Winter Youth Olympics internship wins hands down

Alisha Gilmore Zuschlag describes interning at Gangwon 2024 Winter Youth Olympics as a "life changing and career defining experience". Over the three-month internship, Alisha helped the Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee (YOGOC) with logistical tasks, learning about South Korean society and culture and getting a front-row experience of the Games in the process.

Despite long weeks working for the Olympics organising committee, Alisha was able to attend competitions and support the New Zealand team

This all began one Saturday night in July when I applied for an internship online, fuelled by my passion for winter sports and a desire to embark on a career in sports management.

I chose to apply for this internship because I wanted to delve into the experience of working overseas and immerse myself in a different facet of Asian culture and work environment. I have lived in Singapore before, but South Korea is a whole different place.

During the Internship, I served as the manager of accreditation and international relations. The initial weeks were dedicated to crafting guides for spectators and the International Olympic Committee. Subsequently, I transitioned to the Protocol and Accreditation Team, where responsibilities included creating identity cards, managing upgrade cards, and overseeing overall personnel data in the system.

Watch this video to get a taste of a typical day for Alisha during her internship

As the Games progressed, my responsibilities shifted to manage an accreditation centre at the OFH (Olympic Family Hotel).

This involved creating schedules, handling printing tasks and troubleshooting issues related to accreditations, including access rights to venues.

Despite the demanding schedule, which often consisted of 50-hour weeks, I managed to find moments to attend events and support Team NZ during their competitions.

I found the work extremely fascinating. From volunteer meals to security and road closures, everything had to be intricately planned and align with the rules and regulations of the Olympics. This required a huge amount of collaboration between private companies, IF’s (international federations), the YOGOC and the IOC.

Lunch breaks in South Korea were exceptionally long, so it meant I got to try various different traditional dishes such as soft tofu, jjigae (kimchi stew), jajangmyeon (a Korean noodle dish). These lunch breaks weren't just about the food, however, they were also an opportunity to interact and build connections with my colleagues.

Alisha jumping in the snow with a wooded landscape in the background

Alisha: "The internship was a life-changing and career-defining experience."

During the course of the games, I encountered a dynamic mix of individuals, particularly among the young volunteers and coaches.

The atmosphere during the games was electrifying, with excitement and young people passionate about sport throughout the area.

I was based in Gangneung, a small coastal city with a rich cultural background. Historically, many writers, artists, and some royalty have lived in the area.

Today, Gangneung is more known for the famous locations where K dramas and K-pop videos have been filmed. So, during my off time, I went and explored various temples, famous houses and film locations.

The area I lived in was about a 10-minute walk from the city centre and had fantastic traditional restaurants and cafes, as well as an amazing view of the snow-covered mountains in the distance.

I was fascinated by Gyeongbokgung palace, which is in northern Seoul and was abandoned for two hundred years before being restored in the 19th century.

I was particularly interested to see how the palace is being integrated into today’s life as not only a tourist attraction but also as one of the main attractions of Seoul's lantern festival.

Alisha says it was interesting to see how Korean culture was incorporated into the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

The internship was an eye-opening experience, exposing me to the intricacies of professional sports.

I was intrigued to see how Korean culture was woven into the fabric of the Games for a global audience. For instance, the opening ceremony encompassed both K-pop and traditional dance, and the public got to play traditional Korean games, attend Korean music shows and take part in K-pop dance classes. 

The internship was a life-changing and career-defining experience.

Alisha is a qualified ski instructor, and in 2023 she graduated university with a Bachelor of Health from Victoria University.

The Foundation's sports programme provides New Zealand sportspeople opportunities to grow more knowledgeable, connected and confident with Asia.