Updated: March 6, 2018 at 10:22 a.m.
For seven students, the Olympics went well beyond the TV screen.
GW’s Korean Management Institute collaborated with the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee for the first time this year to send student volunteers to work at the Winter Games. From opening day to the closing ceremony last week, students worked with Olympics staff to give visitors information and organize events.
Grace Headinger, a junior studying international affairs, worked as a volunteer for event services in the information center at the Gangneung Olympic Park, where figure skating, hockey, speed skating and other ice sports were held.
“I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity not only to experience such an international event and be around athletes and spectators from around the world, but also to experience working and living in such a radically different culture such as South Korea,” Headinger said.
Former University President Steven Knapp signed an agreement last year to send up to 50 student volunteers to the 2018 Winter Games for the first time.
Headinger is currently studying abroad at the University of Sydney, where the semester begins in early March, so she was able to volunteer at the Olympics without it interfering with her academic schedule.
As a volunteer, Headinger said she was provided with food and accommodations throughout the entirety of the games. She found out about the opportunity to volunteer after she received an email from Lisa Neirotti, an associate professor of sport management, who has led a class that travels to the Olympics as part of their curriculum since 1994.
Through this opportunity, Headinger was able to meet a variety of athletes, coaches and Olympic sponsors like figure skater Adam Rippon, who was one of three men to compete in figure skating for Team USA and was the United States’ first openly gay athlete to win a medal at the Winter Games.
She said her favorite part of the experience was watching Team USA perform on the last day of the figure skating competition.
Lily Perkel, a sophomore majoring in history who is currently studying abroad in Shanghai, was another events service volunteer. Perkel said tourists would come to her for help because many of the Korean volunteers didn’t speak English.
Perkel said most of the training, other than an online training in early January, happened once she and the six other volunteers arrived in South Korea.
Volunteering gave Perkel the opportunity to snag a coveted ticket to the gold medal women’s hockey game, which was Team Canada versus Team USA.
“I grew up watching hockey, and it was really cool to be there when the USA won in a shootout,” Perkel said.
Shizhe You, a second-year graduate student working toward a master’s degree in sport management, said he chose to volunteer at the Olympics to gain experience in “mega-events” so he can go on to work for companies like the International Sports Federation in event planning.
He said the most memorable moment was when he attended the media ceremony for men’s short track speed skating, where Dajing Wu from China was awarded the gold medal.
“The moment the anthem began, I was so excited that I could not control my tears,” You said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
On one reference, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that eight students volunteered at the Olympics. There were seven student volunteers. We regret this error.