The Introduction


My name is Tristan Finazzo (戴晟睿). I’m 19 years old and a graduate of Saint Louis University High School (SLUH) in Saint Louis, Missouri. Last academic year (2014-2015), I took a gap-year to continue four years of Chinese study on scholarship at Beijing University (PKU). As the youngest student in PKU’s International Division of over 300 students, I developed a more native grasp of Chinese, stronger understanding of the culture, maturity, and greater self-reliance.

The Background

In high school, I studied Chinese language for four years in a traditional classroom setting. In spring of my junior and senior years, I was fortunate to gain immersive exposure to the language and culture by participating in the Saint Louis-Nanjing Sister City Exchange Program between my high school (SLUH) and Nanjing Foreign Language School.

In fall of 2013, encouraged by my Chinese teacher, I participated and placed first in the Midwest Regional Chinese Bridge Competition at Webster University. Winning the regional competition—comprised of a Chinese culture test, a speech in Chinese, and a talent performance (I chose to sing a Chinese pop song, “我真的很不错,” 一边唱一边打架子鼓的 (both sung and played on a drum set)—afforded me the opportunity to continue on to the international level Chinese Bridge Competition as a representative for the United States. A member of the two-person “America Team 2,” I traveled first to Beijing and then to Kunming alongside five other U.S. representatives (my teammate, and America Teams 1 and 3—the respective winners of the West Coast (2) and Northeast (2) regions) as well as 122 other competitors from 64 countries around the world! Collaborating over three weeks of arduous competition, my Atlantan teammate (winner of the southern U.S. regional competition) and I had the objective of earning popular votes of not only a judges’ panel, but also of online voters from around the world. Broadcast on CCTV (China’s national television station), the 6th Annual Chinese Bridge Competition was stressful to say the least (read of my experience in the links below). In addition, my teammate and prepared in advance for a 250-question Chinese culture test, rehearsed our talent performances, practiced bargaining with Chinese merchants, and memorized our respective speeches as well as roles in nationally broadcast theatrical performances. Representing the United States as the questionably discriminatory, yet in-demand cowboy/cowgirl duo, we were fortunate to win second place in the competition. A generous prize of further immersion and education, the second place reward was a 1-year, full scholarship to any university in China, which we chose to be Beijing (Peking) University.

Going forward

After months of parental convincing and a summer filled with paperwork and preparation, I proud to have lived out my gap year as an honorary Beijinger last year. While travelling throughout China and Vietnam for Spring Festival Break, I awaited college application decisions from several U.S. universities—after applying online through the Great Chinese Firewall and flying to Korea for standardized testing. Currently I am a first-year student at the University of Chicago studying Chinese. Other academic interests of mine include physics, media studies, and linguistics. I am an avid singer, explorer, and student of both curricula and life.

The Site! 

This site will be used primarily to chronicle my Spring Festival Break escapades throughout China and into Vietnam, memorable accounts from my life in Beijing, and any additional sojourns to nearby Asian countries or day trips to proximal provinces. I will also include documents, essays and speeches related to my study at Beijing University, travel tips and itineraries for China and Vietnam, and pictures and videos from along the way!


  • Yunnan Daily Press Group article published November 4th, 2014; experience at 2013 Chinese Bridge Competition and invitation back to interview at the 2014 competition

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