"I would have been gravely sorry if I had not applied to be a volunteer," said Jiang Ze, a girl who always has a friendly smile, "I made the right choice and reaped more benefits than I expected."
The Olympic and Paralympic volunteer describes her experience as "once in a lifetime".
Jiang was one of the 74,000 volunteers who provided services at venues of the August 8-24 Olympic Games and is among the 44,000 helping for the September 6-17 Paralympic Games.
Jiang Ze poses for a photo at the National Aquatics Center. [chinadaily.com.cn]
She was assigned the Spectator Service Unit at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the "Water Cube", one of the most exciting venues for the Beijing Olympic and Paralymipic Games. The Spectator Service Unit is in charge of ticket checking, seat guiding and general assistance. "The benefits of being a volunteer are obvious. I have learned a lot about sport from the training sessions and I have been able to practice English by speaking with native speakers. Sometimes I`ve had the chance to take a close look at different sports stars."
"But more importantly, the experience has enriched me and made me a better person in many ways," said the 22-year-old insurance major who will graduate from the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing next year.
"The job is not always as exciting as outsiders might think; sometimes the work can be quite trivial, repetitive or even annoying," said Jiang. "But a volunteer can never complain or pull a long face as one of our responsibilities is to ensure a friendly atmosphere. It requires much patience."
Jiang recalls that once a spectator got the time of his session wrong and missed his event. When he arrived he wanted to enter the Water Cube to have a look around. When he was denied access he lost his temper. It took Jiang and her fellow volunteers an hour to explain the situation and appease him. Finally, he decided to leave with Jiang feeling exhausted. "We kept our composure during the whole process. It was really challenging. "
She admits that on several occasions when spectators have been uncooperative or even rude, she has been unable to hold back tears and rushed to the bathroom to cry. However, a few minutes later, she would come out smiling.
"I will never let the spectators see my tears. Many of them came a long way to share the happiness of the Games. I don`t want to let them down."
"After handling numerous challenges, I believe I can hold my temper better and have become more mature," Jiang said with confidence.
Besides uncooperative spectators, volunteers face many other difficulties, said Jiang.
Before or after a match, the venue sees a huge influx of spectators and the volunteers often need to keep working for many hours without eating or drinking. Sometimes they cannot have supper until 9pm.
"It`s too tiring. For a while I thought I might not make it to the end, but I completed my task for the Olympic Games and I believe I will do better during the Paralympics. Being a volunteer has helped me cultivate a stronger will and I`ve realized I have more potential than I thought."
Through working with fellow volunteers, Jiang said she now better understands team spirit comprising of enthusiasm, participation, harmony and fraternity.
"We`ve been encouraging each other, even if we didn`t know each other`s names. We know we are a team with only one objective: the splendor of the two Games. "
Jiang has made a lot of friends while working with volunteers.
"The friendship differs from that among classmates. We are like a family. It`s so hard to say goodbye and we all shed tears when many of the volunteers left at the end of the Olympic Games. I still can`t get over the feelings."
"I can`t say, ‘I feel like a brand new me`", she chuckled, "For me, there is still a lot that needs to be improved. The change is not overnight as the influence of being a volunteer is subtle. But it will be lifelong," she said.