Welcoming Six Million Visitors, Student Ambassadors Represent America to the World

As the six-month Milan Expo approaches its October 31closing, the USA Pavilion is celebrating a successful run marked by hundreds of events and six million visitors. The experience of those visitors, as well as the daily parade of events at the USA Pavilion, has been greatly enhanced by the Pavilion’s popular corps of Student Ambassadors

These multilingual U.S. college students, serving in two groups of 60 from May through July and August through October, welcomed guests, led tours, participated in Expo events, and wrote blogs about programs at the USA Pavilion. They escorted high-profile guests ranging from First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to award-winning celebrity chef Jose Andrés and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

The students have been integral to the Pavilion’s “Terrace Talks,” a series of more than 70 programs on everything from the status of the planet’s water resources to the future of space exploration to global coffee culture. Student Ambassador and Italian speaker Emma Berg noted that her role as interpreter for these talks allowed her to connect with the speakers and audience in a meaningful way, shaping her perspective on global food security and the sustainability of the food system, core themes of the USA Pavilion at the Milan Expo.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with Student Ambassadors exhibit guides at the USA Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo [State Department photo].

Beyond the Expo, the Student Ambassadors visited the World Food Program in Rome and the Milan farm that grew the plants for the USA Pavilion’s vertical farm, which was sprouted from American seeds.  According to Student Ambassador Sarah Goldman, the football field-sized vertical farm inspired guests “to think critically about how to use vertical space in innovative and efficient ways.” 

Other highlights included events such as “Hollywood and Dine,” a panel discussion addressing the impact of entertainment on consumer choices, and volunteering at Refettorio Ambrosiano, which prepares meals for the homeless from leftover food, bringing attention to food wastage. Working with the nonprofit organization Stop Hunger Now, the students packaged 31,000 meals for global distribution. Student Ambassador Benjamin Gerard explained this experience made him more aware of the role every individual can play in helping to feed the planet.

On top of the full schedule of official programs, the students regularly added their own flavor to the Expo menu. A recent Student Ambassador-choreographed flash mob set to Beyoncé’s “Move Your Body” reached an astounding 90,000 views on Facebook. The performance, at the entrance to the USA Pavilion, delighted visitors while linking First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Campaign” with the Pavilion’s theme of “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet,” bringing awareness to global health and feeding the future.

Secretary Kerry’s October 17 Expo visit and speech further inspired the students and highlighted the importance of addressing issues of food security and climate change. As the Expo and their time representing their country draws to a close, a number of Student Ambassadors have expressed interest in Foreign Service careers. Whatever their future paths,  Secretary Kerry expressed his hope that they “continue to be ambassadors on this...topic for years and years to come.”

About the Author: Teresa Temkin serves in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.  

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Posted by Teresa Temkin
October 30, 2015

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