David Koenig 2018-03-29
I was excited when I heard that a Confucius Institute (CI) was opening in my area at The College of William and Mary. I had become increasingly fascinated by China in the few preceding years mainly due to its amazing record of modern development. I also knew that the country was facing major challenges to develop sustainably and smartly, and I wanted to be a part of assisting China in finding constructive solutions, ideally by working there. To better position myself for that role, I had already started to study Chinese on my own when I heard about the local CI opening. I happily signed up for a beginning Mandarin course.
I found the Confucius Institute staff to be warm, welcoming, and gracious from the start. The language course consisted of about ten students. It was a fairly diverse group, but we all shared open minds and a great interest in China. It was fun to learn with other adults. Our teacher cultivated a productive, safe, and convivial atmosphere. We not only learned the language, but also the Chinese culture, including a lesson on Chinese food and drink where our teacher served us traditional Chinese tea and snacks. The students wanted to present the best impression of the U.S., and we had many enjoyable conversations about cross-cultural issues with the Chinese teacher. The Institute's camaraderie made it much more enjoyable to learn Chinese than learn it online as I had been doing.
I also very much enjoyed using the Institute's library, for both books and DVDs. It had more extensive and updated China-related resources than the local library. I borrowed and devoured materials on Chinese etiquette, travel, work, and society, among other topics. I also frequently checked the CI's website for updates, and was pleasantly surprised when I saw an actual job posting, for teaching positions at Beijing Normal University (BNU). I applied and was thrilled to be accepted. I am now entering my fourth year of what has been a very pleasurable and meaningful time of teaching at BNU. I feel like what I learned about China through William & Mary's CI better prepared me for life in China. The American CIs and CIs around the world have a noble mission: to nurture and cultivate cross-cultural understanding and dialogue. I feel privileged that I have been given the opportunity to advance that mission - even if only in a very small way - through my work in China. It has been my good fortune to maintain and deepen my friendships with William & Mary's CI staff since coming to China, seeing them when they come to Beijing, and visiting them on my returns home.
The Confucius Institute at the College of William and Mary