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I’m getting ready to go back to China. This will be my fourth trip. I have been to China THREE TIMES! A few years ago, I would never have dreamed that I would live in China. Now, I am closing up shop on my life in the United States, completely excited to start a new chapter in Xi’an, China.

I’ll back up a bit, so you know how I got here. I was just studying at Western, thinking about how important the Middle East and SE Asia had become to American economics and politics. Then the wonderful people in the Office of Scholar Development (OSD) encouraged me to study Chinese. We had just started our chapter of the Chinese Language Flagship Program at our university, and a small group were going for the summer to Chongqing, China.

The advisors also told me to apply for the Gilman Scholarship, because as a STEM major, I was uniquely qualified for it. I did, and was selected! My first summer in China was eye-opening. Chinese students at the university where we studied were just like my American peers (except they could eat a lot more ice cream without gaining any weight!). Two months flew by. When we were preparing to leave China, I felt really sad. I had just gotten settled in. Three months later, I was back on a plane, headed to Hong Kong, determined to get back to China as often as possible.
Last summer I applied for, and received, a Critical Language Scholarship, along with two other Flagship program students. I spend two months last summer in Xi’an, China, and was able to move my language level from Intermediate-Low to Advanced-Low in seven weeks of instruction. Those programs really know how to develop your skills!! I absolutely loved Xi’an, and spending time with China’s future teachers at a national teaching college helped me see how different Chinese teachers and American teachers are! I wanted to study the differences through an economic perspective, so with the help of the OSD, I applied for a Fulbright scholarship for research.
This week I’m packing for a 14 month trip, in which I’ll do an intensive language program (CET) in Harbin, China, followed by a Fulbright grant in Xi’an, in September. I’m extremely proud to represent the United States and to learn from Chinese education researchers who are doing cutting edge work on innovation in education.

Even though in some ways it feels like I’m leaving everything behind for the next year and a half, I can’t help but also feel like I’m about to fly home. It’s amazing to think that only two years ago, I didn’t even know how to say “hello” in Chinese!! Look at me now!