At first I was not nervous about meeting the First Lady. I figured it would not be a big deal. I tried to treat the experience as meeting a classmate or friend. But then, during the start of the speech, before the interview, I saw her. My nerves immediately shot to the roof and I became nervous. There was no warning sign or hint that she would be coming out when she did. Immediately, I thought, OMG! OMG! OMG! She’s coming, this is too real! Jeffrey, get it together! Meanwhile, I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast and my stomach was growling a bit, which was embarrassing!
So as she comes my way, she says, good to see you! (I was able to sit in the front row of the auditorium, right next to the First Lady, the President of Beida, and the US Ambassador to China). After she gave her amazing speech, I had the opportunity to participate in an interactive classroom session with Stanford University and Beida University students along with the First Lady and the US Ambassador to China. Afterwards, I went to go interview the First Lady. During this time, my nerves shot through the roof. I realized that I would be in a room, alone with her for an extended period of time having a casual conversation.
When I entered the room, she immediately gave me a hug and the interview began. For a period of time, because I was so in shock that I was meeting her, I forgot the questions she was asking me. But then, she calmed me down and gave me great advice. After about four trials and errors with the introduction, we began the interview.
When I interviewed her, I was asking questions that students from across the United States submitted to her; I was asking questions on their behalf. Being able to interview the First Lady made me feel proud that I was able to reach the point in life where I was good enough to be chosen to receive such an honor.
Being interviewed by the First Lady was just the same. I was not prepared for some of the questions that she asked me, and for a moment, I felt nervous to answer. However, she made me feel so at home that my nerves immediately went away. At that moment, I realized that she really wanted to get to know me as a person, aside from being a student, aside from being an American in China, just a person. This made me feel like she really cared.
At first my parents back home didn’t realize that in addition to the fact that I was interviewing her, there would also be a video. But when I told them there would be a video, they screamed. They watched it and said I did a great job and that they are proud of the man I have become. After receiving the video, I posted it everywhere and so did everyone else. I knew family and friends back home would be surprised that I did such a thing. But I didn’t expect to receive as much love, thanks, congratulations, and loving heartwarming, encouraging messages as I did from them. I read through all of the messages and I almost cried. Everyone is very proud of me and of what I have accomplished. I am forever grateful for the support that I have received, including the opportunity to participate in programs such as APSA and the 100K Strong Student Ambassadors program. This experience reminded me that I am not alone in this world and that people actually do support me and really care.
Jeffrey Wood--100K Strong Student Ambassador, APSA Scholar, George Mason University student, and Gilman and Boren Scholar for the 2013-2014 academic year--interviewed First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, following her speech in China at Beijing University’s Stanford Center. Currently studying abroad through the CET program in Harbin, China, Jeffrey’s interview with the First Lady aired on Discovery Education’s “Of the People: Live from the White House” online broadcast March 22, 2014, and can be viewed here.
This article was first published by the 100 Thousand Strong Foundation, an organization that encourages US students of diverse backgrounds from across the United States to learn Mandarin and study in China.