Students' Monthly Updates

Final Blog Post: Haleigh's Reflection

posted 27 May 2015, 18:20 by Yen Chiang

I still remember that sleepy Saturday in April when I found out that I had received the National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship. I was speechless. It was like the universe itself had realized my soul's deepest desire to study abroad and had brought everything into alignment for this single moment of pure joy. I also remember the moment when I told my Chinese teacher of 5 years the good news, and her repeatedly hugging me and literally jumping for joy right in the middle of class.

I remember pre-departure orientation (PDO) and learning about the “W-curve”, which is supposed to describe the emotional ups and downs experienced while studying abroad. The phases included honeymoon, frustration/culture shock/other crisis, adjustment and finally mastery. To be frank, I don't think I've ever hit a serious low in Taiwan. My only real frustration has just been toward not having enough hours in the day to learn and experience everything that Taiwan has to offer.

Also, during the PDO, we had to write these letters to our future selves to read around the half-way point of the year abroad. In my letter, I wrote to myself, “ By this time of the year, hopefully you have accomplished the following: Bonded with your host family, made some incredible Taiwanese friends, went to a KTV and to some other culture excursions, and above all are getting super flippin' awesome at Chinese. Seriously, self, take literally every opportunity you can to further your knowledge and even pick up some other languages too! I'm writing this letter in New York the day before we depart. I remember going to sleep last night with this unbelievably warm, fuzzy feeling from utmost excitement. Please try to feel that way at least once a week and remind yourself often of how insanely lucky and thankful you are to be in Taiwan.” Well, past self, with all sincerity, I can tell you that I tried my best and in regards to all of your future hopes and aspirations, I can look back and say that I fulfilled everything I set out to do and more.

Of course, I owe a great many thanks to all of the people who made with experience possible. First off, thank you so much U.S. State Department and everyone else who works under the NSLI-Y umbrella. I'm so grateful to have a government that values the importance of foreign language and global relations, and therefore is willing to invest precious U.S. tax dollars (also thank you U.S. taxpayers!) in young Americans like myself.

Also my sincerest appreciation to everyone in IEARN for your all of those late hours at the office and meticulous planning that went into making sure that we had the best life possible here and that we got to have every opportunity to experience every inch of Taiwanese culture through trips, culture classes and other super awesome activities. And a special shout-out to the two ladies that were especially instrumental in our daily lives: Jenny, you are the Taiwanese mother I never had, and I don't think we could ever comprehend just how much you do and sacrifice for us; and dearest Yen, you are the most hardworking RD I've ever known, and you will always be close to my heart. From that 1 AM call about feeling sick to just having a buddy to explore and eat exotic ice-cream with, you've always been there for us. We are truly the luckiest kids on the planet to have such a dedicated group of people always looking out for our best interests and I hope that someday I can repay the favor.

In addition, I would like to thank all of the teachers at Wenzao and the CCL. Thank you Ye 老師 for your friendliness and energy, Ma 老師, Liu 老師 for your 100% commitment, Liang 老師 for your unique teaching methods, and finally Cai 老師 and Hong 老師 for your patience and unyielding dedication. I would also like to recognize Gong 老師, because if it weren't for your class in the first two weeks of Taiwan, then I never would have had the self confidence to push myself to make learning Chinese part of my lifestyle as well as starting in book 3. So much of my motivation this year came from just wanting to make you all proud.

And to all of my Taiwanese friends, you will forever be in my heart and were so instrumental in making this the best year ever. Thank you for putting up with my strange Haleigh antics, constant bombardment of questions about Chinese, and for those frequent times when my grammar and pronunciation and even vocab were so painfully wrong you didn't know whether to cringe or laugh. But most importantly, thank you for always being there for me, even through the and 難過phases, and giving me so many awesome memories and lifelong friendships. Can't wait for you to come visit me in America!

And of course, to my wonderful host family. To be honest, the family aspect was probably the biggest culture shock I experienced while here in Taiwan. Having a mom, dad and little sister was pretty much the complete opposite of what I grew up with-an only child raised by a single parent. For this reason, I   I will always especially treasure the time that we had and I sincerely feel that I am the luckiest kid in the world to have you for my host family. Seriously though, our 2 week trip around Taiwan during Chinese New Year was pretty much the most rad trip of my life and I'm so grateful for all of the unique opportunities and experiences you gave me. You were the core of this experience and I'm so grateful to everything I learned and shared with you. Thank you so much for everything, and it was such an honor to get to be a big sister to you Mita and a daughter to you Ali and Shuhua.

 The experience of living in Kaohsiung has been everything I could have dreamed of and more. I think the pinnacle moment of my time here is when I meet new Taiwanese people, and on more than one occasion have been asked if I am 混血,which is a term used to describe someone who is of mixed race with a both a foreign and Taiwanese parent. Even though this may seem completely absurd to anyone that knows me (or looks more closely), the fact that some people would think that I'm part Taiwanese is actually sincerely the biggest compliment ever. I think this not only reflects my Chinese language ability (or at least my decent pronunciation), but also a level of assimilation into Taiwanese culture that even makes some people think that I am one of them. With that said, I will always think of Taiwan as my second-home, and I owe so much to this experience for helping me grow as a person, giving me a second family, fostering life-long friendships and overall deeply broadening my understanding of the world.

Of all of the important life lessons I learned while living in Taiwan, I think among the most important is this: Language is one of humanity's most precious tools invented. Communicating in one's own language not only offers a window into one's culture and society, but also fosters such a profound connection between people that ultimately unites us under one roof called humankind. In terms of using language as a tool for promoting harmonious existence and understanding in the world, the motivation behind why I study foreign language indeed, I think no one expresses this point better than Nelson Mandela when he says, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

-- Haleigh

Final Blog Post: Morgan's Reflection

posted 27 May 2015, 18:18 by Yen Chiang

大家好! It’s been nine months since I came to Taiwan, but when I hear this phrase, I’m taken back to my first day at Wenzao. We were all asked to give short speeches introducing ourselves, and having strategically stood at the end of the line, I listened intently to the speeches of my peers; after hearing the same introduction used repeatedly, I made an optimistic guess as to its meaning, and incorporated it into my otherwise entirely English speech. Now, I find I use that opening nearly every time I address a group, and I surprise myself by giving speeches almost entirely in (not perfect or precise, but nonetheless…) Chinese.

 As I think back on the beginning of my exchange, from my current understanding of Taiwanese culture and Chinese, I’m shocked that I came with so little knowledge of even the basics, to live and study in a foreign country. I know the only way I made it to this point is through the great generosity, support, and friendship of many people. The American and Taiwanese iEARN staff especially has impressed me with their dedication and enthusiasm in giving us this incredible learning opportunity. I send my thanks in particular to the woman who has always tolerated our ridiculous Chinese, believed in and encouraged me, all whilst “Huachen” from high and “Lo”: Jenny! <3 I hope you have a very relaxed birthday!

 Next, is Yen. You deserve your own little spot for all you’ve done this year-not only as my resident director, but as my friend. I’ve enjoyed exploring cafes, popsicle shops, and-as you know too well-stationary stores! Thank you for meeting me for emergency ice cream, and for giving me lots of hugs and encouragement. <3

 And then there are the rest of you guys: my fellow NSLI-Yers, Chinese class buddies, and Taiwanese 朋友s…you’ve all shared in my experience here, and I am incredibly grateful for what each one of you contributed! It is through my relationships with you all that I’ve experienced the most growth on this exchange.  As I’ve investigated this culture and country, I’ve discovered the dangers of bubble milk tea, the illusion produced by Taiwan’s garbage trucks, and the power of Taiwanese curse words, but most importantly I feel I’ve discovered myself. While there were certainly moments of exception, as a whole I have never felt so confident and content with myself for who I am since I came here.

 So, while I look forward to moving on to new opportunities, there is a definite sadness to be leaving the place to which I owe so much. I’ll be back, Taiwan!

-- Morgan


Final blog post: Overcoming challenges

posted 26 May 2015, 19:29 by Yen Chiang

This is my last week in Taiwan. I’ve been getting sad about leaving lately, especially after sharing special moments with my host family and friends because of the strong reminder of what a wonderful year this has been. The life cycle of an exchange student is a vicious one. We must work so hard all year to understand and learn and overcome cultural barriers and language difficulties, only to have a small taste of real success in the last few weeks. 

Most of my successes have been obvious to me, whether it’s language-related or finding new effective ways to ward off mosquitoes, but one very important one wasn’t a realization until just recently when I went out to dinner with my host family and a good NSLI-Y friend, Liz. Food-related issues made themselves known very early during my time in Taiwan. I don’t know if I’d consider this my most difficult episode of culture shock, but certainly the most constant throughout the year and still very emotionally taxing. I love to eat, but I definitely am not capable of eating as much as I felt my host parents expected me to for most of the beginning of the year. The reason it was difficult emotionally is because I felt my host parents were dismissing my capability to judge how much food is enough like parents often do with very small children. Furthermore, my philosophy is that one should eat until they’re full and not eat too much because that is unhealthy. It’s probably very difficult to imagine for people who have never experienced something like this, but being pushed to eat too much is terribly uncomfortable on many levels. 

When my host family and Liz and I went out to dinner earlier this week, my awareness of our interactions was heightened because of my friend’s presence. I always feel responsible for making my friends feel comfortable when they’re spending time with my family (Taiwanese and American) or other friends of mine they haven’t met yet. One of the ways I do this is by being more acutely aware of interactions that are happening in our midst because even though they may seem normal to me, they could be totally foreign to other people I’m with, and I want to address them if I feel it is necessary. 

Because of Liz’s raw reactions to whatever was going on, it kept striking me how much of our dinner conversation was dedicated to food-related banter. I acted mock-mortified at the amount of food we ordered and my host family would tease me and taunt me saying how much I’d have to eat in response. But I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I took everything they said very lightly, knowing that I would try hard to appease them and yet not go so far as to make myself uncomfortable. I was really aware of all of the subtle strategies I’ve adopted to satisfy their requests of me. I was completely fine and I felt comfortable joking with my host parents. I wonder when it was exactly that I finally learned how to deal with this. 

Finally. Right at the end of my time in Taiwan, I feel completely comfortable in all aspects of my life. 





-- Freya


Final blog post: A big thank you from Liz!

posted 26 May 2015, 19:17 by Yen Chiang

I cant been in Taiwan for 9 months already, what? I honestly can't believe that I have been here for that long because the time has passed so quickly! I have already been to many places, eaten many fried dumplings, and drank a lot of tea. Taiwan has become my second home. Now, I have no idea where to start....I have so many people to thank because they have helped me so much!

To my host family, you have become my second family who I cant imagine living without now. You aren't just important to me in Taiwan, you are important to me if we are close or if we live far away from each other. They gave me a lot of yummy Taiwanese snacks to try and i am so thankful for that because i find there snacks to be absolutely delicious. My host father also cooked for me everyday, so thank you Baba for doing that. I will always remember the meals and time that we have shared together.

In Taiwan i have met many new friends and they have helped me so much. They speak to me in Chinese so i learn a lot from them. We also bought a lot of things together, so thanks guys now i am broke. Oh well! Also my tutor has been so helpful and taught me a lot while being one of my best friends here in Taiwan. She is so sweet and has helped my Chinese grow so much!

In Taiwan i have also visited many places and I think Taiwan is a very special country. Every place here in Taiwan has its own unique style to it and i just have loved traveling here. I hope to come back soon and show my American parents around Taiwan! My favorite places were definitely of course Kaohsuing and Taipei!

我要回去沒有因為我想我的家人不過我回去美國以後很想台灣,我的台灣朋友,我的接待家人,我的美國同學,和我們的RD, Yen! 我愛你們和我愛台灣!
In conclusion, I believe that now I am confident in myself because I can speak to people in Chinese and they can understand me!
I am ready to go home because I miss my American family, but I know I will very much miss Taiwan, my family, my American classmates, and our RD Yen. I love you all and I love Taiwan.
I hope to return soon!



Final blog post: Antonio reflects on his nine months in Taiwan

posted 21 May 2015, 21:36 by Yen Chiang

我們已經住在台灣住了九個月了,我們已經吃了好多超好吃的食物,例如說:牛肉麵,酸辣湯,小龍包,火鍋,什麼魚?蝨目魚。 ,雞排,檳榔,豬血,蛇湯,鼎泰豐,海港,等等,喝了很多飲料:甘蔗綠茶,芒果冰沙,珍珠奶茶,冬瓜檸檬茶,五十嵐(現在不可以),等等。我們認識了很多新朋友。有些年輕,有些老,有些台灣人,有些外國人。跟我們新朋友做了很多有趣的活動。學了台灣歷史,文化。我們去了很多台灣都市:台北,台南,台東,花蓮,墾丁。在每個城市做好好玩的活動。看過了很多,煙火,廟,等等。

We have already lived in Taiwan for 9 months. We have eaten a ton of great food, for example: beef noodles, sweet and sour soup, xiao long bao’s, hot pot, fish congee, pigs blood, snake soup, Ding Tai Feng, Harbour, and much more. Because Taiwan is such a hot place, I often find myself drinking a lot of beverages, for example: sugarcane green tea, mango smoothies, milk tea, winter melon tea, 50 C, etc. We have made many friends, some old, some young, some Taiwanese, some foreigners. With our new friends we have done a great amount of fun things. We have studied Taiwanese history and culture. We have been to almost every city in Taiwan; Taipei, Tainan , Taidong, Hualian, Kending. We have seen a ton of amazing things here in Taiwan.

但是,可是,不過,我想美國好多!我想我們的牛排,意大利面,墨西哥菜(媽媽的菜),漢堡,三明治,糖果,餅乾(特別想起司餅乾與拉Cheetos, 爆玉米花,BBQ, 魚(沒有骨頭的魚, 起司,維他命水,我的車子,Xbox, 媽媽,等等。
雖然美國 我一定會想念台灣

But I am also excited to return to America! I am most looking forward to the steak, pasta, Mexican food (aka my mom’s home cooked meals), hamburgers, sandwiches, candy, snacks like cheese itz and hot cheetos, popcorn, fish with no bones, cheese, fresh air, drinkable water, fast wifi, my car, my Xbox, my Mom, and more.

In the end, though, even though I want to go back to America, I will definitely miss Taiwan.

-- Antonio

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The return of love

posted 19 May 2015, 07:52 by Yen Chiang



-- Anel

Final blog post: Ryan L. reflects on the Taiwanese/U.S. education systems

posted 16 May 2015, 20:04 by Yen Chiang   [ updated 16 May 2015, 20:05 ]









Recently I have been thinking a lot about the education system in Taiwan. I have always known that the Taiwan and American education systems were very different, but I recently have noticed the difference is a lot bigger than I originally thought. It’s a widely held stereotype in America that “all Asians” are good at math and science. This is because many Chinese-Americans study these subjects and become doctors. However, after living in Taiwan this year, I have found that this stereotype is wrong.

This semester I decided to take an oceanography class. This course sometimes works with a statistics class to collaborate ideas. The first time both of our classes met together, the teacher talked about how to make a graph. As the teacher was talking and asking students questions, I noticed that the students didn’t really understand what the teacher was saying; I couldn’t believe it. In the United States we learn how to make a graph as early as elementary school. For me, it’s as easy as pi!

A few days ago, I got a chance to talk to a Taiwanese elementary school teacher about what students learn in elementary school. She said most of the education is just learning how to write Chinese characters. Since characters are so difficult memorize, the teachers have to spend a lot of time on making sure students can them write them.

Another problem Taiwan faces is that it separates students into different department starting in high school. You have to chose if you want to study math and science, or the humanities, or art, or english, etc. But knowing what you want to learn this early in life is impossible. After all, the average American college student changes their major five times. Furthermore, this method of education makes students’ overall education too narrow. Like my classmates at Wenzao, since most of them chose English in high school, they didn’t have to learn very much math, which in turn, explains why many of them don’t know how to make a graph.

I don’t want to say that the US education system is better than Taiwan’s, because we have lots of issues in the US in terms of education. But just think it is interesting to see the differences in the two systems. Every education system is different and they all have advantages and disadvantages. I think this is truly the best part of my year in Taiwan – having the opportunity to learn about a different society and culture.

Final blog post: Ryan S. leaves some tips for the NSLIY7 students!

posted 16 May 2015, 20:03 by Yen Chiang


Quick, think about the landmarks that come to mind when you think about Taiwan. The marvelous Taipei 101 Skytower? Sparkling beaches of Kending? How about beautiful night scene at Kaohsiung's Love River? All of these are important landmarks that help to define the culture and land that is Taiwan. But this post is not about those places. This post is about the places that although having little notoriety, are still a one of a kind experience that would be worth a visit to anyone looking to be more familiar with the land and culture around them. All of the entries will be about places in Kaohsiung, since it is the host city of the next generation of NSLI-Y Taiwan students. 

#4Wu De Dian (武德殿) in Sizihwan (西子灣) will teach you Kendo, and the sensei is a language genius.

In the 50 years between the end of the Sino-Japanese war and the end of World War Two, Taiwan was a colony of the Japanese Empire, so it comes as no surprise that much of the culture of Japan has left its mark on Taiwan. This little studio in Sizihwan is a prime example of the Japanese influence in Taiwan. It offers kendo lessons for quite a reasonable price, has English-speaking teachers, and friendly staff for you to hang out with in the office. Even if you're not looking for lessons in samurai-style butt kicking, you can still go and see artifacts from the Japanese rule and buy some sweet souvenirs. The most special part of Wu de Dian, however, are the teachers. Most are Taiwanese, with the exception of one man from France, who is conversationally fluent in at least 7 languages, including English, Chinese, Spanish, and Italian. He also knows a little bit of Japanese and Taiwanese (not included in that 7 figure above). Feeling jealous, fellow scholars? 

#3 The top of Chai Mountain (柴山) has its own thriving social club

Atop Chai mountain near Sizihwan, is a small rest area that provides free water and tea to those who manage to get to the top. On the surface it's not much: drinks, benches, a small pavilion, but underneath all that is a thriving social club united by a single common interest. All of the members love to climb Chai mountain, and some climb every single day. Heck, they even have a Facebook page (which I won't link to here; go and see for yourself when you come to Taiwan  :p) so that pretty much makes it just as legit as it can be. The people are friendly, they'll teach you Taiwanese and play Chinese Chess, so why not give it a try? Oh, and by the way, the water I talked about earlier, yeah, it's carried up several liters at a time on the backs of the most dedicated members in the heat of the day. For free.

#2 The Wenzao campus has smoothies and a super cool Japanese Department

For those of you who don't know, the Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages (文藻外語大學)will be your host university this coming school year in Taiwan. The students are friendly, the staff are helpful, and the architecture and landscaping is exquisite.  But there are some places that you might not discover your first time on campus, or anytime after that unless someone tells you about them. So let me help you with that and tell you about them now. The first mini entry in this larger entry (woah, so meta) is the drink shop by the cafeteria. With countless varieties and good quality at a price to good to believe, this should be your go-to drink stop when thirst on campus. Even better than the drinks are the two sweet ladies running it. The one running the smoothies half used to live in San Antonio, Texas and later moved to Florida, so she can speak and understand English fairly well. The one on the tea half somehow speaks Japanese with an impressive amount of proficiency, but I haven't a clue as to why that is.

Next up is the building of the Japanese department. From the outside one can already see the beautiful craftsmanship and landscaping of the inner courtyard. What one might not see from the outside, however, is that the second floor has a pavilion with a view of the central palaestra; it's an ideal place for relaxing while studying, chatting with friends, or even sitting down for an afternoon nap. 

Also on the second floor of the Japanese Department:

A room dedicated to Japanese style tea ceremonies.

#1 Qian Cao Pu (淺草舖)has the best ice cream. Ever.

Nothing calms the body on a hot summer afternoon better than a nice cone of soft serve and a seat in the shade. Luckily for us, there is the Qian Cao Pu soft serve store just across street and down a little from the Wenzao campus, which has not only said ice cream and shade, but also the nicest 老闆 in all of Taiwan. Seriously, he even gave me the password to his phone's wifi, which pretty much makes him an angel in my book. Over the course of this school year here in Taiwan, although much changed for me, the one thing I could always depend on was the refreshing after school ice cream I indulged in almost every day during the hottest months. In addition to ice cream, there is also fresh coffee (iced and hot), tea, gelatin, waffles, Dorayaki (for the uninitiated, you'll know what it is  when you get here), and even ice cream sandwiches that are made with perfect, golden pancakes instead of bread. It's a great place to hang with friends after school or relax while waiting for the bus (another great feature: the bus stop is right next door). Also, the boss there is quite loquacious and speaks very little English, so if you're ever in need of some serious Chinese conversation practice, come on down to 淺草舖 and get you some. Also ice cream. Don't forget the ice cream. And be sure to mention 瑞安 (that's me!).

-- Ryan Struss

Final blog post: What Brendan will miss the most about Taiwan

posted 16 May 2015, 19:16 by Yen Chiang















臭豆腐 (開玩笑)



-- Brendan

Final blog post: Molly meets bear meets moose in Puli

posted 14 May 2015, 02:53 by Yen Chiang   [ updated 16 May 2015, 19:17 ]

上個週末是我們美國同學在台灣的最後一個旅行。我們去了南投的埔里。我們的一到埔里就下雨了。所以我們第一個目的地是熊麋鹿了。英文是"Bear Meets Moose B&B". 熊麋鹿了是我在台灣最喜歡住。全部的房子都很可愛。讓我感到輕鬆的氣氛。我們放行李在房間以後大家都來了女生的房間玩。我們玩了一個遊戲叫忍者。玩這個遊戲需要很多人。你的目標是打對手的手。如果你是最後一個人,沒有人打妳的手,你贏了。真是個好玩的遊戲。我們玩了以後除了我大家一起聊天。同時我跟熊麋鹿了的老闆講話了。她告訴了我她的孩子都在美國上大學。我也告訴了她我是從中國領養的。她回答我的時候說了網盤一定要回我出生的地方找我的親生可是我覺得是沒有辦法的事情。到底我跟她有個友好的談話。

























-- Molly

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