Archive for March, 2020

Joyce Nguy – Fulbright Recipient – Taiwan Experience

Joyce Nguy (’19 Political Science, Education Sciences) was awarded the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship and is currently teaching English in Taiwan. Here are a few of the many moments Joyce experienced during her Fulbright year —

Taiwan 小朋友

“Little friends,” I translate affectionately over weekly calls home to loved ones. In Taiwan, students are widely referred to us 小朋友, literally “little friends,” (a.k.a the cutest term ever). More than halfway through my Fulbright grant, little joys continue to fuel my days on an island 1/13 the size of and thousands of miles away from my home state of California.

Graduating in June of 2019 and leaving a month and a half later for August training in Taiwan was a whirlwind! I had never left home for so long. A San Diegan through and through, and then a proud Anteater, I found the transition into living in Taiwan challenging, even though I had waited for so long to go on such a big adventure. My biggest tip is to maintain your support system at home, but also be present and in the moment. I found such a great support system in the 10 other ETAs that live in my county, and have continued to lean on them and explore with them throughout the whole year.

I was placed in Changhua County, an agricultural county in the middle of the west coast. Although I originally preferred to be located in a city like Kaohsiung or Taichung, living in a quiet small city/suburb of Yuanlin City has allowed me to see a slice of real Taiwanese life. While I have easy access to all the big cities via bus or train (Taiwan is SO convenient and interconnected!), I typically enjoy staying within my county and experiencing the local culture that is hard to find in the cities. Plus, many people in my county do not speak a lot of English, which mostly presents a welcome challenge if you want to practice your Mandarin Chinese, or learn Taiwanese from the grandpas at the shops!

I currently teach at 5 schools in Changhua. My main school is Fen Yuan Elementary School, located in rural Fen Yuan Township, known for its pineapple production. Every Monday, Tuesday and Friday morning a teacher picks me up from my apartment and makes the scenic drive through the mountains and pineapple farms to take me to school. My school is considered midsized with about 400 students total, and while I primarily teach English to 5th and 6th grade, I interact with all of the students at school (1st grade – 4th grade) through my storybook class, where I teach character education and English with the help of storybooks in our library. On Wednesday’s and Thursdays, our government sends us to other schools on a rotating schedule so that we can reach as many students as possible in our short time in the country. In a typical week, I teach 18 elementary school classes, each with their own unique personality!

One of my favorite things about living in Taiwan as an ETA was getting licensed to ride a scooter during August training. With scooter culture being huge in Taiwan, scooter training is essential and built into our orientation! After getting licensed, I bought a scooter (her name is Mantis) and have been scooting around ever since. People even use their scooters to pull up to tea shops or food stalls like a drive-thru, and I have since applied my scooter experience during travel. I have rented scooters at the beach in Kenting (southern Taiwan), and even rented a scooter in Thailand during winter vacation!

My Fulbright grant has provided me with the opportunity to live and work abroad, and become part of a community that has welcomed me with open arms. There’s the egg lady, who always adds an extra egg to my bag, insisting that I eat more. There’s the director that drives me home from school, who always takes small detours on our way back so that he can show me his favorite spots in town. And there’s my LET (local English teacher), who brought me to get chocolate on a particularly hard homesick day and brings soymilk for my coffee in the morning, even when I tell her not to. Love and care for others knows no borders and have no singular language. Even though some days are harder than others, every moment of discomfort has yielded life lessons and learning. When I return to the U.S. as a graduate student at UCLA, I will carry this year with me as one of the most impactful in my life.


Below are some of the photos Joyce took during her Fulbright year —

Kissing the Sea Cow

“Fulbright Taiwan makes sure you get an immersive cultural experience. The Changhua ETAs went on a field trip to Fangyuan township, which is famous for its oyster fishing and peanuts. While there, we got to ride a cart drawn by a ‘sea cow’ into the ocean to visit the oyster farms.”

Mantis

“The day I bought my scooter with my roommate! The best investment I have ever made.”

School Culture

“I started to work with the counseling department at my school to help me with storytime! The counselor gives ‘talkbacks’ after my storytime to tie our stories into character education. For example, we used ‘The Paper Bag Princess’ to talk about gender inequality.”

Changhua Cohort

“11 ETAs live and work in Changhua county. We live together, train together, and teach together!”

Running Culture

“Taiwan is a country of runners and active aunties. The Tianzhong marathon, held in Taiwan’s ‘rice heaven,’ is a Changhua spectacle. I ran/walked the 10k to enjoy the food along the way (fried chicken, guavas, shrimp, pasta, and so much more)! One of our ETAs ran her very first half-marathon here and won first place, a Fila sponsorship, and a massage chair for her apartment.”

Storytime!

“My Local English Teacher(LET), Yinhsueh, and I in action in our school’s library.”