People around Eugene or the University of Oregon in the next week may hear more foreign language speakers than usual. There are thousands of athletes and coaches here for the World Junior Track and Field Championships. Helping orient those visitors is a group of U of O student ambassadors.
("Welcome to Eugene" in Japanese) ("Welcome to Eugene" in Italian)
U of O global ambassadors have been welcoming foreign visitors to Eugene over the past few days. They’ve been preparing to host international track and field visitors for almost a year. Interested students submitted paperwork last fall.
Bong: “We had over 250 applications that came in.”
That’s Sheila Bong. She’s with the Office of International Affairs:
Bong: “We interviewed them in face to face interviews, and we also had language assessments for some of the languages that were less commonly taught. We really needed to understand whether or not they had sufficient levels of proficiency to be able to engage meaningfully with the different athletic delegations that were coming to campus.”
The 120 selected students took global sports and business classes in the winter and spring. They've also learned everything from conflict resolution to hospitality.
Adjoa Quansah is hosting 27 people from Ghana and three other African countries. She's excited to interact with her delegates:
Quansah: “If they have any questions about anything from ‘what time do I compete’ to like ‘where’s the nearest place to go get something to eat?’ as well as just get to interact with them and know them not just as an athlete but on a personal level so they feel more comfortable here in the United States.”
Most of the athletes and coaches have never been to the U.S. before. Peter Kinzig has already guided some of the 80 Italian visitors through renting bicycles. He’s also helped with more everyday needs:
Kinzig: “Things to do in Eugene, just basic housing questions, like someone forgot their bathrobe on their way over here, where to buy a new bathrobe, stuff like that.”
Most of the ambassadors have brushed up on local restaurants and trails. Some have even taken up running so they can relate better to the visiting athletes.
Dennis Galvan is Vice Provost for International Affairs. He says the university has strong study abroad and language learning programs. It also has world class track and field expertise. He sees the two as mutually supportive:
Galvan: “We have a natural synergy between athletics and academics and I can see us continuing to work together. Maybe we’ll bring not the junior world championships but the world championships to Eugene in 2019, that’s the hope.”
The World Junior Championships run Tuesday through Sunday at Hayward Field.