IU junior Marria Peduto will represent Indiana at the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020, taking place in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, according to a press release by the International Center in Indianapolis.
The Expo will run for six months, from Oct. 1 to March 31, 2022. In addition to Peduto, the pavilion will have 75 Youth Ambassadors, who are U.S. citizens aged 18 to 29. The ambassadors were announced Sept. 16 by the U.S. Department of State and nonprofit Global Ties U.S.
The center has a network consisting of multiple universities and colleges across the state, Martin Baier, president and CEO of the International Center, said. They recruited people last year, but the Expo was not able to take place until this year because of the pandemic, he said.
“Global Ties reached out to us, because we have the network, and provided us with information knowing that we have relationships with IU, Purdue and many universities and colleges around the state,” Baier said. “They asked us to help promote the program.”
The USA Pavilion’s theme this year is “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Future.” The exhibits will encapsulate the opportunities and innovation the U.S. can provide, and the ambassadors will help represent this, according to the press release.
“This cohort of Youth Ambassadors is truly inclusive of our country’s rich diversity and representative of our future,” Katherine Brown, president and CEO of Global Ties U.S., said in the press release. “Global Ties U.S. and our nationwide network are excited for these ‘Faces of America’ to introduce the United States to the world.”
Peduto took a year off to be in the Expo and will return as a senior next school year. She majors in international studies, sustainable food systems and East Asian languages and cultures with the Chinese Flagship program. She also has certificates in underwater resource management and the Peace Corps Prep programs.
In high school, Peduto participated in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, through which she lived in China the summer before she started college, immediately starting classes at IU upon her return, she said. She became a regional ambassador for NSLI for Youth, one of 18 across the country, which ultimately led to her nomination for the Expo, she said.
“I was connected via that organization and my previous ties with the State Department,” Peduto said. “They said, ‘You know, you speak multiple languages, you already have this background in cross-cultural communication.’ The people that we’re meeting every single day here in Dubai are from all over the world.”
Peduto said she is grateful for the opportunity to introduce people from other countries to the U.S. and to hear stories from people who may have personal connections to the U.S.
The USA Pavilion features a SpaceX rocket, a piece of the moon and Thomas Jefferson’s Quran, which has never left the U.S. before this. Peduto said she believes these exhibits, especially the Quran, show people that the U.S. is a place where religious freedom is encouraged.
“Just to see people so excited that they have this opportunity and learning about America is really, really incredible,” Peduto said.
Peduto is documenting her experience at the Expo through a video series on TikTok. Her goal is to go to every single country’s pavilion by the end of the six months, she said.
“There’s a ton of people, 192 countries, which is the most that’s ever been represented at an Expo,” Peduto said. “It’s really cool, just from a spectator standpoint. It’s like Epcot in real life.”