Molly Jane Zuckerman ’16 is one of only 40 student ambassadors representing the United States at the World Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, which brings together key leaders from the global business community, high-ranking government officials, and cultural representatives in the first world fair to take place in Central Asia.
The theme of this year’s international exposition is “Future Energy,” and the United States is one of more than 100 countries and international organizations to participate. As an intern for the USA Pavilion, Zuckerman conducts tours of the exhibit for both Kazakh and international visitors.
“The theme of our pavilion is human energy, and how we—humanity—are actually the source of infinite energy,” says Zuckerman.
Student Ambassadors—recently graduated or current U.S. university students whose work is to interact with an estimated 2 million visitors, sponsors and government officials throughout the three-month exposition—were chosen for their interest in Russian language and the Central Asian region, Zuckerman observes. “I’m one of the only students with a Russian literature background (Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies Program at Wesleyan) rather than political science,” she adds.
“My interest in Central Asia began with Langston Hughes’s memoirs of his travels across Uzbekistan, I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey, which I read in a course taught by Victoria Smolkin, assistant professor of history and of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies at Wesleyan,” Zuckerman recalls. “Hughes talked about being a black American, encountering dark-skinned Soviet citizens—and he even wrote several poems just in Uzbek that have only been translated quite recently.”
The Student Ambassadorship program provides a unique, fully funded chance for young people to travel to the Central Asian region and represent the United States at a large-scale, international event. In her three months, Zuckerman says that she has appreciated the experience of living in Kazakhstan while working at the USA Pavilion in various capacities, which include welcoming guests, posing for pictures, and “occasionally helping out with VIP delegations and the American Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol and his work here.”
“All in all, spending more than three months in Kazakhstan is an experience that very few Americans (who don’t work for oil companies) get to experience, and enjoying the hospitality of the Kazakh people has been an incredible bonus of my work here.”