Dennis M. Delehanty (丹尼斯), received a B.A. in Russian from Colby College in 1974 and received a M.A in Russian Studies/ International Affairs from George Washington University in 1978. He also is fluent in Spanish and French and besides Russian, has extensive knowledge of Mandarin, Portuguese, German. In 1979, Dennis entered U.S. Postal Service headquarters as a junior international affairs officer, and from 1986 to 1992, worked as the sole American at the Universal Postal Union in Bern, Switzerland, the only UN specialized agency where French remains the official language. Returning to the Postal Service in Washington, Dennis led the effort to create the UPU’s Express Mail Service Cooperative, a rare institution within the UN system where weighted voting applies. In 2004, Dennis was appointed Director of Postal Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, where he served as the principle official responsible for U.S. policy regarding international postal and delivery services. During his career, Dennis has taken part in or led U.S. delegations to dozens of postal (and private-sector delivery service) conferences throughout the world, and retired from government service in 2012. Dennis had visited 70 countries, either solely for business or personal travel. Dennis’s choice of a dream career, regardless of the position title, would one where he could help to improve relations between the American and Chinese peoples.
Even though Victoria Sullivan has been studying Mandarin and Chinese culture for a few years, this trip was her first time in China. She appreciated the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of everyday Chinese life and people to people exchange that will enhance her language and culture education.
“This trip was uniquely special to me because I am currently studying Mandarin at my high school, Stanton College Prep. This trip was a great way for me to practice my Mandarin as well as have firsthand experiences that would further connect me to the Chinese culture. During this trip, I visited many historical sites and interacted with many local Chinese people which opened my eyes to life in China.”
The Confucius Classroom at James Weldon Johnson Middle School sponsored by the University of North Florida
Victoria Sullivan is currently taking Pre-IB Mandarin. She is interested in Chinese culture and language because it is fascinating and helps broaden her knowledge of the world. Although learning the language is difficult at times, she also finds it enjoyable and captivating. Global education is important to her because she wants to learn about other cultures outside of her own. Global education has also led to many life changing opportunities for her, including this trip to China.
Confucius Institute at College of William and Mary
Isabelle is currently fluent in Mandarin and French and won the University of Maryland’s Chinese Bridge Language Competition in 2018, for both High School and Middle School students in the region. She has worked in several movies, television programs and commercials in the last few years as well. She is a private pilot, working toward her full license at age 17 and just enrolled at Laurel Springs High School in their Gifted and Talented program, a self-study high school.
By: Michael Flores
I was born into poverty, but I was given an opportunity to study at a prestigious high school in Houston. Bellaire High School Magnet Program gave me the means to escape poverty. My local high school would have done little to further my education. Upon acceptance, I had to choose a language to study. The language that appealed most to me was Mandarin Chinese with Dr. Sara Tsai. I saw this as a chance for educational nourishment and to transcend poverty.
While taking Chinese, my home life continued to nosedive. Chinese became my escape from the problems at home. Tsai Laoshi was a marvelous teacher as she put in an extra effort to educate me in Chinese grammar. As high school continued, I embraced the Chinese style of teaching and studying which allowed me to excel in my other classes. In my junior year, I was promoted to Huang Laoshi’s class. Huang had an impact on my life that cannot be put into words. She was there for me and provided support and care –something that was completely foreign to me. By this time, going home was no longer an option. Huang took notice of my condition and made me feel like I had a home. Her classroom was my first true home. Something I never expected happened to me: Chinese gave me a home, not only within the language, but within the culture. My class had many native speakers who embraced me with open arms. Huang treated me like a grandson and told me she was proud of my hard work. I was 15 and this was the first time anyone had ever told me they were proud of me. This provided extra motivation to delve deeper into the culture and language. By my senior year, my life had decayed again as I dealt with the fallout from breakups and high school dating. Huang took notice again and made it very clear that I will always have a home in her class. As high school came to a close, I was accepted to numerous colleges. Huang asked me what college I was going to attend and then made me a gourd inscribed with my Chinese name (天乐) and the university I was to attend. I did not have much, but this was my most valued item.
Eventually, I ended up at Texas Southern University. I wavered back and forth on what to do with my life. I ran across the Chinese department at TSU. They told me about the HSK tests and how they could afford me a chance to travel to China with all expenses paid. My new Chinese professor, Fa Laoshi, was both a breath of fresh air and reminiscent of my former home at Bellaire High School. The Chinese language classroom and Chinese culture provided the first home I ever had and a home that will stay with me forever. Just a few hours before I sat down to write this essay, I was informed that my grandmother had passed away. The entire Chinese Language department comforted me and then gave me the materials for the HSK 3 and 4. Chinese has had an immeasurable impact on my life and it will continue to be of great importance to me.
Michael discovered a passion and community around Chinese language and culture in high school and college, but he had never been able to travel to the country that had such an influence on his life. Through this trip, he found that he enjoyed traveling, and his experiences in Chinese language classrooms and relationships with Chinese teachers had prepared him well to feel comfortable in China.
“Personally I have never been abroad or even flew on a plane before. The entire experience, every aspect of it was something new to me. The people to people trip was unique in that we had a chance to interact with Chinese people. Most guided tours or even vacations never have that opportunity. This way we get to experience the real China. “
Confucius Institute at Texas Southern University
Michael Flores (夫乐）attended Texas Southern University, a proud Historically Black College and University (HBCU) where he majored in history with a minor in Chinese studies. He originally learned Mandarin in high school at Bellaire Homeschool located in Houston Texas. Michael received the People-to-People Award in 2017 after spending a year as a Confucius Institute student and enjoyed every minute of his experience. Michael is currently pursuing a law degree with an emphasis on international law and aspires to become a U.S Diplomat in China.
Through this trip, Kiietti’s understanding of Chinese people and culture expanded and grew in complexity and nuance. Reflecting on food, clothing, education, and history Kiietti compared Chinese and U.S. culture. From her childhood as a little girl growing up in rural Georgia, she never thought she would be able to have the opportunities to explore the diversity of our world as she has been able to as an adult.
“I actually began this journey years ago as a little girl who missed diversity and didn’t even know it was missed. Today, I am a grown-up little girl still who marvels at diversity because she sees herself and hers in the very lives of those she knew little about and then only from the media or television. People to people connections are important because through each other, we gather, we garner, we establish strength to persevere, to create, to survive, to thrive, to make beautiful music, creations, and discoveries.”
Confucius Institute at Alabama A&M University
My name is Kiietti Walker-Parker, and I am currently teaching English composition and writing at Alabama A&M University. I am also a writer of fiction and poetry as well. I work with freshman students, those who are just leaving home and embarking on education and professional careers after high school. I love to write and aim to foster that love and the necessity of excellent communication and written skills to my students as well as through my writing. I love history, travel, and meeting new people, and through my writing I aim to bring various communities and their respective histories to those who read or hear my work. Since Spring 2018, I have been invested in learning what I wished I had the opportunity to do when I was little. I believe that we are all intrinsically connected and are dependent on one another for survival and enrichment. We each bring a uniqueness and ingenuity to one another in terms of our own-selves, genders, customs, cultures, communities, nations, continents, and just simple livelihoods to the table to solve problems, enhance the environments in which we live, and enrich the globe. I started learning Chinese in spring 2018 and have been amazed as I was challenged. I am devoted to improving my knowledge of the Chinese language, pronunciation, character writing, and culture and customs. I am finding that the Chinese people are so much more than what my limited and restricted knowledge perceived: food, martial arts, and mystery. I am learning that the Chinese people and I have much in common: hard work, love of family and tradition, and scholarship (calligraphy, studying, art, music, dance, opera, cooking, history, and so much more).
By: Dean Zollman
My first experience with a second language was as a freshman in high school. I studied Latin. That indicates that I am somewhat older than the typical second language learner. How many schools offer Latin these days?
At University I studied German. From that experience, I discovered that learning a language was not just gaining pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. The language was part of a culture and a way of thinking, all of which became part of my learning.
Until very recently non-Western languages were truly foreign. I visited China three times. I negotiated somewhat on my own and was hopelessly lost in Beijing only once. But, I did not really contemplate learning Chinese.
All of that changed in the Fall of 2017 when the Kansas State University Confucius Institute announced that it was offering Chinese classes. Why not, I thought. I was technically retired, quite busy but could rearrange my schedule to fit in a few classes. It couldn’t be that hard, could it?
My teacher told me she knew physicists were smart, so she selected a relatively difficult book for my first introduction to Chinese. Little did she know that people become physicists because they have poor memories. They like to figure things out but not memorize them. Remembering characters has been a real challenge. Worse for me, unlike German, I cannot look at a character and know how to pronounce it.
The language was part of a culture and a way of thinking, all of which became part of my learning.
For the past 18 months, my teacher has helped me learn some Chinese and then has remained calm as I promptly forgot it. Gradually, I put together a few sentences and even read some simple paragraphs. But I am a long way from fluent. I am going to China in a couple of weeks. I worry that I know just enough to get me in trouble. I will say something simple like, “Wǒ jiào Zollman,” and someone will assume I can speak Chinese. Then, a torrent of words that I cannot understand will follow. Or, even worse my tones will be so bad that I will not be understood.
There is a good part to all of this. I do know some words and phrases. If I am patient, I can write some characters in the correct stroke order. I am also starting to see the logic of the language. At the beginning, it seemed like a bunch of random lines on a page. Now when doing my homework, I can sometimes figure out the correct answer by reasoning rather than memorization. It is not quite the reasoning of physics, but it is closer than I thought that it could be.
While my ability to converse and write in Chinese is very limited, I have learned a great deal. As with my earlier language studies, the grammar and vocabulary are not the most important aspects. I have learned bits and pieces of Chinese culture and a little history. I know, for example, why children can get excited when they are given a red envelope. I know that when I go to China next month, I should remember my Zodiac animal. I even think that I can begin to see how the language is an influence on the way our Chinese students think.
At the same time, it has not been a one-way street. Almost every lesson has some time during which we discuss some aspect of American culture. Sometimes the discussion is about something simple, such as the difference between a salon and a saloon. Sometimes, it is more profound and causes me to think seriously about the history and diversity of our culture and why things are the way that they are.
When I decided to try learning Chinese, I thought that maybe it would keep my brain active. Then, when I got into it, I feared that it would wear out whatever brain I had left. Instead, it has been an opportunity to see a different way of communicating and to begin to learn how language influences culture and to reflect on my own language, culture and history.
Confucius Institute at Kansas State University
Retired Professor of Physics
Dean Zollman is a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Kansas State University. He also holds the title of Distinguished University Teaching Scholar Emeritus. From 2001 to 2011 he was William and Joan Porter Professor and Head of Physics. Dr. Zollman’s work in Physics Education Research has an international scope.
He served on the International Commission for Physics Education from 2002 to 2011. He has twice been a Fulbright Fellow in Germany, once each at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich (1989) and the Institute for Science and Mathematics Education at the University in Kiel (1998).
After attending three conferences in China, he began working with the K-State Confucius Institute in an attempt to learn Chinese. Most recently, under an agreement arranged by the K-State Confucius Institute, he taught a three-week course on quantum mechanics at Jilin University in Changchun.
By: Kiietti Walker-Parker
I had my first romance with language as a child. Growing up, language-wise, the only differences I encountered in Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta nestled between a big city and smaller ones, were the various drawls of the voices of my grandparents and parents. The many connotations they signified were based on the specific instances in which they spoke. I loved their voices, which was either them speaking city or country or in between. For those unaware of what country is, it is city or rural with a Southern twang. The Southern twang is at a slower than usual speed and sweet with a lift at the end as if to entice the shirt off your back or the last bite of your grandmama’s sweet potato pie or nothing-but-butter-pound cake. Its citified version is also slow and sweet, but the lift is slightly noticeable, almost delicate-like. Outside of these language distinctions, very little involved other cultures in my community other than city or country folks. Yes, we did have Chinese, Italian, and Mexican restaurants, enjoyed their food, and visited often; however, I learned later that what we liked was not authentic foreign food, just recipes Americanized to fit our palettes. My early romance with language never had a chance.
Americans can learn much from Chinese people: how to maintain a culture, a language for thousands of years? How to merge both the old and the new?
Many people fall in love with television, even more so at an early age. I was no different. I watched tv in between school, classes, family time, and other activities. Actually, family time would often consist of sitting around watching television together. So, what did we love on tv? We watched Chinese, Italian, Mexican, French, German, and African cultures depicted, once again, Americanized to fit our tastes. We loved eating with chopsticks and Kungfu (who doesn’t like Kungfu fighting with Bruce Lee, an American icon); spaghetti and meatballs and The Godfather, an American movie which depicted an Italian immigrant family turned mafia in order to find success on America’s shores; Mexicans introduced enchiladas and tacos and wore bright colors with sombrero hats and played fiesta music and sang. Also, who would ever forget Mexican siestas, 2-3-hour naps in the middle of the day? To me, that in itself was Mexico’s gift to the world; the French were reduced to romance, love, perfume, and the Eiffel Tower; Germans were supporters of Adolf Hitler, the Berlin Wall, and responsible for the extermination of six million or more Jews during the Jewish Holocaust; and African culture had its people worshipping masked and scary beings who were barbaric in nature and only worthy of enslavement and brought to America for a “better” life. It’s embarrassing that I didn’t realize my own ignorance and naivety; I grew up a participant of propaganda, stereotyping, and the total disregard of people who were different than me and those around me. This is especially troublesome because those of my race and culture, African American, have too been and still often are victims of profiling and belittlement, and here I was growing up and doing the same thing to other people.
I decided to finally have a relationship with language in high-school and take a Spanish course. One of my friends took the course with me. Surprisingly, we both loved it. Our relationship turned romance was alive and in full effect. We learned the Spanish alphabet, phonetics, customs, culture, foods, and history by a very proud instructor from Puerto Rico. I even learned to understand some of what one of my uncles used to say to us at dinner and then laugh because we didn’t understand. We flourished from her accent, tone, enthusiasm, patience, and love of her country. She was kind, strong, and a bit of a firecracker. The entire class was in love and thrived my first year, but by the second, I found that we were simply surviving.
An A student, I had to work to keep it my second year. The class’s enthusiasm waned, and eventually, mine blew out altogether, as Mrs. Rodriguez decided to stay home and raise her baby which resulted in our new Spanish teacher who wasn’t Spanish, Hispanic, LatinX, or even Mexican. Instead, she hailed from Ohio, an American who spoke with the same accent we all had although not Southern or citified Southern. I no longer heard a Spanish accent, or the passion Mrs. Rodriguez had. Quickly, learning became difficult and too the romance we had and held.
I did not sign up for a third year of Spanish or French. My fear was that another American would replace the French, French teacher, thus failing the authenticity of what I would believe is instrumental when learning a new language. It’s best and ideally taught not only by those fluent in the language but by people brought up to the life-force of the language – natives. I began to see then how American-influenced even other languages become from their native roots in America. So, I halted any thoughts to any new language romances my high school junior year.
However, true romance can never die or be denied for long. Traveling has always been a mainstay in my family. We’ve crossed the Americas and ventured to Jamaica and the Caribbean, romantically dancing and swaying with different cultures, customs, sights, and people. I’ve crossed borders into Mexico and Canada and stamped a passport throughout Europe. My husband’s travels are vast too, traversing from Australia to Malaysia. Even though English is spoken globally, we’ve found it fun to learn words from the people we visit. Even more, we have a son now and aim to stoke the international travel bug in him. So far, he’s been to Italy in my belly and Greece. He’s an important reason for me to again, renew a language romance.
Asia has always been my dream to one day visit. I’ve wondered what it would be like to learn Chinese, a language that seemed so picturesque and beautiful just like an impressionistic painting, so unlike English which is Germanic in origin with infusions of German, Celtic, and French. If it were not for calligraphy and cursive writing, which many young people don’t learn or practice much today, I would not refer to handwritten English as a thing of beauty. Chinese is so different. In addition, English is about 700 years young while Chinese is the oldest living, continuous language at 5000 years old and very akin to its origin. Even though I knew this, it took me decades to choose romance again over fear and failure. The Confucius Institute launched on the Alabama A&M University’s campus in 2015. In 2018, I chose me; I stepped out on faith, and romance was renewed as I expressed vocally my commitment to learning Chinese.
I’ve since been dedicated to the romance of learning what I wished I was aware of as a little girl growing up in the1970s in the South. As an African American wife, mother, writer, teacher, and life-long learner, it is important that I broaden my horizons beyond geography and demographic boundaries, as we are all connected intrinsically. Our world is a globe that revolves, and we are all evolving. No one person, gender, culture, or race is an island onto themselves as we are dependent on each other for knowledge, understanding, opportunity, happiness, and simply value. Americans can learn much from Chinese people: how to maintain a culture, a language for thousands of years? How to merge both the old and the new? How to respect both age in years (the filial virtue) as well as age in wonder (the young)? Each of us can learn from and, together, how to enhance what we already know for advancements in medicine, technology, environmental concerns, and just the uniqueness and ingenuity that each person, gender, custom, culture, community, nation, or continent brings.
I took Chinese initially to see if I liked it. I was amazed as I was challenged. With the newness of pinyin, tones, accent, characters, and the difference in direction of reading left to right, it was not only tough but fun and inspiring, how romantic! I knew that I would not give up. My professors encouraged me to join the Chinese club and take HSK tests I and II. Courses on Chinese writing, characters, and culture showed me the story of their humble beginnings, beliefs, and values. From Confucius, Mozi, Laozi, and Zhuangzi to Kungfu and Tai Chi, I learned how history is woven into the fabric of China today as well as respect and reverence the serving of tea is, familial relationships, and virtues they maintain with the young and elders. My newfound awareness is invaluable. The Confucius Institute showed me the spirit of Chinese culture and its people; they are more than chopsticks and Americanized Chinese food. In class, I finally found a relationship, love not failure.
Confucius Institute at Alabama A&M University
A Georgia (USA) native, Kiietti Walker-Parker has been teaching, instructing, and guiding students for 17+ years at Alabama A&M University. A former engineer and computer scientist, she has a Master of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Her teaching aims to encourage students to soar in English and writing and love it.
An avid reader, she loves to learn, research, and write. She has presented in Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Providence, RI, USA; and Birmingham, AL, USA and has read her creative works in Italy, France, Ireland, The Czech Republic, Germany, and Greece. She has been the recipient of the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama (ACETA) John Calvert and the James Woodall Awards for writing on pedagogy and research as well as an honorable mention of the same John Calvert Award.
Presently working on two novels, short stories, and poems inspired by her own ancestral heritage and life, she loves to travel and explore new and different cultures. She and her husband, Arbie, enjoy exploring through the eyes of their inquisitive and enthusiastic son Aiidin.
By: Arthur Stachowski
Exposure to Chinese language, culture and people came to me later in life. Having retained employment with an international company of Chinese ownership, at 58 years of age, my education of all things Chinese began.
In 2010, my first steps on Chinese soil or in any other foreign country (Canada excluded) was in Shanghai, China. My traveling companion, Tony Wang, was waiting on the other side of the wall at the arrival terminal of the Shanghai airport. I had never been through immigration or customs screening before, but a friendly face was on the other side of that wall. There was no turning back.
Tony and I ate lunch at the airport, as we had spare time before boarding the subway to the train station. We were headed to Nanjing to visit suppliers. Tony attempted to explain that the people I am going to meet are going to look different (they will have a different physical appearance), they will speak a different language, the foods will be different and I may feel isolated at times, but the feeling will pass.
So, in the fall of 2010, my job took me to the company’s location there in China. I knew the product, the problems, the manufacturing, and how to read part drawings, but I was not prepared for this first trip to China. I lacked knowledge of the country’s history and culture and language; I did not know how to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” “thank you,” or ask where the bathroom was in Mandarin.
While the primary purpose of my trip to China was business, my hosts insisted this visit include an orientation to China. The physical structures, like The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, are breath taking (in the case of The Great Wall I mean more than visually). The local cuisine, Beijing Duck and Hot Pot, were very tasty; however, great meals are more dependent on whom they are shared with rather than the food served. One evening at a company sponsored dinner, seated around the table were people from China, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary and the United States. That is something I would have never experienced had I not visited China. There was also shopping, the art of the haggle (negotiated pricing); my instructions were to not pay attention to the marked price. My guide did the negotiations, thoroughly enjoying the process.
Walking the streets, complete strangers would want to practice their English and take pictures with me. Tony was correct; the feeling of isolation did not last but was replaced with a feeling of inadequacy. All of my hosts could speak at least some English, and I could speak zero Chinese.
With the same spirit which I was welcomed with to China, the Confucius Institute received me.
Not liking the feeling of being unprepared, enter the Confucius Institute. With the same spirit which I was welcomed with to China, the Confucius Institute received me. The administrators and instructors demonstrated excellent knowledge of the subject matter and were eager to share that knowledge with myself and my classmates.
My classmates are a diverse group including a high school student, college professor, lawyer, business owner, preschool teacher, architect and retired individuals. You not only learn from the instructor but from your classmates as well, as they share their life experiences. Never a good student, my involvement with the Confucius Institute has made me want to be a better student.
I am now retired, and the advice given to retirees (or would be retirees) is this: stay active (travel, study a language), associate with people of all ages (if you only associate with old people, you will grow old), establish a routine where you are scheduled to be a certain place at a certain time and set goals of things to accomplish. My association with the Confucius Institute fills this prescription. To quote a Chinese proverb, “Xué wú zhǐjìng” (学无止境).
Confucius Institute at The University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
Arthur Stachowski resides in Buffalo, New York with his wife of 42 years, Patricia. He is the father of two daughters: Natalie of San Francisco, California and Alexis of Williamsville, New York. He is also a graduate of the State University College of New York at Buffalo holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial Technology.
He has traveled to China for the past ten years; the initial travels were work-related, as a Commodity Manager for the Supply Chain. He has visited the cities of Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Ningbo, Wuxi, and Xuzhou. In the summer of 2018 Arthur traveled to Beijing as part of the Summer Study Program at the Capital Normal University, a program facilitated by the Confucius Institute.
Through the University of Buffalo’s Confucius Institute, Arthur continues to develop his Chinese language skills, increase his knowledge of Chinese culture, and is enjoying the experience.
By: Olga Stein
My teacher Sun Laoshi is going through the new words. I am having trouble with the character “上”. How is it possible that one word has opposite meanings “to go up” and “past”? Aren’t we reaching for the future when we go up?
One morning my sister called from St. Petersburg, Russia. She sounded excited. “Listen, I have been invited to give lectures at a university in China next summer. The university is in the part of the country where our parents are from. I believe it is time for you to travel home, visit our parents’ birthplaces and meet our Chinese cousins. Start working on your Chinese,” she added and hung up.
It was still dark, but my night was over.
Home. What is home?
In the mid-1950s, both my parents taught at the Shanghai University. In 1959, they were sent to the Soviet Union to accompany a group of Chinese students to study at the Leningrad State University. They brought my sister with them. My parents started teaching at the Leningrad University and eventually were offered tenured positions there. They decided to stay in the Soviet Union, where I was born. Leningrad became home to me. When my parents talked about home, it was somewhere far away. Our mother and father tried to speak Chinese to my sister and me, but we were not interested. By the time I started talking, my sister was already at school learning other languages. Chinese became “a secret language” of our parents when they wanted to talk about something that was “not for the children’s ears.”
Sometimes, our mother or father would tell us stories about their home. I felt like I didn’t belong to either the Russian world or the Chinese one.
When I was born, my parents gave me the name 瑞雪. Unfortunately, the beautiful Chinese name sounded very strange in Russian “жуйся”, which in a loose translation means “chew yourself”. Can you blame a little girl for being unhappy with such a name? “No problem,” said my parents. Next day, I went to school as Olga. Around the same time, my sister became Tatiana.
And so was my childhood far away from my parents’ home. We with our new Russian names. we went to an English-Russian bilingual school. At home, we ate Chinese food, celebrated Chinese New Year, and made hundreds of dumplings sitting around the kitchen table. A family of four is perfect for a game of mahjong. Sometimes, our mother or father would tell us stories about their home. I felt like I didn’t belong to either the Russian world or the Chinese one. Who am I? “You are what you are,” my parents replied. That was not very helpful, but I didn’t push.
In college, my sister chose to focus on Chinese Studies. She is now one of the leading scholars in the field of the Manchu history and language. In this capacity she often travels to China. She has also kept up with our relatives there.
I, on the other hand, moved in a different direction. I came to the United States to pursue graduate studies in business. And this is when the magic happened: I found home in America! Later I learned there was no magic at all. It was a typical phenomenon of a third culture person, but it didn’t matter. I was home.
That is, until the morning my sister called.
I grew up in the family where the youngest child is loved and pampered but is also expected to respect and obey the wishes of the elders. In the morning, I did as my sister told me. I called all Chinese language schools in Manhattan listed on Google. The only school that answered the phone turned out to be the Confucius Institute (CI) at Pace University. A very friendly person on the phone invited me to stop by and meet the CI teachers. There was a staff meeting going on when I came to my CI the first time. The atmosphere was very warm and friendly. I instantly felt welcome. I loved that from the first moment everyone called me 庞瑞雪. Coincidently, my first teacher at the CI, Li Laoshi, was from Shenyang, the same city where my cousins live. We have become friends. I call her Yilin now. Yilin reminded me of my father. “Memory is the key to the knowledge,” my father used to say. We also had a lot of fun together. When Yilin’s mother visited her in New York, we spent hours playing mahjong. Shenyang rules, of course!
The texts I drilled with Yilin were very helpful on my first trip to China. Since then, I have traveled to China several times. My cousins took me to the Taoist temple built by our great grandfather and expanded by our grandfather. I felt at home.
I get it! Learning Chinese for me is like 上去, i.e., climbing the steps getting closer to my past. There is an old Chinese saying: 落叶归根 (Fallen leaves return to the roots).
Olga Pang Stein
Confucius Institute at Pace University
New York, New York
Olga Pang Stein is a global executive coach and a trainer currently based in the United States. Olga has coached team leaders and managers at various levels, including C-level executives, as well as multicultural teams within organizations, such as Lufthansa Technik AG, Deutsche Telekom, UN Agencies, and the World Bank Group.
As a coach, Olga creates a safe space for personal discovery and building awareness for her clients. Olga’s special interest is bringing awareness and appreciation of diversity in an organization and supporting women business leaders.
Olga has served in a senior leadership position at Summit, a company that provided business liaison services for US companies operating in Russia. She has worked at the International Monetary Fund, as well as for Creditanstalt International Advisers. Before that, she was a chief negotiator for a logistical company with operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Olga is fluent in English, Russian and German. She started learning Chinese in the fall of 2016.
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