After more than two years of educational consulting and nine months as CLI’s Educational Director, in September I bid a heartfelt farewell to Guilin and to the countless friends and colleagues I came to know while living there. At the end of October, I will be moving to rural India to spend ten months volunteering with a human rights organization in the field of educational development; while I hope to provide a much-needed service to Indian communities that lack the resources to develop viable educational programming on their own, my work at CLI has inspired me to continue exploring the transformative impact of education on our increasingly globalized world.
Since I first began working with CLI, we have welcomed close to 200 students to China. With each passing season, our community grows ever larger. And yet, for me, CLI has always felt like an extended family. As students come and go, I have seen firsthand the unbreakable bonds that they form with teachers and peers, and shared the unforgettable experiences that they carry with them upon returning home. Students venture to CLI in hopes of improving their Mandarin Chinese; in the end, they often discover that in addition to language proficiency, they have gained lifelong friendships and a newfound appreciation for Chinese culture. It is this aspect of CLI that I will miss most.
Throughout the upcoming year, CLI is partnering with several U.S.-based programs and schools to provide intensive Mandarin language training and academic China study tours for students and professionals eager to know more about China. In addition to hosting two high school study tours through Oakton, Virginia’s Flint Hill School and Alexandria, Virginia’s Episcopal High School, CLI is organizing two professional development seminars on environmental sustainability in conjunction with the China Sustainability Initiative (CSI). CLI will also host two undergraduate-level study tours, one sponsored through the Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence (IC-CAE), and the other through Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business. Though I won’t be in China to welcome these new students myself, I can rest assured that they’ll learn much about the Middle Kingdom — and themselves — by participating in a CLI program in China.
So while I say my final goodbyes to the misty karst mountains, golden rice paddies and bustling city streets that are Guilin, I know that I won’t be gone forever. Although I may have provided CLI with my educational expertise, it has imparted me with so much more than that.