About Me


My name is Colleen O’Connor. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in Summer 2012 with a Bachelor of Philosophy in Chinese. I am fortunate to have received a 2012-2013 Fulbright Research Grant to China. The first four months (September-December) of my grant period led me to Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, China. I attended a CET language intensive program, and then moved to Kunming, Yunnan Province to study cultural preservation and tourism management methods for ten months (January-October). My goal with this blog is to organize my life and research into one place. Most importantly, this blog is a way for me to communicate with my friends and family and show them what exactly I am doing on the other side of the planet.

In this blog, I describe my travels, my fieldwork, Chinese history, and thoughts living in the Mainland. I hope this blog can help others understand a bit more about this vast country that is zhongguo, “the Middle Country!”

Journey to the West

I begin my journey to the west. My blog’s title is “Journey to the West” because of two reasons: the first one being, I am literally moving from the East part of China to the West. The second reason is that my path and the journey that the Monkey King, the monk, and their companions followed in the Chinese epic, Journey to the West, are similar. At one point in their fictional adventures, the group found themselves in a Kingdom of Women. The women tried to seduce them and stray them away from their mission. My research has led me to Lugu Lake, an ethnic minority area that still hosts a matrilineal society. Because of this trait, the area, Lugu Lake, and its people, the Mosuo, have adopted the nickname “The Kingdom of Women.” The fictional kingdom has become a reality.

Enjoy and please comment!


3 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hi Colleen – great blog! Enjoyed reading it! Hope you and Molly had a further good trip in Tiger Leaping Gorge.

  2. Tom

    Hi Colleen,

    I am planning to go to China next year to speed up my Mandarin learning and have been looking at the language course at HIT in Harbin. Is that the same one you did? If so, would you recommend it?

    Thanks in advance, Tom

    • Hello Tom! I went through the CET Harbin Chinese Language Intensive program. I highly recommend it, if it’s in your price range. We had Chinese roommates and had to follow a language pledge inside and outside of the classroom. They also organized weekly activities, which was a lot of fun. HIT also offers Chinese courses, but I did not attend those, so I cannot comment on its quality. Also, Harbin is a beautiful city with so much history and culture. I had a really great time during my 4 months there.

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