Here’s my My EXPO-erience

First of all, as an Arizonan that has never traveled outside of the United States further than Mexico and always in close proximity to my family, one could imagine the amount of culture shock and dissimilarity experienced when I arrived in Italy, and overseas, for the first time. Although at first I felt symptoms of loneliness and angst, I was quickly (within seconds) distracted from any undesirable emotions by the beauty and history around me. Soon enough, any sign of homesickness and uncertainty had transformed into belonging and excitement. Ironically, I have researched Italy for years, since I happen to be half Italian, though my illuminant skin would indicate otherwise (I’m also Irish and Polish, so it is certain that I inherited this smooth, porcelain skin from my father) and am very interested in my ancestry. I have even written research papers on many Italian cities including Venice and Rome for my university courses. When I had applied for an internship in Italy, I had no idea what was in store for me, but I found out very shortly that I would not be disappointed. My first day as an intern was fascinating to say the least. My first task as an intern was to be a tourist! What could be better? As my boss stated on my first day, I am a very fortunate intern because this year, Milan is hosting the biggest World Fair Exposition in history. Words could not express my excitement when I was assigned the task of visiting the Expo the very next day. I found myself in awe as I entered the gates of the Expo. One of the first exhibitions I noticed was Ireland, so of course, my curiosity kicked in and I entered this building first. I did not spend very much time here because I knew there was much more to see in such a small amount of time, but something written on the wall inside this building caught my eye. It wrote, “We did not inherit this world from our parents, we borrowed it from our children. One day we will return it to them. When we do, it should be every bit as bountiful as it was when we found it. That’s what sustainability means…” Right away, my perspective on sustainability had been altered forever.

Decumano, Expo’s main street through pavilions

As I gazed down the Decumano, the main, mile-long walkway, the flags of the 145 participant countries seemed to stretch on forever. It was a lot to take in, but after a few minutes of adjustment, the venue was easy to navigate (especially with my Where Guide in hand!). With the time I had, I was only able to visit four pavilions thoroughly, but in total, I visited about seven or eight in four hours. In a perfect world, I would freeze time and visit them all. While each country has its own concept, the overall theme of this year’s World Expo is fixated upon food, with the motto being “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life.” The food industry can be considered the largest global network that exists and, today more than ever, food sustainability is a major issue. Food brings people together, but the Expo focuses on more than just the abundance of incredible tastes and flavors, it also educates the world’s population on changes we must make in the aspect of food production. One of my favorite pavilions was Holland, which had the best variety of food in my opinion (a must have is their mini pancakes with Nutella!). Poland was pleasantly surprising because the exterior wasn’t as appealing as it’s interior (I was quickly reminded that one cannot judge a book by its cover). Belgium was another favorite of mine; its ambiance was alluring due to its music and large sign indicating where to purchase Belgian fries, which were delicious (also a must have). Mexico seemed to be a favorite among the visitors and also by me, despite the long wait and the fact that the terrace restaurant was closed (being from Arizona, our food is largely influenced by Mexico and I miss the spicy flavors). Turkmenistan and Oman both had gorgeous exteriors and interiors as well.
Ecuador pavilion’s facade

The most appealing pavilions in my opinion, but have not yet visited, are United Arab Emirates, which had the longest queue, Ecuador, my ultimate favorite in terms of exterior design, Columbia, also a beautifully decorated exterior and best music, Malaysia, and Holland. Of course, I had to visit my home country’s (USA) pavilion, despite the somewhat negative reactions I have received. I had mixed feelings; it was nice to see my country represent itself in a sustainable way, but I was slightly disappointed by the building as a whole in terms of appearance. I was craving French fries, a popular fast food in America, but I had trouble finding the food trucks I had heard about, and when I did, fries were nowhere to be found! And another thing was missing… people! Not very surprisingly, our food was not a top pick. So overall, I was mostly thankful for Belgium. Although the queues were very unorganized and I experienced a ton of pushy people, I would have to rate my first of many Expo visits with an A-. I’m sure there are many hidden treasures to discover in the huge vicinity! Lastly, I am glad to have been lucky enough to be included as one of the twenty-some million visitors that will attend this year’s World Expo while I am interning here in Milan, as I may not be able to attend another Expo for quite some time. This experience is something I will always treasure and a story I will pass on for years to come.