“Changed for the Better”: A TBC Love Story
TBC Spring 2016 alumni Meili (nee Burns) and Dominic Van Dyke tied the knot in June 2022, embarking on a lifelong journey that found its roots in their shared time abroad. Both graduates of Loyola University Chicago, Meili studied biology and is now a student at the Illinois College of Optometry. Dominic studied political science and international studies with minors in history and Chinese Language, and now works as a business intelligence analyst in cybersecurity.
The big question of course is how did you meet? What’s the Meili and Dom love story?
We saw each other for the first time in the pre-trip seminar at Loyola University Chicago, but that was just a general meeting of all LUC students going to China. We didn’t actually talk to each other until after we got to China, and actually not until we started the two-week spring Yunnan Excursion trip. After breakfast one day in Kunming, on the first leg of the trip, we just started chatting and exploring together. We walked and talked around the streets of Kunming for what felt like hours, but thankfully it wasn’t; when we looked at the time, we had 5 minutes to get to our bus before we left for the next village. From there, we grew closer and closer throughout the semester abroad, until we finally decided to make it official.
Meili’s deep connection to her heritage and Dominic’s strong interest in Chinese culture is deeply internalized within us, and led us to hold an American-Chinese fusion wedding with a tea ceremony, lanterns, and a chinese lion dance, and with Meili wearing a red qipao.
What made you want to study abroad and come to TBC?
Meili: When I studied at TBC, Loyola University Chicago and UIBE had a strong affiliation, which is actually one of the reasons why I chose to attend Loyola. I was adopted from China when I was 14 months old. I had been to China as a “tourist” before, but I wanted to experience China as a resident. I had been studying the Chinese language for quite a few years and had wanted to connect deeper to my heritage. By studying and living in China for 6 months, I got a glimpse of another life that I might have led.
Dominic: I was studying political science, I wanted to learn a new language, and I thought Europe would be too predictable. I had never traveled out of the country before, and I wanted to challenge myself and have an experience that was truly once in a lifetime.
What’s your favorite travel memory from TBC – besides wandering the streets of Kunming together, of course!
Meili: I went with a group of friends to South Korea for spring break, and it was amazing. I loved China, but Seoul definitely had the better wifi. The culture of Seol was very fun, hip, and social. We saw all the best sights, top universities, watched a lot of Kpop street dancing, and ate lots of Korean BBQ. We even went to a late night fish market at 1:00AM.
Dominic: My favorite place in Beijing was the TBC library. In a city so busy (over twice the size of the biggest city in the US), it was truly wonderful to have a quiet place to relax.
What do you love to tell people about your time in China?
Dominic: I tell people it was awesome, incredible, amazing, and beautiful, and hard to put into words, but really I feel that it’s stronger than that. It was a once in a lifetime experience which gave me the absolute most profound life experience that I have ever had. I had the privilege of sharing that with my now wife. It is not something that I would expect anyone else to have, but I truly believe that you cannot go through this program and not be changed for the better. I entered China as a college student and felt that I left as an adult.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to incoming TBC students?
Meili: See and do as much as you can! Go to all the weekend group trips, take advantage of bullet trains, cheap flights, take advantage of the currency exchange rate. I wish I had done even more traveling than I did (and the traveling doesn’t have to be out of the country). China is so vast, there are so many places to go. Also, don’t be afraid to study abroad if you are a science/STEM major. While it was tricky trying to plan for the break in not taking science classes for a semester, it was totally worth it.
Dominic: China is a very different country than the US, so trust your instincts. Don’t take Friday courses. If still available, do the internship program, but only if you feel like it aligns with what you want to do in the future, career wise.