Columbia student volunteers at the Olympic Games

Last night Rio welcomed the beginning of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and what an event it was! An emotional ceremony featuring athletes from over 170 nations. We wish them all the best in their performances and look forward to cheering them on.

As for the event itself, let’s not forget the volunteers who also play a major role in making all of this happen. During the Olympic Games in August, Zhexi Shan from Columbia was one of these volunteers and he tells us a little bit about his experience:


How did you decide to come to Rio to volunteer for the Olympics?

Three years ago a friend from Beijing mentioned volunteering for the Olympics, so she knew something about it, and I thought it is a really cool thing. So, the applications started two years ago and I signed up online.

Last summer we had the online interview and I didn’t get my work schedule until May this year – it was a lot of waiting. The thing is my friend, who originally suggested to join the event as volunteers, got accepted by the national University of Singapore and couldn’t come, so I came all by myself, but It has been a really great experience here!

What was your favorite part of the Olympics and of Rio?

Of the Olympics would be the stories just happened here, it was an eye opening. Just to be able to connect to the local people here and not just being a tourist. It is very different.

What was your favorite food?

I´m Chinese! They have rice here! As long as there’s rice I’m good.

But my best eating experience was in Copacabana. An All You Can Eat buffet of Pizza! And that day, I had hiked Pedra da Gávea so I was very hungry and I made my money worth. I was well rewarded.

What do you take from this experience back to Columbia?

I’m really glad I’ve came here. I think I´m going to start seeing things in a new way when I get back to NY.

Was this a good introduction to the country? Do you think you will come back?

Yes, I’m definitely coming back to Rio! I haven’t gone to any museums, cathedrals or anything else besides the Sugar Loaf and the Christ. I was working full time.

You were positioned at the Maria Lenk Stadium where the Diving and Swimming Competitions happened. What did the job entail?

I was wearing the green uniform which meant I was part of the events service team. This means, I was dealing most of the time with spectators.

Sometimes, I scanned the tickets, helped them find their seats... one of the days, I worked at the athletes’ exit and I got to see all of the famous athletes!

Did you learn any Portuguese?

I took a year of Portuguese at Columbia but I think the most memorable phrase was: ‘Go up one more level’ – “Subir mais um”

Do you practice any sport?

I play Badminton, but I’m an amateur. When I mentioned it here to people they asked me what it was...but I heard you have a similar sport here at the beach (frescobol).