I’d always had a love of Chinese culture. Growing up in suburban Chicago, I heard, at an early age, my grandparents’ tales of trips to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Then when I was in middle school, my father started talking about his new Chinese students, fresh off the plane from Shanghai and Beijing. These students joined my family for Thanksgiving dinners, Passover seders, and 4th of July barbecues. Friendly and doting, they quickly became my role models. When I started college in Baltimore, I looked into taking Mandarin. Although I attended a small liberal arts college, I was allowed to enroll in Mandarin at Johns Hopkins University, a college I never thought I’d get into on my own. My first day of Mandarin was intimidating. Thirty students, mostly biomedical engineering, Chinese-Americans, sat in the classroom, talking amongst themselves. As the lone non-Hopkins student, and one of the few non-Chinese, I felt different and more than a little insecure. How would I ever keep up with my new classmates? Was I doomed to fail in a language I had no prior exposure to, unlike these students, who all spoke it at home, but couldn’t read or write? Then the teacher arrived. Chi Laoshi,