Global Heels: International Scholar HOU Xin

Xin Hou, a visiting scholar in the Program on Chinese Cities, from Tainjin, China.
Hou Xin, a visiting scholar in the Program on Chinese Cities, from Tainjin, China.

HOU Xin is a visiting scholar in the Program on Chinese Cities, an initiative of the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. HOU is from Tianjin, China, and earned a master’s degree in architecture and a doctoral degree in urban planning from the School of Architecture at Tianjin University. He is visiting the Program on Chinese Cities, which focuses on the impacts of rapid urban growth on China’s built and natural environments, from June 2013 until June 2014.

What is your city, region or country known for?
I came from Tianjin, which is one of the four biggest cities in China. Tianjin is famous for its mixture of urban, traditional Chinese and Western cultures. Some foreign friends who have never traveled to China do not think most of the big cities in China have been greatly affected by Western culture; Tianjin is a typical one. To some degree, Tianjin is like Shanghai, which many people have heard or seen, because of its multilayered culture. 

Which languages do you speak?
Chinese, English

What is the research agenda for your visit to Carolina?
I would like to audit some university courses, attend some academic seminars and lectures, travel around the U.S.A and visit the famous landmarks and buildings.

Why did you choose to pursue this study or research at UNC?
I think this question can be answered in two parts. First, why study in the U.S.? Secondly, why at UNC?

My research interests focus on culture coexistence and culture conflict in urban space, which can be studied as culture ecology. I think in the background of the so-called information era, which means that international communication have been greatly improved, current urban cultures are facing great challenges. As the largest country of immigrants, the U.S. has so many experiences for me to learn from. Furthermore, UNC has one of the best departments of city and regional planning in the U.S., and the professors are in the top of their fields. Besides, UNC is famous for its warm climate and beautiful environment, so it was the best choice for my family and me.

What do you hope to accomplish as a result of being a visiting scholar at UNC?
I hope in the period of one year, I can learn as much as possible, travel as far as possible and take photos as beautifully as I can.

What unique perspectives do you feel you bring to your peers as an international scholar?
I think, to some extent, my research method of comparative study may be different. I also take the open attitude to traditional culture. In my opinion, traditions are changing every day. That is to say, today’s new thing will be the future’s tradition.

Tell us about a colleague or professor who has inspired you or your work.
My supervisor and professor, Yan Song, has taught me a lot. She is an expert in GIS and has taught me quantization methods to deepen the study of social problems. She is also a great photographer and has traveled all around the world to take magnificent photos. (I highly recommend viewing her works.) I hope someday I can enjoy both my work and life just as she does.

What do you like about UNC?
I like the beautiful campus, the peaceful surrounding and the climate. My family and I are really enjoying our stay here.

What do you like about living in Chapel Hill, and how is it different from your hometown? If you’ve brought a family with you, what does your family enjoy about the area?
My wife is also a visiting scholar, and our young son is accompanying us. I think the most obvious difference between Chapel Hill and my hometown is the quiet atmosphere. As the most populous country, there are always a lot of people around in China, which is quite different from here. To tell you the truth, at the beginning, I could not get used to the quiet. I still remember how strange it was when I was walking on the street in the afternoon and there was nobody in sight. But now I enjoy the quiet, and my whole family is so happy and enjoys the life here.

What have been the most significant challenges in adjusting to life in Chapel Hill and at UNC?
At the beginning of the first several weeks when I came to UNC, challenges were everywhere, but the most significant challenge was how to adapt to the traffic rules. As there are lots of tiny differences in the traffic rules between China and the U.S., it was a little hard for me to forget my habits from China.  

What are you currently reading?
Besides the books about my studies, I have been reading about the history of the U.S. and China in my spare time. I also read photography books and look at picture albums, because I hope to improve my techniques for photography.

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