Reflections from a Chinese Visiting Scholar, Agnes Mao, on Her Experience in the U.S.

Agnes Mao (Donglian Mao) is a Lecturer at the School of Foreign Language Studies of Anhui University from China. She is a visiting international scholar at Webster University this year to advance her research study in the U.S. While living in America for the first time in her life, she wants to learn about others and improve herself through what she has learned. Agnes has taken the time to shed some insight on her experience in St. Louis so far.
Agnes as a great appreciation for her profession as a university educator. Agnes considers her sense of enjoyment that stems from her love and passion for the teaching profession as a beautiful expression of the direction society needs to turn towards to rebuild the future of human life. She believes in “humanistic, student-centric approaches,” which depends on advocates to uphold systematic cores that signify our belonging.

Agnes’s personal philosophy about students’ attitudes towards themselves and others paired with her positivity surrounding the importance of autonomy and individuality within the field of education points to these ideals being necessary components to encapsulate human rights, social justice, and, in simple terms, basic human decency. “I have a great interest in studying their beliefs, expectations, values, and conceptions about how to learn and how to teach successfully,” said Agnes. She strives to be more than just a teacher.

While in St. Louis, Agnes wants to broaden her perceptions and dive into American culture, especially the differences between this new life and the way of life she left at home. Her academic goals are to finish her current research project, be exposed to new academic research in the U.S., and broaden her view. Her personal goals take the last part even further. Agnes would like to “get more involved in local American life, learn more about American people, and gain an in-depth understanding of cultural differences between China and the U.S.”

Many of us hold perceptions or beliefs about people and places before we even give them a try. Agnes said that prior to coming to the United States, she thought, “it must be a dangerous place,” and she “was afraid [her] Chinese face would arouse American people’s strong aversion to me,” due to the current trade war with China and the U.S. However, by exploring the cultural aspects of American life and people, Agnes was able to change her perceptions about the U.S. and broaden her view on our way of life. She now realizes that “dangerous or not, it mainly depends on where you live.”
In her interview, Agnes shared a heart-touching story about perseverance and the impact that one small action could have on another person.

“One day, about a month after I arrived here, I planned a shopping trip to [a Macy’s department store]. To get there, I had to take a bus first, and then transfer for a train. It was the first time for me to travel so far in this foreign country. Getting off at the bus terminal, I was totally bewildered standing by the rail tracks. Where could I buy a ticket? How much was the train fare? Which train should I take? Just then I saw a young man coming across the railroad. On hearing that I was new here and had no idea what to do next, he went straight up to a ticket vending machine and bought a day pass for me. While we were waiting for the train by the rail tracks, we got into a conversation. I was surprised to learn that his girlfriend was gravely ill and he had sold his car to pay for her major operation. That was why he had to take public transportation to get around. We exchanged our names before we parted with each other, but I have a terribly poor memory of American names and can’t remember this nice guy’s name now. Though I can’t repay his kindness, my heart was touched and I will be more ready to help others in need. “

She was inspired by this experience with a complete stranger which showed her that “I would not change my opinion of American people [based on negative experiences]. They are really uncomplicated, friendly, generous and open-minded.”