In the summer of 2005, I took three suitcases and flew from Beijing to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. In the summer of 2011, I took the same three suitcases and flew back from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to Beijing. Six years has passed swiftly, as if nothing had changed. But only I know that along with the suitcases, I also carry back so many wonderful memories and best wishes from my professors, colleagues, friends, and students from Minnesota in the past six years.
I remember that in my first winter at Minnesota, I was shocked by the amount of snow that a single winter could produce. Winter seemed to be endless, but the snow was so pure and quiet to a woman like me, who came from a small town in middle China. When I come back to China, the snow is indeed one of the many things that I miss most.
I still remember that in my first class at the University of Minnesota, I did not know what the syllabus was and how to use the on-line posting. My professors and colleagues not only helped me master all these technologies, they also pushed me to think about China in a broader context of the whole world. China was not only the country in which I grew up, it also became the body of knowledge I strove to learn, to discuss, and to debate about. After six years, I was able to write my own syllabus and taught my own course in Ming-Qing China to a class of American students. China as a nationality and China as a study subject converged.
I could not forget the joyful heart beat when I was informed that the Chinese Heritage Foundation kindly funded my trip back to China for my dissertation research in 2008. With the fellowship, I was able to dig in the dusty archival documents in the Tianjin Archive and discover some rarely read texts from the National Library of China, Tianjin Library, and Nankai University Library. There were numerous moments that I touched the liveliness of history and that I was touched by the words and choices of the historical figures. As the recipient of this prestigious fellowship, not only did I fully prepare myself for my dissertation, I also use many of the documents in my current teaching and research at the Capital Normal University.
Today in 2014, three years after I came back to China, I still carry on these wonderful memories and experiences from Minnesota. I enjoy showing a little bit Minnesotan accent when I talk with my foreign friends in Beijing. I enjoy telling my students how beautiful Minnesota is in the winter when the winter season comes in Beijing. I enjoy assigning to my students weekly readings which I have read as a student at the University of Minnesota. And most importantly, I enjoy sharing with people around me that in Minnesota and even in the world, there are supportive foundations and enthusiastic people who still care about what happened to China in the past century and centuries.