When Emma Zhang ’21 decided she wanted to find a volunteer opportunity in the North Country, she had no idea she would end up working with children from her hometown of Beijing, China.
Zhang, a sophomore mathematics major at Clarkson, spent the last week working as an interpreter for the Chinese delegation at the International Children’s Games, held in Lake Placid.
“I just wanted to do some volunteering on campus, so I was searching on Google what volunteer opportunities there are in Potsdam, and I just saw the page so I applied to it,” she said.
Shortly thereafter, Zhang heard from Clarkson Vice President for External Relations Kelly Chezum, who helped facilitate Zhang’s experience at the International Children’s Games.
Bridging a language barrier for a group of international athletes is no small task, but Zhang found the experience rewarding. She was with the Chinese delegation every step of the way.
“My duty was to follow the team and if they had any questions at any moment, I would be there for them to solve their problems because there was a language barrier at all times and they were very confused,” Zhang said. “Sometimes they were confused with their schedules and what games they were playing at that moment, so I was helping with that.”
“Emma was a model ambassador for Clarkson and the games,” said Chezum. “She, like all of the collegiate language interpreters, was dedicated to ensuring the young athletes gained a meaningful experience through the sporting events as well as the numerous multi-cultural activities on the schedule.”
Zhang has lived in the United States for three years but is originally from Beijing, the hometown of many of the athletes she was helping. She said she made a connection with the team during their time together.
“The kids were really endearing. We were talking and chatting the whole time,” she said.
Zhang stepped out of her comfort zone during her time in Lake Placid, as she said she has never been a huge sports fan. She said she admired the abilities of the athletes from all around the world, and the spirit of the team sports was something that has stuck in her memory.
“I think the thing that really touched me was the effort the kids put into their winter sport. Not just the Chinese delegation, but because I watched a lot of hockey games there, all of the U.S. teams, the Canada teams, the other teams,” Zhang said.
Zhang said she is appreciative of the Clarkson staff who helped make her experience possible, and also hopes that she can find similar ways to volunteer in the future.
“It was a really meaningful experience for me,” Zhang said. “I encourage students and the University to seek out access to more of these kinds of opportunities to be more involved.”
Clarkson University is also partnering with the Adirondack Global Sports Commission and hosting the World University Games in 2023.