My students in China made me smile today.
One of them sent me a heartfelt message that I had made a difference in her life. It wasn’t the usual end-of-the-semester note from my American students, who often are looking for a slightly higher grade.
The note read: “Thank you for your patience and kindness all of the time. I always learned a lot from your courses. Those good websites and videos opened new worlds to me. And sincerely, it was the practice of finishing your assignments that made me decide to be a journalist in the future. I’ll keep on going. I wish that someday I can be a good journalist as well as a cool person like you! “
Several others agreed with the student, sending me notes that echoed the sentiment. My Chinese colleagues told me that such praise is rare.
For the past two months, I have tried to teach more than 20 students how to become better journalists. As they often do, the Chinese students came up with some interesting stories, which you can see at www.writingforjournalism.com.
It’s not an easy path becoming a journalist in China. The rules are complicated; the work difficult. But I think some of my students may well make it.
Several young journalists wrote about health issues, including Bipolar disorder, cerebral palsy, child abuse and nursing homes. Others focused on providing interesting slices of life in Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China with more than 13 million residents.
One story even centered on news kiosks, a Chinese cultural icon that has been facing tough times because people don’t buy newspapers and magazines anymore because of the internet. Another story told of student entrepreneurs, who are creating businesses like barber shops while they are still in school.
Also, I have a greater understanding of China from my third trip there. I traveled to some fascinating places, which I had not seen in my previous trips.
Chengdu, for example, is the heart of China’s efforts to save pandas from extinction.
Dunhuang is an ancient link on the Silk Road, the transit route from China to Europe from roughly 400 to 1400 A.D. On the opposite side of the Silk Road stands Xi’an, the home of the Terra Cotta warriors.
Hangzhou is the home of Alibaba, the Google of China, and a lovely city on a lake.
I also traveled to Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, where Bagan, a site like Siem Reap in Cambodia, is home to some awe-inspiring temples.
All told, it was an exhilarating trip—one that I will never forget.