As a teacher and scholar of Asian North American literature, I have a deep love for Asia and its cultures. But I sometimes regretted that I’d never been able to visit mainland China, much less to spend significant time there. That changed in mid-August 2017 when I was selected as a Fulbright Teaching Scholar and my wife and two youngest sons and I left Utah Valley for an eleven-month adventure in Beijing. My assigned host was Beijing Normal University, one of China’s finest universities, where I taught undergraduate and graduate courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American novels. Thankfully, I was required to teach in English. Beyond ni-hao, I didn’t know a word of Mandarin when I arrived.
Much like BYU students, the students at BNU were amazing: hard-working, non-complaining, wonderfully congenial, and very bright. They also had exceptional English language skills and genuine hunger for knowledge and meaningful experiences. My wife and I had amazing teaching experiences, and we still miss our BNU students profoundly. We learned many things from them, including an abiding respect for the maturity, sensitivity, genuine goodness, and incredible vitality of China’s youth.
We will also carry with us many beautiful memories of our months in the Beijing First Branch where we attended church services with other foreign nationals. We acquired a deep love for the talented, faithful, and sacrificing expatriates working in Beijing.
We are nevertheless delighted to be home. We don’t miss Beijing’s sometimes terrible air pollution, nor do we miss its bureaucracy. While we often felt claustrophobic in China, we’ve had to admit since we’ve been home that we sometimes miss the crowds. Even Los Angeles felt small when we returned. But we have savored spending long hours with our children and grandchildren, and it’s especially wonderful to be back at BYU. I love my students here. It’s great to be home.