Heading east [UPDATED]Published 3:49am Monday, August 26, 2013 Updated 8:23pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013
When people move or leave home for an extended period of time, they often bring with them objects that will remind them of where they come from.
For Timothy Helland, that means lots of English textbooks and a small fishing pole, an item he acquired at the urging of a former professor with whom he used to fish.
“He convinced me a little fishing pole is a lot more convenient,” Helland said. “It fits nicely in a suitcase.”
Helland is moving to China for a doctorate program in acupuncture and herbal medicine at Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the city of Shenyang. He said the program will place more emphasis on the herbal and pharmacy aspect of oriental medicine than most of his previous studies have.
Helland has had a unique educational experience. He was home-schooled a few years as a child, started taking college classes when he was 16 and graduated last year with a master’s degree from the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Roseville, a small school with a student population of around 100 at any given time. Now 23, Helland said moving to China with very limited language skills is nerve-racking, but he feels prepared for the move.
“I get excited at how it is intimidating,” Helland said. “I just want to rise up to that challenge.”
To prepare for the move, Helland has studied some Chinese with the Rosetta Stone program but still has a long ways to go. The first year of the four-year program will be spent learning the language, while the last three will be the actual doctoral portion.
Changzhen Gong, the president of AAAOM, worked closely with Helland during his time at AAAOM, watching him growing from a shy student to a gifted speaker and presenter with passion for culture.
“He is a very dedicated and diligent student,” Gong said. “He will be excellent and achieve what he hopes for sure. After his three or four years, he will bring back a lot to America.”
Moving to China for the program was made possible for Helland because of a scholarship program through the Chinese government. Helland’s scholarship pays for travel expenses, room and board, textbooks and even provides him with a monthly stipend.
Helland’s friend and former AAAOM classmate Sher Thao said Helland has always wanted to learn as much as he could about Chinese medicine and culture. Thao said he taught Helland a few Chinese recipes while the two were in school and the two would cook with different foods they learned about in their dietary therapy class.
“I believe that he is someone who wanted something more authentic, something further than what is given here,” Thao said.
Indeed, Helland said he first began studying Chinese acupuncture because of the proximity of the school in Roseville. He said Japanese acupuncture, a field he in which he is very interested, is less frequently taught in the United States and various forms of European acupuncture are even harder to find in the country.
After his four years in China, Helland said his dream is to work in a Japanese research facility, studying how different plants affect the human body. But he also said a lot can change in four years.
“Maybe after four years I’ll just be sick of it and want to come home for a big pizza or a burger,” Helland said.
Until then, he will have his textbooks and his fishing pole.