Though my introduction to the Rollins Asian Studies department was serendipitous and somewhat unplanned, it turned out to be one of the most fruitful and formative experiences of my undergraduate career. Along with two friends, I was invited by Dr. Bob Moore to spend a month in Beijing studying Chinese slang the summer after our sophomore year; we returned the following summer to study the musical tastes and sensibilities of urban Chinese youths. I have always loved to travel, so part of the draw was simply that it was an opportunity to visit a corner of the world that I had never been to and knew very little about. Beyond this generic desire for new experiences, however, was the allure of a vast country with a wide variety of peoples, cultures, and histories that at first glance appeared to be so drastically different from anything I was familiar with in the Western hemisphere. And indeed, I quickly learned that there are fundamental sociocultural and historical differences which scholars, businesspeople, and other would-be ‘global citizens’ alike must be able to understand, respect, and even celebrate as China increasingly becomes a major player on the world scene. At the same time, however, I also learned that these differences were never insurmountable if I was willing to open myself up to new ideas and ways of life; I found that I was able to connect with and learn a great deal from a diverse array of people despite the formidable linguistic and cultural divides that separated us, and this was a key life lesson.
My engagement with the Asian Studies department at Rollins also helped me to develop a number of important professional skills which have come very much in handy as I have continued my humanities and social sciences education at the graduate level: I gained experience doing ethnographic fieldwork, presenting that fieldwork at academic conferences, and formally writing it up in the form of a thesis and then a publishable article. Thus, even though my geographic area of focus has changed in graduate school, my experiences with Rollins’ Asian Studies program were central to my development both as a person and as a scholar.