learn more.

In general, the students seem to appreciate the coast as a place to play and relax.  “The ocean is refreshing and beautiful,” said Yejin Hong (홍예진), age 15, from Yeocheon Middle School (여천중학교).  Sukyeong Park, age 16, and her friends said they like to go to the ocean in the summer to swim, camp, and eat pork belly (삼겹살) and watermelon together.  Minju Oh (오민주), age 14, and Gayeon Nam (남가연), age 14, told me that you can see lots of jellyfish and seagulls at Yeosu beaches.  They also pointed out the importance of picking up trash on the beach to help protect the environment.

I was also really interested in what the students thought of our Pavilion, of course.  To say the least, it’s really popular with students.  Wonshik Kim (김원식), age 15, from Yeocheon Middle School (여천중학교), said “it’s very great because the pictures are nice.”  Minju and Gayeon enthusiastically reported that the USA Pavilion is the “best!”  After a long day, it’s always nice to hear such nice words.  The USA Pavilion student ambassadors love getting positive feedback and appreciate the importance of building bridges with Korean students.  Student Ambassador George Vourderis, age 22, of New York, puts it best, “Our policy is people-to-people diplomacy and it starts with students and the youth.  We want to teach the youth about American culture and values and it makes it easier in the future when the U.S. engages with young Koreans.”

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