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Stepping into the Chinese Exploration & Research Society Center (CERS) has been an eye-opening experience beyond anything I had initially imagined. Incredible photos of the wildlife, scenic landscapes, and the diverse people of the Tibetan region line the walls. Books and articles on every Tibetan related subject one could possibly imagine lay on every exposed table and surface.

While I am surrounded by copious amounts of consumable educational material, they pale in comparison to the depth of knowledge and wisdom of the resident researchers. Dr. Bill Bleisch, a biologist who has been working with CERS since its inception in 1986, and Katia Buffetrille, an ethnologist and Tibetologist, who work out of the Center are both deep wells of information. They have been eagerly providing what seems like endless amounts of information related to Tibet to me and the rest of the ACE in China group.

“Whether Dr. Bill and I are hiking a trail and identifying every wildflower we pass, or Katia and I are discussing recent changes in Tibetan architecture as we drive through the mountain regions, I am conscious of the value of these experiences.”

While it might have been easy to see them as merely teachers, I have quickly come to cherish our conversations at dinner and during our excursions. When I stand next to them, I feel the extent of their knowledge and wisdom, and I can’t help but match their excitement to share with my fervor to learn.

Whether Dr. Bill and I are hiking a trail and identifying every wildflower we pass, or Katia and I are discussing recent changes in Tibetan architecture as we drive through the mountain regions, I am conscious of the value of these experiences. I have never been exposed to an academic working in the field, and to see two working with such passion and love, it has inspired and motivated me more than I thought possible. I hold onto every word they speak, realizing the value of their experience.

When I decided that I wanted to participate with the ACE in China program, I knew I would be challenged and exposed to new experiences. I had not anticipated, however, either the shear amount of knowledge I would be exposed to, nor my excitement to absorb it.

This experience has been the most interactive and eye-opening of my life, and I still have two weeks to go! During just my first week in China, I have learned more than some semester-long courses. Both Katia and Dr. Bill have graciously shared their love of learning, which has sparked a new-found passion within me that I am beginning to realize is invaluable. I have cherished every moment with them and look forward to many more!

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