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Introduction

Hello VMS! It was so lovely to see many of you over our video chat the other day. I am looking forward to visiting your school later this month and to traveling together around China in just a few weeks. Although I already introduced myself on our call, I wanted to take a moment to briefly introduce myself over the Yak board and share with you what I am most looking forward to about our course!

My relationship with China has been long lasting and complex. It all began when I studied abroad in Taiwan during my undergraduate studies. I was signed up for a semester-long exchange program and after being in Taiwan for about 2 weeks, I called my parents and university and told them I wasn’t coming back. I stayed for the year. When I made the decision to stay longer in Taiwan, I thought it would be best to begin studying Mandarin and I picked it up as a hobby. A few years after living in Taiwan, I moved to Jinan, China and since then have been living in and traveling back and forth to China every year. Over the years, I have become increasingly interested in China’s “development” and improving my mandarin skills.

I have been working in the field of experiential education and leading student groups abroad since 2013. In between courses, I have received my MA in anthropology and sociology out of a school in Switzerland and carried out field research in Cairo, Egypt. I took some time to work at a refugee resettlement organization and teach social justice and ethnic studies at an alternative high school in Chicago. When not working, you may find me pursuing my passion for photography, horseback riding, swing dancing, or reading a good book.

I am super excited to be collaborating with VMS and creating a program that fits your school’s curriculum and interests. We will be traveling in one of my favorite provinces in China – Yunnan! Yunnan is well known for its beauty, large number of ethnic minority groups, tea, lakes, rivers, and mountains. In recent years, tourism has boomed in this region and we will have the opportunity to witness it’s impact. You may already know that the route we will travel was once part of the route called the Tea Horse Road. Aside from my love for drinking tea, I also love studying tea and how tea culture/production has changed over the years in China. I can’t wait to share this with you and introduce you to some of my friends who work at the tea market in Kunming. We can also begin getting excited about the jagged snow-capped tips of Haba Snow Mountain in Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡). The landscape is seriously breathtaking. There is so much more to mention, but I’ll save it for our meeting!

I hope you are all feeling ready to explore, learn, and take on new challenges in China. If you have any questions about our course or just want to share something about yourself, please feel free to post here on the Yak board. Again, I’m looking forward to meeting each of you and learning about your individual interests in China.

Best,

Kristen