Here’s a post I’ve been waiting to write for almost two months now. Back in October I was notified that not only had I been nominated for Yale’s China Hands magazine’s annual “25 Under 25” list of “25 students and professionals under the age of 25 who have demonstrated exceptional promise in China studies and in furthering the future of U.S.-China relations,” but also that I was a finalist. I was kind of taken aback, as although I’m good friends with a couple of people who have made the list previously, I never thought of myself as that caliber. I was quite touched though, so I wrote my statement, crossed my fingers, and waited. I didn’t hear for a couple weeks, so I had kind of forgotten, but then I was told I made it out of the group of forty finalists and onto the list!
Needless to say, it’s a huge honor that I feel I don’t deserve, I’ve linked the article below so you can see who I’m up there with. Not that they’re all better than me, I don’t do what they do so eff that comparing yourself to others stuff. No, it’s more that I don’t feel I’ve made any real contributions to the field of China studies (yet). I’ve done some cultural engagement before, and certainly intend to do more on Fulbright, but I haven’t formed a startup, published a thesis, revolutionized the field etc like some of the people have. I do seem to be the only one focusing on personal-level relationship building though, and I appear to be one of two Fulbright scholars on this years list, so that’s cool!
It makes me think of something my grandpa and I were talking about during my time home, that being hard work vs. good luck, and that you can’t diminish the contribution of one or the other to your accomplishments. Regarding this specific accomplishment, if you can call it that, I mostly credit luck. It was incredibly lucky that my friend Tenzin, (shoutout, thanks so much) who will be more than worthy of this list in soon, decided to nominate me. Even if I credit my being selected to my accomplishments, i.e. the Boren, the Fulbrights etc., the amount of luck required to put me in position to do that hard work and build my resume is also quite substantial.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you Tenzin, thank you mom and dad for your continued love and support, thank you Pa John for that great conversation, that Salvadoran food, and your love and support, and to all my other fam and friends for being you and being there for me, don’t hesitate to call if you need anything. Here’s the article.
For those that don’t know, “China Hand” refers to any foreigner who has a deep understanding of China, and in terms of Yale’s list basically means anyone with a close understanding of both the U.S. and China, who is actively working to bring the two countries closer. On this account, I do consider myself qualified for the list, as I can talk your ear off about fifty different aspects of China and do the same to Chinese people about America no problem in either language you like. I feel quite at home in China, super comfortable living here, and while I can’t point to specifics off the top of my head, there’s a lot of things I have here that I can’t find in the States. Food is the obvious one, but the language and pace of life are different from the states. I also feel like I have a lot less obligations here, but that’s probably just me. As tiresome as it can be sometimes, I’ve really taken on this role of cultural ambassador as well.
For example, on Wednesday night one of the owners of the cat cafe asks me to come over and help him with something. Turns out he and some buddies (about 15 or so) started a fly-fishing club and wanted me to double check their English name (the Heilongjiang Fly Fishing Club was what I convinced them to adopt over “Heilongjiang Fly Fishing Pals”), and I’ve now been made an honorary member. Been invited to fish with them when they go out in June as well! Really looking forward to that. I’ve never been fly fishing before, but did do some “normal” fishing with my dad when I was younger and hopefully they’re good teachers. Ended up talking a lot of politics and life with the owner that night too. When some of the other members came over the next night, I also got dragged along to dinner at the Korean place one floor down, despite having already eaten dinner, where bad beer and great grilled meat was plentiful. With these four extra guys, we passed over a lot of the same topics, why the West sometimes has a hate-boner for China (leftovers of the Red Scare and the Cold War in my opinion, which is one of my favorite things to explain to Chinese people), a bit on Trump, but quickly left, my hometown in the states, and some other things that escape my mind right now. The point of this all being, I feel completely at home with a bunch of roaring, not actually that drunk northeastern Chinese guys, and I do my best to teach them a bit about America every chance I get. Fun night, and technically what I’m getting paid to be here doing. Look for another post soon!