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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Greetings from Shuier

Hey everyone, greetings from China!

I am Shuier, one of your instructors this fall. Sitting at home in Kunming, China, and sipping my cup of warm Pu’er tea, I can’t believe that in less than a month we will be embarking on an adventure along the Mekong river together. Wow! Let me begin by saying that words really can’t express how excited I am about this trip. I joined Dragons as an instructor in summer 2016. When I checked on Dragons’ website at the time, Mekong was THE program which stood out and stuck to my mind. I remember myself thinking, ‘Wow, this sounds so interesting. I wish I can be on it one day.’ Here we are, after doing 8 different programs in the last two years, I am finally on the Mekong!

I grew up in Kunming, a small city (in Chinese standard) in southwestern China’s Yunnan province. I developed an interest in English and western culture at a young age from pirated Michael Jackson cassettes and very rare copies of National Geographic. The West represented civilization, excitement and exoticism for me, so I majored in English for my undergraduate degree, and eventually moved to the UK in 2005 to further my study. Initially I only planned to stay in the UK for one year, but before I knew 11 years passed. During my time in the UK, I did two translation and interpreting related Masters degrees, worked as a Project Manager for a British furniture design company, been a Sales Manager at a luxury Swiss watch store, and most recently sold millions pounds worth of residential real estate to investors from around the world. But after 11 years away from China, I started to feel that something was missing in my life, something in me was disappearing gradually, that was my Chinese identity. A strong urge to reconnect with my home country and my own culture pulled me back to China in 2016. A lot has changed in China when I was away. Emerging as one of the biggest economies in the world, with its complex social and political history, China fascinates me like never before.

Since moving back, I have also been travelling in Southeast Asia and discovering this part of the world which is so close to home, yet so different in many ways. The more I travel, the more I realise that there are still a lot to learn. Travelling with groups of curious teenagers like yourselves has helped me to experience and ask questions about the world from a brand new perspective. More importantly, it has been helping me to discover who I really am and who I aspire to be. I thought it was impossible to hike up that mountain, but I was on top of it with everyone else cheering for ourselves. I thought I would freak out if I had to poop in the open air, but I enjoyed the view more than I have expected. I thought a 15 hour night bus ride would bore me to death, but I had many inspiring conversations with my friends. I am very happy to be proven wrong, it means I am learning and growing.

I look forward to exploring, discovering, thinking, questioning, learning and most importantly, having fun with you all this fall. Leave your assumptions and preconceptions at home. Pack curiosity and open-mindedness, and let’s do this!