A Halfway Point

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Hello everyone, my name is Jackie, and this post covers my sixth week of studying abroad in Taipei, Taiwan.

This week marks the second year I have been abroad while the Supreme Court struck down a ruling that directly affected me. Last year, I was studying abroad in London when Roe v Wade was struck down. This year, affirmative action was ruled unlawful. I was studying for my Chinese test this week when my friends in the US began to send me the articles. After checking in with my friends and family, I put aside my textbook and started reflecting on my college journey so far.

From elementary school to high school, my only goal in life was to get into college. My elementary school was in a low-income area in my hometown and served a predominantly black population. To encourage us to go to college, our classes were defined by our college graduation year. Since the 1st grade, my life has been defined as a member of the Class of 2024. After elementary school, I received a scholarship to attend a PWI private school for 7 years. I worked non-stop to achieve my goal. I took as many AP classes as I could fit into my schedule, joined the leadership team of every extracurricular activity I participated in, and volunteered entire weekends away to the causes I was close to.

I knew my family would not be able to financially support me in college. I’ve been the “scholarship kid” since 6th grade, so my goal shifted slightly. Yes, I wanted to be admitted into college. But I had to make sure my acceptance would not financially strain my family. I began to work even harder, knowing that I had to be academically superior to receive a college scholarship.

During this period, I took my first Chinese class. As I began to learn the language, I devoted myself to learning more about the history of China. I didn’t have any hard-set career aspirations or goals, I was just a curious student that wanted to know more. After all, the majority of my energy focused on simply getting accepted into college. Looking back, as I achieved my goal and received a Questbridge National College Match Scholarship to attend Colby College, those Chinese classes ended up shaping a large majority of my life. They are the reason why I am a Global Studies and East Asian Studies double major, why I am applying to be a Fulbright Fellow, and why I am currently studying abroad in Taiwan.

Affirmative action can be a controversial topic. But in my eyes, it’s helped me achieve my goals and fostered my ambition for more. Although my academic achievements speak for themselves, the American education system is littered with systemic roadblocks that hinder me due to my gender, sexuality, and race. Affirmative action was a step in the right direction to level the playing ground. I had access to opportunities, such as a college education or studying abroad, that I would not have otherwise due to America’s long history of discrimination. And now, the Supreme Court has chosen to ignore this history. My academic career, chosen career path, and participation in this study abroad experience would not have occurred without affirmative action.

I am now at the halfway point of my Taiwan program, so some reflection was bound to happen this week. Although, I would not have predicted it would be through this lens. So far, living in Taipei has been an amazing experience, and it’s fun looking back and seeing how much I’ve done in these few weeks.

In class, my Chinese skills grow every day. I check in with my professor every week to make sure my progress is on track. Through presentations and small breaks in between class, my classmates and I get closer to each other. We trade stories about our lives back home and what led us to study Chinese. And as time has passed, I’ve grown more confident in my skills.

At my internship, work is steady and ongoing. My scholarship database for EducationUSA grows, and I help Tracie create promotional flyers for the Brown Bag Series, and she even gave me the opportunity to host one with the other interns. Together, we’re going to break down the USA college ranking system and explain how we found the right college “fit.” I’ve recently met some ex-pats working in the office, and collaborating with them has been so much fun. The more people I meet, the more possible paths I see for my career, and it’s been enlightening.

And I’m still exploring Taipei. This week, I was able to visit the Suho Paper Memorial Museum. We were able to dive into the history of paper and see how it’s made. We even got to go to the rooftop workstations and make our own paper! Afterwards, my friends and I went out to a hot-pot restaurant to celebrate my friend’s birthday. The moments between attending class and going to my internship are valuable because I spend them with people I would have never met back home.

All of those moments, and the moments I will have soon, would not have been possible without affirmative action. I am able to explore a new environment, learn about a culture I’ve dedicated my academic life to studying, and dedicate myself to a second language due to affirmative action. The ban on affirmative action will decrease the amount of Black, Latin, and other BIPOC students in academic spaces where we were already the minority, and restrict the academic opportunities available to us. Diversity in universities and colleges will regress, and these institutions will continue to elevate systems based on generational wealth and white supremacy.

This blog post contains a wide range of emotions, mainly because that’s a reflection of how I feel right now. I’m so grateful and happy to have this opportunity to explore Taiwan. I’m simultaneously so angry at having to defend my right to have a holistic education. It did not feel right for me to write a “normal” blog post with everything happening back home, and I wanted a space to write out my thoughts. So thank you for giving me that space.