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As a teacher, I know that this time of the year is both exhausting and liberating – finishing up your final projects/exams and being released into the sweet summer bliss. If you are living anywhere similar to Chicago, you may be finally breaking free from the long winter and are looking for any excuse to sit under the sun. Aside from finishing up your school year and processing another period of growth and knowledge, you are all preparing to embark on a four-week journey to immerse yourself in a language spoken by roughly one billion people in the world. On behalf of all of us, I want to thank you all for putting forth time and energy into preparing for this course. While it may be challenging to balance school, work, and play before leaving for a big trip, we would really appreciate you taking a bit of time to familiarize yourself with a few topics relevant to our course and China in general.

Dragon’s courses aim to be thoughtful, stimulating, dynamic, and engaging. In order for you to get the most out of the places we go and spaces we immerse in, it’s helpful to have some background knowledge. We ask that you complete this pre-course assignment:

Below is a list of six topics relevant to our course. We encourage you to do a little bit of research on each of these topics; however, you’ve been assigned in pairs to research a specific topic. Allow yourself to dig into some readings and even images of your topic and take notes! We’ll ask each of you to give a short presentation on your topic once we’re settled in China.

  • Xi Jinping and The Chinese Dream: Kate Suh & Ned Stone
  • Naxi (and Dongba script) and Yi Ethnic Minority Groups: Adrian Vicioso & Carlos Flores
  • Animism and Buddhism: Dora Eidex & Pedro Gronda Garrigues
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Tea Horse Road: Nina Fearon & Reece Dubin
  • Chinese Tea Culture: Sammy Simons & Sean Lis
  • Kunming Urban Development: Sebastian Sahlman & Tucker Neal

We also ask that you click here to read Pico Iyer’s essay, Why We Travel.

Finally, please don’t forget to post your self-introduction Yak! We can’t wait to learn a little bit more about you. If you have a Chinese name, post it in your self-introduction or let us know if you’d like one. We hope to get some calligraphy started and we’ll start with writing your names!

In summary, the three things we’re looking for you to complete are:

  1. Post your self-introduction Yak (with your Chinese name included)
  2. Read Pico Iyer’s essay
  3. Make yourself familiar with the topics listed above

We hope that you all have fun with these tasks and we look forward to reading your intros and hearing your thoughts about about what you learned.



/your instructor team