Tuesday 5 Aug, 2008

Meet EF’s Olympics ambassador

The Beijing Olympics begin Friday, but EF has had Olympic fever for some time already.

Not only is EF Education First the Official Language Training Services Supplier of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and not only did EF’s founder, Bertil Hult, carry the Olympic torch, but EF also has its very own Olympian.

Cristina Teuscher—a New York native who now works in EF’s London office—is a two-time Olympic medalist. Cristina won a gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay at the
1996 Games in Atlanta, and she won bronze in the 200-meter individual
medley at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Lately, Cristina has been traveling the world, promoting EF’s role in the Olympics. Cristina visited both our Boston and Denver offices in the past couple of months, and she recently took time to answer some questions for us before traveling to Beijing for the Games.

Following the Equator: What is EF’s role in the 2008 Olympic Games as the Official Language Training Services Supplier?

Cristina Teuscher:
We are training [nearly 5,000] BOCOG [Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the 29th Olympiad] officials, judges,
interpreters and translators in English in preparation for the Olympic
Games through intense face-to-face classes and online sessions as well.
The training has gone so well that BOCOG has extended the training for
its junior officials.

Equator: How important has EF’s English training been for the Olympic participants (athletes, judges, staff, etc.)?

Teuscher: It has been extremely important because all
officials and judges need to have a basic level of English to
participate/host the Olympic Games.

Equator: How important has the Olympics been for EF?

Teuscher: This relationship for us makes sense because we
share the same values as the Olympic games: breaking down the barriers
of language, culture and geography. We do it through language and
travel education; the Olympics does it through sport.

Equator: What kind of a presence has EF had in Beijing this year?

Teuscher: We have had incredible presence throughout China
starting in 1994 in Shanghai with our first school. People know the EF
name in China for our English First schools and Smart Schools, and now
they will recognize us more through our supplier relationship. We have
advertisements in high commercial traffic areas, malls, taxi cabs as
well as on the radio.

Equator: What have you been doing in the past year to promote EF’s involvement in the Games?

Teuscher: I have been traveling throughout the world this
past year where EF has offices and/or customers. I have been doing
speaking engagements highlighting our Olympic supplier relationship as
well as talking about my own Olympic experience. It has been incredibly
humbling and exciting.

Equator: As an Olympic gold medalist, what does it mean to you personally for EF to be connected to the Beijing Games?

Teuscher: I think the best part for me is that it fits with
our values so well, which makes it an exciting and easy place for me to
speak from and about. Plus, I get to spend my day with young students
and athletes from all over the world, so I have fun.

Equator: When did you start working for EF, and how did you wind up at EF?

Teuscher: I started working for EF in August 2007 and found
my way to EF from INSEAD. I was looking to do something
entrepreneurial, and EF fit really well with what I was looking for.

Equator: What is your regular role with EF in London?

Teuscher: I started working in APP (Academic Programmes and Pathways) and then my role switched to full-time Olympic project manager.

Equator: What was your first Olympic experience like at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta?

Teuscher: An incredibly emotional roller coaster. I was
nervous, excited, sick to my stomach, couldn’t wait for it to be over,
didn’t want it to ever end … I went through all of these feelings in
the two weeks I was there. But as an Olympian, I’m so thankful I got to
experience the Olympics in my home country. There’s just nothing like

Equator: What was your experience like at the 2000 Games in Sydney?

Teuscher: In Sydney, I knew much more what to expect, and I
was just focused on enjoying the experience. Plus, swimming is the most
popular sport in Australia—you can read about swimmers in the gossip
pages(!)—so that added a new level to the sport in terms of the
audience’s knowledge. It was amazing.

Equator: Where do you keep your gold and bronze medals?

Teuscher: In a safety deposit box in the U.S. I know, sad,
but they’re not replaceable! But I do like to take them out to share
them with students, colleagues, etc. It’s nice to see how exciting they
can be for others to hold/touch.

Equator: Aside from winning the medals, what are your favorite memories of the Olympics?

Closing Ceremonies. All the athletes got really bored with the
organized proceedings so we just ran out onto the field and started
dancing and jumping around. We kind of ruined the formal
presentation/ceremony, but it really created an impromptu moment of
celebration with all of the athletes. It really captured what the
Olympics is about without it being a set-up commercialized moment,
which is just about every other moment in the Games!

Equator: Will you be in Beijing this summer for the Games? What will you be doing during the Olympics?

Teuscher: I will be an EF hospitality team member, so I’ll be
helping welcome all of our Olympic package winners. It will be fun, but
I’m sure a bit tiring and emotional. I just hope I get to see some of
the swimming during the two weeks!

Equator: Are you still involved with the swimmers on the U.S. Olympic Team?

Teuscher: I was just at the U.S. Olympic swim trials! It was fun
to see some of my old teammates do well, but I don’t miss that
pressure. I keep in touch with a few of them and plan on seeing them at
the Olympics when they’re done swimming.

Equator: Do you still swim?

Teuscher: I swim for fun and to train for my beach vacations. 😉

Equator: What will you do when the Olympics are over?

Teuscher: Sleep!! And lie on the beach in Thailand.

Equator: You’ve traveled a lot in the past year EF and as an Olympic athlete. What are your favorite travel destinations?

Teuscher: I have been to China now four times in this past
year, and it has become one of my favorite destinations. The Chinese
are so excited to host the Games—there’s a real excitement throughout
the entire country, and it has created a lot of opportunity for people
there. Plus, I love the culture. I come from a very young country, so
to learn about hundreds or thousands of years of traditions gave me a
better sense of how large this world is and what a small part of it we
are. Plus, I think it’s so true: The more you learn, the more you
realize you don’t know.

Equator: What’s your dream travel destination?

Teuscher: India. I do yoga quite a bit and would love to take a month to live in Mysore and deepen my practice there.

Equator: How important do you think educational travel is for American students?

Teuscher: Incredibly important. I think we have a
responsibility to learn about other cultures, especially of those
countries that we affect. As the world is becoming more globalized,
there is no excuse for not understanding how your country interacts
with others on a social, political and economic basis. Don’t believe
everything you read or hear in the news—to learn, you have to see
it/experience it for yourself.

Equator: Will EF be involved in the 2012 Olympic Games in your new hometown of London?

Teuscher: I hope so. This relationship fits EF, and it
certainly isn’t the first time we’ve done it (Seoul ’88). Luckily, our
Efekta method extends into five other languages besides English! It
would be hard to teach English to the Brits …