It’s tough being an empty nester, but what’s it like being a flourishing fledgling flown from the nest? Alex Bunten reached out to a few CCS grads to see what kind of impression Charlotters are making on the world.
Making it happen in Beijing with Jude Daniel Blanchette
The Charlotte News: First, straight to the point, when did you graduate from CCS?
Jude Blanchette: 1994. I think.
TCN: Next, most important, where the heck did you go?
JB: As of now, I’m in Beijing. I’ve been living in China on and off for about 7 years.
TCN: What brought you there? Love, money, weather, lower taxes, sidewalks, better cheese, better lake views? Tell us about it!
JB: I did a year abroad in China during university and got hooked. I remember having my face smashed against the car window staring out at Beijing on my very first drive in from the airport in 2001. I’ve never lost that feeling since. China is the most interesting country on the planet—for its sheer size, for its complex history, for its, um, unique political system, etc. In terms of satisfying intellectual curiosity, it never fails to deliver. You can read headlines about rapid economic growth, but it’s another thing to see it unfold, with all its good and bad side-effects.
TCN: What do you do for gainful employment? And do you enjoy it? What’s the most difficult thing about it?
JB: I work at The Conference Board’s China Center for Business and Economics, which is sort of like a think tank for multinational corporations operating in China. I’ve only been in this position for one month (35 days, technically), but so far, so good. Right now the most difficult thing is getting up to speed on what political and economic challenges are facing our member companies.
Editor’s note: Jude forgot to mention that he recently finished a post-grad course at Oxford in Chinese politics. Smart fella, to be sure…
TCN: Since that fateful day you flew from the nest, what’s the strangest place you’ve been to?
JB: Washington D.C. for sure. I think a visiting Martian could understand the workings of, say, Shanghai or Montreal. But I’m sure it wouldn’t know what to make of our capital city.
TCN: Better yet, where is the oddest place you have bumped into a Charlotter unexpectedly? (If not a Charlotter, a Vermonter…)
JB: A few years ago I was visiting a tiny, hidden bar in Beijing. No sign on the door and 20 seats maximum. The bartender was wearing a Higher Ground T-shirt. Turns out he was a student at UVM and knew several of my CVU friends. So not a Charlotter, but pretty close.
TCN: When you tell your new fandangled foreign friends about where you are from, how do you explain your Charlotte upbringing in 50 words or fewer? (And don’t tell us, you say you are from the “Boston area” because no one knows where Charlotte, let alone Vermont, is…)
JB: I never really get to the part about Charlotte. It usually zaps my energy just explaining what/where Vermont is.
TCN: Do you have a quintessential Vermont expression that you tell these new fine- feathered folks?
JB: I made a list of Vermont expressions a few years ago with a high school friend (shout out to Dave Parsons), and I think we agreed that “banching”—a verb meaning to take our vehicle off road—was our favorite. I now try to work that into at least a few sentences a day. With varying success.
TCN: When you think of your alma mater, “Where there’s no better place to learn,” who’s the first person that comes to mind? Why?
JB: There’s way too many great teachers for me to answer this. We had a deep bench when I was there—Mr. Tiplady, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Nappi, Mr. Cronin, Madame Pierson. Well, OK, I guess the teacher I learned the most from was Mrs. LaFayette. A stern teacher, but with a healthy sprinkling of love for her students.
TCN: If you could give current CCS kids a piece of advice about their future as cultural attachés of Charlotte, what would it be?
JB: I would have absolutely nothing interesting/important to say to a 10-year-old. Anyhow, whatever I say will be completely disregarded as I’m sure I now seem thoroughly uncool and old.
TCN: Do any of your parents/relatives still live in town? If so, have they bought you a subscription to your hometown paper yet? (If not, have a word.)
JB: Thankfully, yes. My parents are still holding down the fort. It’s always great to know that I can come back to Charlotte to see them.
TCN: What do you think Charlotte will be like in 20 years?
JB: It will be a suburb of Williston. Just kidding. Honestly, I have no idea. I hope essentially the same in spirit, but you know, I do think we could use a few more businesses.
TCN: Would you ever consider moving back?
JB: If my parents are reading this, then yes, of course.