Hello China Fall 2017 Semester Students & Families!
Welcome to the Yak Board! Going forward, this will be our main forum for sharing information about preparing for the semester, a place for instructors and students to introduce themselves, a place to post questions about the program, and, after the program begins, a place for students and instructors to share updates, reflections and images. Along with my colleagues in our Admissions Department, I’ve spoken with many of you on the phone and corresponded with others via email. I’m also one of those mysterious voices who spoke to you and answered many of your questions during our recent China fall semester webinar. As China Program Director, I spend most of my time in the US, with a few trips to China every year to help keep programs running smoothly on that end. I’ll be working closely with our Kunming-based China Program Coordinator, Annie Jiao (焦娜), and our fall instructors to help all of our students get the most they can out of their time in China.
I first visited China in 1996, during my junior year at Oberlin College. The people I met and the places I visited in Yunnan Province had a major impact on my understanding of the world and of my home. After graduating with a degree in East Asian Studies, I returned to China to live and work for many years. Living in China allowed me to have a variety of jobs that I’m not sure I would have had the chance to do anywhere else, from being a guide on a Three Gorges cruise ship, to singing in several bands, working as an advertising designer, and as the host of a television show called “Chongqing Today” (今日重庆 – no, it’s not available anywhere online…I hope). Eventually, I decided I wanted to pursue academic research in Chongqing, the city that had become my home in China. As a doctoral student in Anthropology at Stanford University, I collected hundreds of personal stories from people in Chongqing who made a living on the street (from porters and food vendors to healers and fortune tellers.) Before starting my work with Dragons at the end of 2013, I spent two years in Xi’an, running a program for American university students with a Silk Road focus. In 2013, I married a woman from Chongqing and now I’m connected to China through my family as well. What’s the point of sharing this condensed autobiography with you? My first visit to China, and the total of about 11 years I’ve spent there subsequently, shaped my life in ways I could never have predicted. Who knows what’s in store for you?
Soon, your instructors will also introduce themselves on this board and invite you to do the same. Your instructor team brings enormous passion for education and for teaching about China, and a wealth of life experiences in China and around the world to draw upon. I feel lucky to have them as colleagues and I think you’ll come to feel very lucky to have them as teachers. Thanks so much for joining us, and get ready for an unforgettable fall!
p.s. The photo is of me and a very kind grandmother whose home I stayed at during a scouting trip deep in the bamboo forests of northeastern Guizhou in 2014.