Chance encounters, once again

JISHOU, HUNAN — Last week, one of my students told me she chose to be an English major because, as a high school student, she had been eavesdropping on a conversation I was having with a college student.

It was a chance encounter that I didn’t even know had happened until she told me about it a few days ago over lunch.

In 2011 I was in Yongshun, a small city within the Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture, to help lead an English teaching workshop for area middle school teachers. While I don’t clearly remember which of my students I was with, apparently we were having some deep conversation while walking along the street. Behind us, unbeknownst to us, listening very carefully, was a high school girl — we’ll call her Jade.

Jade at the time was entering her last year at Yongshun No. 1 Middle School. It’s a critical year for students, as they approach two seminal events in their lives: taking the college entrance exam (高考 gaokao) and choosing their college major.

Like many high school seniors, Jade had had no clue what she wanted to study in college. That changed as she followed us around.

Last week, she told me she was so fascinated that a Chinese girl and an American man could communicate so freely in English that she decided then and there that her college major would be English.

And, also quite by chance, Jade is now my student. Had things gone differently, she could have ended up in a different university, and I would have never known about my unwitting influence on her life.

Keep this in mind as you go through your everyday life. Quite often, the most innocuous things you do can have powerful effects on those around you.

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