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Participant Success Story

"The program was everything I could have asked it to be, and I walked away with a far better understanding of Taiwanese culture and the Chinese language."

Shea Golob (TISLP 2018)

Shea GolobAfter an eye-opening study abroad experience on the Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program (TISLP) during the summer of 2018, Shea Golob returned to the United States and reflected on his experiences abroad in an interview with American Councils:

American Councils (AC): How did you first become interested in East Asian language and culture?
Shea Golob : My initial interest with Chinese sprouted from my desire to participate in this changing world of ours, as I took note of the historic and monumental changes that were taking place in China. I became exceedingly fascinated with Taiwan as I learned more about its history, people, and culture. I found Taiwan particularly interesting, at first at least, because it felt like it was standing up for itself against a large global power.

AC: What were your impressions of Taiwan when you arrived?
Shea: When I first arrived in Taiwan I was struck by the contrasts and similarities of what I had known back home, and this provided a deeper perspective into the world and into myself. On the surface Taiwan was clean, bright, and hopeful: every turn and corner provided a new experience to digest and enjoy. Both the natural landscape and the urban centers opened my eyes to a place that was truly beautiful. And, just under the surface, I found a place and culture that showed me every bit of kindness and hospitality I could imagine. My friends and teachers in Taiwan would paint the world with new found meaning for me, and tell me stories and myths about things I thought I had already known -- and I can’t think of something more valuable in opening someone’s eyes than that.

AC: Tell us about your experience in the academic program.
Shea: The Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program was exceedingly rigorous, and it afforded me the opportunity to strive and further develop my language skills and capacities. During my two months of classes I covered more material than I had in the prior twelve, and, beyond this, my fluency and command of the language dramatically improved. TISLP was not just about the classroom time, although it was foundational, it was about the daily opportunities to converse and learn from this new environment. Every day I found myself learning beyond the classroom, beyond our set chapter vocabulary, and I was able to push myself in ways that were both pragmatic and exploratory.

AC: What are your plans for the future? Is Chinese a part of those plans?
Shea: I have continued studying and practicing Chinese, albeit without the rigor and involvement that TISLP afforded me. Since completing my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification I have been teaching English, which has helped me meet many native Chinese speakers in my area; because of this I have been able to continually practice and hone my conversational capacity while also working to help my students develop their English skills.

For the next year I will be living in Taiwan and teaching, and I will be doing so on a Fulbright scholarship. Thereafter I am planning on either reapplying for an additional Fulbright opportunity in Taiwan or applying for a scholarship from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education to continue my Chinese studies.

AC: What was the most interesting/special experience you had living in Taiwan?
Shea: My host family in Taiwan was especially important to me, and they really helped orient me in Taiwan. They helped paint a fuller picture of everyday life; I met and ate with their families, I traveled with them to scenic parts of Taiwan, and I got to meet friends of theirs who farmed at Alishan. I have so many vivid memories of my time with them and their kindness, and this time with them was invaluable in cultivating a deeper understanding of Taiwanese life.

AC: What was the most difficult experience you had living in Taiwan?
Shea: Sometimes I would find it challenging to bridge the gaps in my language ability, but I just viewed these moments as further opportunities to learn. What really proved challenging was balancing my academic rigors with my burgeoning social circles and obligations, as I would often spread myself too thin. I’m not sure I ever entirely found a healthy balance, but I made it workable (perhaps to the detriment of my sleep schedule). I wanted to make each day count while I was in Taiwan.

AC: What advice would you offer future students preparing to live in Taiwan?
Shea: I would tell people to branch outside of their social safety net and to make more friends in-country. I made an effort to meet new people in every place I went to, and I’m still in contact with almost all of them. Taiwan is an exceptionally friendly place, and to become fully immersed you have to be willing to reach out to locals and connect with them, find out about them, go to their favorite places, and learn to laugh in another language.

AC: How do you feel your participation on TISLP has contributed to what you have gone on to accomplish (personally, academically, or professionally) since your return?
Shea: TISLP has contributed so much to me and my personal journey. I attribute my Fulbright scholarship to my time in Taiwan and to my course of study through TISLP. The program was everything I could have asked it to be, and I walked away with a far better understanding of Taiwanese culture and the Chinese language. My time in Taiwan gave me lifelong friends and ambitions, things that I plan to cultivate for the foreseeable future, and I owe it all to American Councils and TISLP.

Shea in Taiwan while on the Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program (TISLP).

Published by AC Study Abroad staff in July 2020.

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