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Aggies Intern at Olympic Call Center

- Released on Aug 05, 2008

August 5, 2008, College Station, TX – When the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics begins on Friday, three Texas Aggies will know that they have been a significant part of China’s preparations for what International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has called a “landmark event for the Olympic movement.” The three undergraduate students, philosophy major Aaron Blick, communication major Robert Cox, and finance major Alex McQuade, have just finished internships at the Qingdao Olympic multi-language call center from July 8 to August 1, 2008, as part of a 10-week study abroad experience in China. The 5-week internships allowed the trio to help train and test call center volunteers on how to handle phone enquiries from visitors from the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. The multi-language services hotline was officially launched on July 27 in Olympic co-host city Qingdao in a bid to provide mother tongues services to troubled visiting foreigners. The round-the-clock service can handle calls in seven languages: English, Korean, Japanese, German, French, Russian and Spanish. Although the Olympics are commonly referred to as the “Beijing Olympics,” in fact, there are six different cities in China that are hosting Olympic events. Qingdao (pronounced “ching-dow”), located on the coast of China, is hosting the Olympic sailing competition, which features over 400 athletes competing in eleven different events. The city, best known around the world for the famous Tsingtao Beer that is brewed there, is also the home of the Ocean University of China, which hosts Texas A&M’s summer study abroad program, and thus, the students found themselves right in the middle of China’s Olympic preparations. The job of the three Aggies was to help to prepare the staff of the call center for calls from Olympics tourists in the city. The Aggie students helped to improve the English and customer service skills of the call center staff, and in a short amount of time, were able to see the center go from the training phase, to the testing phase, and finally open to the public. Blick, Cox and McQuade felt very lucky that they were part of the first ever Olympics held in China. Out of over 21,000 foreign applicants for volunteer positions at the Olympics, only 900 were accepted. Picture Above: (From left) Robert Cox, Alex McQuade and Aaron Blick are proud to wear their Olympics volunteer shirt while spending their time exploring Chinese culture during their study abroad trip in Qingdao, China. McQuade said that the internship opportunity, and the China study abroad trip as a whole, gave him new insight into the meaning of the Olympics for the Chinese people. “Working for the Olympic call center has been a real life experience. We've had the opportunity to take part in an international effort that has definitely widened our horizons. It's hard to realize how excited the Chinese are about the Olympics until you're in the center of all the action. China has really united while preparing for the games,” said McQuade Picture Above: (From left) Aggies Aaron Blick, Robert Cox, Alex McQuade and Will Chambers making dumplings with other volunteers at the Olympic Call Center, as featured in The Peninsula Metropolis. The students also believe that the experience gave them unusual training for their future careers. “I've had a great time, met some great people and had some great experiences! The international atmosphere along with the work experience has given me great tools for my future endeavors,” said Blick. Another “bonus” of this internship was that the students got their fair share of fame in the local media. The three interns were featured in local papers in China, including The Peninsula Metropolis, the Qingdao Morning News, and the Qingdao Evening News. In addition, they were featured in a promotional video about the Olympics. The students also developed a better understanding of some of the realities of China’s growth, and the political issues that emerge from that growth. “I feel the experience has changed my views on how prepared China really is for the Olympics. They have gone through great strides at their own expense to show the world that they can actually be a world power, and be influential in the future.” said Cox. Blick, Cox and Mcquade will be returning to the US on August 6 with 4 other A&M students who are on the same study abroad program. The other students also worked as interns at various organizations in Qingdao, including Hisense, one of the biggest electronic products manufacturers in China, Red Star, an English language publishing and media company, and the International Office of the Ocean University of China. Picture Above: Aggies Blick, Cox and McQuade were featured in the Qingdao Morning News for their internship at the Olympic Call Center in Qingdao, China. Antonio La Pastina, the Texas A&M Communication Department faculty member who led the trip, said that the experience was definitely worthwhile. “Our goal was for the students to get beyond a shallow understanding of China, beyond the stereotypical image of China portrayed by the media in the west. All of the internships helped them to grasp the reality of life and work in China.”