Student Narratives About Asia


James Rizor

I remember lying back in the dugout canoe, looking out across the turquoise lake at the cloud covered mountains in the distance , and as the Mosuo ferryman’s haunting song, recounting the tragic circumstance of two lovers, filled my head, I wondering to myself, “ How did I end up in such a beautiful place? How did I end up in a rural village on the other side of the world?” Then I smiled to myself and remembered, it was a word. 龍, everything started with 龍. The majestic complexity combined with the fluid elegance of the character drew me in. As I stared at that single character, hypnotized, I only remember thinking, “ Forget Spanish, I want to learn this language. When I came to Rollins College, the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to master the Chinese language, no matter the cost. So I enrolled in an elementary Chinese course and under the guidance of my advisor, who coincidentally happened to be the head of the Asian studies department, signed up for a course on Chinese culture. After that first language class I was hooked. Soon I had switched my major and found myself signing up for any course that would further my understanding of the Chinese. Before I knew it, I found myself living among people of a different culture as a minority, adhering to their customs and trying to understand their way of life. Though it seems strange that something as simple as a single character would cause someone to change the course of their life and eventually lead him to move to a foreign culture, I find it a blessing. The experiences that I accrued and the lessons imparted to me by my Chinese comrades opened my mind and forever changed my life for the better. If I could provide a student with one piece of advice, I would tell them: “Take the leap. Climb into that dugout canoe in that remote village and take a journey across culture, language, and time. Learn a foreign language; get out of the US; and see what the people of the world have to teach you. You will only regret it if you just stand on the shore of the lake watching life pass you by.”