Each year, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting brings together some of the most learned and accomplished economic and political figures in the world. How they communicate with each other and with each year’s host community typically falls to those who aspire to one day take their place.
With nods to tradition and practicality, then, the Hawaii Host Committee assigned an ambitious group of 15 University of Hawaii undergraduate and graduate students to translate from English to 10 other languages the various briefs and fact sheets and guides given to delegates.
"There was a lot of pressure because these documents are going to be given directly to the delegates," said Olga Moulton, one of several UH students who have helped answer APEC 2011’s massive translation needs. "It was exciting, and I’m hoping to have more opportunities when they arrive."
Moulton, 26, hails from a small town next to Vladivostok, Russia, site of the 2012 APEC meetings. She came to Hawaii in 2003 to attend Brigham Young-Hawaii where she studied international business and economics. She is now a Ph.D. candidate in economics and research assistant at UH. Her dissertation, which she intends to defend this year, focuses on how global financial crises from 1980 to the present have affected various forms of foreign direct investment.
Working on APEC "is a great experience," Moulton said. "I’m being exposed to different issues I’ve learned about as a student and research assistant, but in their real-world application."
Moulton has been working on APEC preparations for nearly two years, ever since her graduate adviser, Denise Konan, was assigned to be the senior APEC associate to UH President M.R.C. Greenwood on APEC 2011. In that time she has assisted in developing marketing materials and provided technical assistance on economic research briefs as well as coordinated the UH Economic Research Organization’s APEC internship program, which handled many of the translation duties for the Host Committee and UHERO. (Moulton handled the Russian translations.)
"It takes a lot of teamwork, and the interns have been so helpful in making sure everything gets done," Moulton said. "I can’t thank them enough. They have their own busy schedules, but they’re very dedicated and hard-working. A lot of things now are last-minute, but they’ve taken the initiative to make sure they get done."
Moulton, who will enter the academic job market upon graduation, says she hopes to be involved in helping Vladivostok prepare for APEC 2012.
Kanoe Tokunaga, 26, another of Konan’s research assistants, brings a similar set of academic bona fides to her work with APEC.
A native of Tottori prefecture, Japan, Tokunaga earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Washington College in Maryland and a master’s in economics from UH. She’s in her fourth year as a Ph.D. student at UH and is working on a
dissertation on fishery and aquaculture management.
Tokunaga worked on the Japanese translations of the pre-arrival information sheet that will be given to Japanese delegates, and will work at the high-profile CEO Summit.
Tokunaga, who learned English as part of the mandatory curriculum in Japan, said she found the translation work "not easy but not difficult."
Jeremy Shao, 22, a UH undergraduate majoring in political science and economics, became involved in the preparations after taking a summer session course on APEC. Born in Shanghai and raised in Beijing, Shao handled the Mandarin translation of documents for the Host Committee and UHERO.
Shao is one of the few UH translators for APEC with previous translation experience, which he gained while working for the Chinese officials during his vacations back home.
"It was sometimes difficult," Shao said of translating APEC documents. "The Hawaiian words were especially difficult since many of them do not have direct Chinese translations. For example, there is no Chinese word for ‘lei.’ I ended up translating it to the Chinese words for ‘flower ring.’"
Shao predicts that Chinese officials, who already have a keen interest in learning about the state’s tourism-based economy, will be able to learn much from their stay in Hawaii.
"Hawaii has many different cultures, and it would be good for China to learn about multicultural communities and how different people are able to get along."
UH undergraduate Kelly Park, 22, also became involved with APEC after taking the summer session course. Park, who was born in Chicago and raised in South Korea, fits the overachiever profile of many APEC volunteers. She is triple-majoring in political science, economics and Spanish and spent last semester as an intern for U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono. Her curriculum vitae also includes mentoring children of inmates through Keiki o ka Aina and official positions in the UH-Manoa National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the International Golden Key Honour Society. Like her fellow interns, she has spent the last few months trying to balance a full course load with her translation and outreach work for APEC.
"I’m not going to lie: It’s been very hard," Park said. "I’ve been behind in all my courses this semester. But my teachers have been very supportive, and I know that having Hawaii host APEC isn’t going to happen again in my lifetime, so I want to make the most of it."