Back to

First Pre-Course Assignment: “The Danger of a Single Story”

Hi again from your instructor team!

Here we are together as an instructor team in Ayutthaya, Thailand! As departure day draws closer, we’re hard at work and eagerly preparing for your arrival! Each time we finalize a new detail about the semester ahead, we think of all of you and how strange and exciting it is to be preparing for the memories we will all be making with people we haven’t even met yet. Spaces we pass through in China that carry meaning now for us as individuals but will soon mean something to you, and to all of us together as a group.

As we get ready to meet soon, if you haven’t posted an introduction here on the Yak Board yet, classmates and instructors alike can’t wait to hear a bit more about you!

In addition to a reminder about self-introductions, we’d like to introduce our pre-course assignment. While we’re sure you’re all very busy in this final week of preparation, we hope that you are also finding time to reflect on the adventure ahead. That you are making space to sit with yourself and ask questions about the many motivations that have brought you here, your expectations, your fears, and how you hope to learn and grow. We think that this pre-course assignment can support those thoughts as we introduce some of the reflective themes we’ll be exploring in-depth throughout the fall. For this first assignment, we’d like to consider how the stories we tell about one another shape the way we understand the people around us.

First, please watch acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” at this link.

As you watch this video, we hope you will approach it with curiosity and critical thinking. Are there any parts in particular that resonate with you? Ideas that help you put your own feelings into words? Ideas you disagree with?

After you have watched Adichie’s TED talk, consider:

  • What are some of the “single stories” you have heard, or that you believe, about China?
  • What are some of the “single stories” you have heard, or that you suspect others might believe, about the United States or the country/ies you consider home? What do you wish they knew?
  • What are some of the “single stories” people believe about you? What do you wish they knew?

If you’ve already seen the talk, take a few minutes to think about what you still remember, what stood out to you most, and try to also respond to these questions.

You don’t have to post anything here (though you are always welcome to share on the Yak Board!), but we hope this feeds your own reflection in this final week and that you are excited to bring these thoughts and ideas into conversation soon when we meet.

With anticipation,

Marcus, Pei, and Maddie