Rwandan student recounts cultural experience of a lifetime
By Pacifique Nizeyimana  ·  2022-04-08  ·   Source: NO.15 APRIL 14, 2022
Pacifique Nizeyimana with a fellow volunteer inside a sports venue of the Beijing Olympic Winter Games (COURTESY PHOTO)

It was an opportunity to wholly immerse myself in cultural exchanges, whilst at the same time enjoying a spot of athletic competition.

I arrived in China from Rwanda in 2018 to study civil engineering at the Beijing University of Science and Technology. One of the biggest things that happened to me during my stay in China was the opportunity to volunteer at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

My Olympic volunteering journey started last September through a recruitment announcement in a chat group on WeChat—one of China's largest multipurpose social platforms. I was excited to see it as I am myself a keen sports enthusiast and my home country has not yet hosted the likes of these competitions. It was a great opportunity for me to both watch and serve the Olympics. My volunteering stint during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2019, gave me the advantage and my application was successful.

After conducting training through video links and spending two weeks in quarantine, I found myself assigned to volunteer inside the Wukesong Sports Center. The first time I walked in, the presence of people from all segments of society—media, athletes and fellow volunteers—amazed me.

The helper teams were divided into two large groups: the "inner loop" and the "outer loop." The inner team was tasked to handle requests from athletes, journalists, and foreign delegations. This team had its own facilities and in no event was allowed to interact with the outer team. The latter, of which I was a part, was in charge of managing spectator queries and needs.

The Wukesong Sports Center hosted ice hockey games for both men's and women's teams. I will never forget the opening game of China vs. the Czech Republic and the excitement that filled the stadium air; beautifully decorated, all was ready for hit-off. In this first game starring the national team, hundreds and hundreds of spectators had gathered on the stands, including local and international journalists.

I was overwhelmed with joy to be physically present and watch my first-ever Olympic game live, on the "rink." The remaining games were also interesting, and I watched them whenever my volunteering duties would allow.

In our free time, we often had culturally inspired exchanges. It was the best opportunity to learn more about the Chinese New Year celebration given this year, we, foreign students, had a chance to celebrate it together with our Chinese colleagues. And it was grand. We indulged in a sampling of unique Chinese dishes for the occasion like dumplings, fish and spring rolls. Of course, I also had the chance to write Chinese characters, calligraphy, and so on.

I decided to make the most of the occasion and introduce my African and Rwandan heritage to other colleagues. I introduced to them the real image of Africa that they had never before seen on television. From geography to social life, from economy to entertainment, I made them understand more about the continent by presenting examples from my native Rwanda. It was a good platform for us, the younger generations, to talk about our diverse cultures and discuss our nations' different initiatives and plans.

As an international volunteer for Beijing 2022, I was given a unique and unforgettable experience to assist others—for a noble cause. I felt delighted, from the bottom of my heart, and the experience was a highly fulfilling one. As all the combined speeches and messages urged us, I am committed to upholding the spirit of the Olympic Winter Games, bravely moving forward and marching together towards a shared future. 

The author is a Rwandan student at the Beijing University of Science and Technology

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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