Blisteringly Fast

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大家好! Welcome back to my blog! My name is Jackie, and this post covers my third week studying abroad in Taipei, Taiwan.

The big point to mention this week is my Chinese classes in the CLD program at National Taiwan University (台大學). I have been taking Chinese classes on and off since 7th grade and decided to focus on it more intently during my first year at college. At Colby College, learning Mandarin Chinese is a challenge I invite, and I love taking classes in the East Asian Studies department. The coursework at CLD, however, is framed differently from what I’m used to. Although this is an obstacle that I knew I would face, it’s been interesting to reflect on how I have been managing it.

Firstly, CLD uses traditional Chinese characters when reading and writing. In the United States, the standard is simplified characters. Seeing my name written in traditional characters was a huge shock when I first saw it. Instead of the simplified 何洁琪, it was 何潔琪. The number of new strokes in the second character was intimidating. Characters that previously I recognized on sight were now completely foreign to me, and I felt a little embarrassed about how confused I was reading sentences that should have been easy for me to understand. But after my classmates shared similar sentiments, I felt much more reassured about my class placement. Right now, it’s getting a little easier to recognize and write traditional characters, and hopefully, that trend will continue.

Secondly, the pace of this class is blisteringly fast. We finish a lesson a week, as opposed to back home where it’s around 2 ½ weeks dedicated to each lesson. Three hours of Chinese class a day did seem intimidating when I first read it, but now, it feels like it’s not enough time. It’s funny how fast my perspective can change. Although the pace of the class is faster than I’m used to, I can confidently say that I feel more confident speaking Chinese in and out of class. My teacher is approachable and accommodating, and there’s a “we’re all in this together” sense from the rest of my classmates. And so, my classes continue.

Outside of class, I also have my internship starting up. My supervisor held a Zoom call with me and the other summer interns, and we were introduced to how the office works. My special project will be assisting with the “Brown Bag Series” hosted by EducationUSA. It’s a weekly, virtual series inviting different speakers in the area to offer advice about the American college application process. I have done similar work in the past with a nonprofit based in the United States (shoutout to First Gen Support), and I’m intrigued by the perspective of international students. I will also be creating a database of scholarships available to international students. Although that project is more individualized, I’m happy to be collecting resources that could help someone achieve their dream of going to college.

Besides my coursework and special projects, I’m determined to explore more of Taipei. I had the opportunity to hike on the Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道), which led to Fulong Beach. Unfortunately, it was extremely rainy on the day of the hike. Since the trail is mostly rocks, it was a bit more slippery than expected. But watching the fog roll in while at the top of the trail was such a cool experience. A few days after the hike, some of my friends invited me to go to the Taipei Zoo (台北動物園) with them. We rode on the Maokong Gondola (貓空纜車), which had a beautiful view of the mountains. And seeing the pandas was a highlight.

CET also organized a special event with a local Beep Baseball team. Beep baseball is an accessible form of baseball played by visually impaired people, and the local team taught us how to play. The game is much different than traditional baseball, but I was way more engaged with this version of it. It was a special experience because both the language barrier and visual impairments didn’t hinder us from bonding and enjoying our day. Baseball has a large following in Taiwan, both traditional and Beep versions, and CET will organize an opportunity to see both forms play professionally in the future. So I’m interested in seeing both games.

And that was my third week in Taipei! I have a lot of things planned for next week, and it will be my first day at the Fulbright Taiwan office, so I can’t wait for next week. See you then!