Nina LaFerla

China Course Director

BA History, BA Art History, BA Anthropology UNC-Wilmington
MA Global History, concentration in China, UNC-Wilmington, 2009

A veteran Dragons instructor, Nina was born and raised in Asheville, NC and first traveled to China at the age of 14 on a month-long educational tour sponsored by Duke University. Ever since, she’s been on the path to becoming a full-fledged China geek.

After earning three concurrent BAs in History, Art History, and Anthropology, she took her book learning to Shanghai in 2001 and promptly began to unlearn everything she thought she knew about China. Since that first move, she has racked up a total of five years residence in China, tracing a path from glittering underground Shanghai to quiet rural monasteries in Sichuan. Along the way, Nina spent nearly one year in travel time across China, most of it solo. She has traveled by train, horse, motorbike, boat, plane, and camel while visiting 21 of China’s 34 provinces and administrative regions.

Through formal university studies at East China Normal University and Sichuan University, as well as times of immersion on the road, Nina managed to acquire fluency and literacy in Mandarin. She has also become an experienced English-language teacher, instructing Chinese students ranging in age from three to fifty. One of her proudest achievements in China was to teach four-year-olds to speak in complete sentences.

In 2009 Nina earned her MA in Global History, with a concentration in China. Her award-winning thesis was an oral history taken at a Daoist community in Sichuan that is facing the challenge of balancing their traditional way of life with the growing demands of the Chinese tourist market. Nina is especially interested in Chinese traditional religions; she has burned incense in many of China’s most prominent temples, and at the top of several sacred mountains. She is well-versed in the iconography, history, and philosophy of traditional Chinese religions, and when she is not sharing the rich cultural heritage of China with her summer Dragons students, she can be found teaching it to her students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, where she is an Adjunct Instructor of History.

“I believe the art of teaching history is the art of the perspective shift. I believe that when history is taught properly it can bring students a precious gift: the ability to empathize, to put themselves in another’s shoes.”