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Instructor Introduction: Kristen

Hello fellow travelers!

My name is Kristen and I will be one of your instructors this summer. I am so excited for the summer that is ahead of us. Can you believe we are just two months away from meeting?

As I reflect on the previous Dragon’s courses that I have instructed and begin to set goals and intentions for this summer, I am reminded of how appreciative I am to frequent China. China – with all of its greatness, complexities, vast and beautiful landscapes, historic wonders, and it’s interesting position with the rest of our world, has managed to pull me back again and again. Each time I leave, I think – ‘I am not finished here.’ I believe that it will be impossible to satisfy my curiosity for such an incredible country. Thus, I’m excited to make another return and to learn from China once more; this time, with the new perspectives that each of you will bring!

I was probably just a bit older than all of you when I first ventured to this part of the world. I signed up for a semester long exchange program in Taiwan during my sophomore year in college and after two weeks into my program, I called my parents and university to tell them I wasn’t coming back! At least, not until the following year. I’m not quite sure if it was something in the tea or it may have been the regular visits to nearby temples and meditation retreats in the mountains, the late nights eating tasty snacks on sticks, my love for learning Chinese, or the constant thrill of navigating unknown places; but I fell in love with this part of the world and soon returned to live in Jinan, China for several months. Since then, I’ve instructed multiple semester courses in China with Dragons and also led trips to China with a different organization.

Chicago has been my most recent home and my point of departure for this journey ahead with all of you. Over the past year, I’ve kept myself very busy! I am a teacher at an alternative high school for students who have experienced barriers in their lives or education that have caused them to drop out or be transferred out of the public school system. I teach Social Justice, Civics, Ethnic Studies, and U.S. History. I also run our school’s Civic Engagement program.

In addition to teaching, I am a photographer and have recently exhibited photo stories about the process and production of tea, China’s ethnic minority groups, and Tibetan refugees in Chicago.

As I transition into this next adventure, I am eager to get to know all of you. I hope you are all gearing up for an exciting new experience. Remember, that this course will be what you make it and if you open up your heart and self to learning, appreciating each other, and everything that comes your (and our) way, you won’t have any difficulty seeing the beauty in what lies ahead. Get ready to explore, learn Chinese, challenge yourself, and have fun!

Stay tuned for more YAKS coming to you from your instructor team and each other as we introduce ourselves, introduce the course, and make sure you’re all geared up for the summer of 2019 in China!

With happiness,

Kristen Gianaris