image title

Finding kindness amid the challenges

March 22, 2016

ASU grad and Fulbright winner Lin Wang teaches English in Taiwan

Lin Wang, an Arizona State University graduate, won a Fulbright grant and is working as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan.

Living abroad has been a challenge, but Wang, who is from Gilbert, has been moved by the deep kindness she’s experienced.

“I have been shown so much kindness here I started crying one day,” said Wang, whose majors at ASU were chemistry and dancefrom the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

“Taiwanese people are so nice and feel responsible for the earth and other people. For example, in our driving test, we were required to answer questions such as ‘Why should you remove debris from the road?’ and the answer would be, ‘so that the safety of other people is not compromised.’

“My heart feels so happy to know there are people who take responsibility for their actions, and have hearts full of kindness and selflessness.”

Wang answered some questions about her Fulbright experience:

Question: Can you give an overview of what you’re doing in Taiwan?

Answer: I am an English teaching assistant at an elementary school in Taidong, Taiwan. I teach fourth grade and fifth grade from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Often, I will read stories at the local story-telling house to children and during the first semester I had a dance team that performed for the school’s sports day.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

A: I empty my dehumidifier (because Taiwan is VERY HUMID) — often using the water to flush the toilet. Then I pick out my outfit — often something light for the hot weather and with a lot of coverage, for blocking the mosquitoes — and then I hop onto my scooter to get breakfast. We all have scooters here. Scooters are the preferred choice of transportation over cars and large vehicles. Taiwan is a small space so they can’t afford to have too many big trucks taking up all the parking spaces.

For breakfast I will eat oatmeal with honey and fruit, but there are really yummy traditional Taiwanese breakfast places all along my way to school.

When I get to school, I go through lesson plans with my leading English teachers and then co-teach four to five classes, all 40 minutes long. Lunch is served at school, always with rice, vegetables and a meat dish. It’s really healthy and quite delicious.

An interesting fact about Taiwanese trash: they split their trash into: compost, recyclables, and trash for the landfill. So at school every 20 feet there is a compost bucket where people throw their leftovers from lunch into. It’s very sustainable because they use the compost for fertilizer or to feed pigs. And you have to bring your own bowl and utensils — no plastic utensils: another sustainable act.

At 4 p.m. I am FREE! I will walk around the track for around 30 to 40 minutes or chat with the physical education teacher who I have become close friends with. At  5 p.m., I scooter 20 minutes over to Zhiben, where the Taidong University is located. At the university, I swim for around 40 minutes.

Then I unwind at home with music, dancing, ukulele playing or just crashing from exhaustion. 

Q: What do you do on the weekends?

A: I will either go to the beach, travel around Taiwan, scooter up the coast, stay home to clean or hang out with local friends I have made.

Lin Wang in Taiwan

ASU grad and Fulbright winner Lin Wang is teaching English in Taiwan this year.

Q: Have there been any challenges?

A: Yes. Many challenges. My first semester was a struggle. I wanted to go home many times. But the students made me so happy, and they just brought so much joy into my life that I reminded myself, things will get better.

Q: What’s next for you, after you return?

A: I plan on working a year as a barista (something I’ve always wanted to do!) while dancing and training my body before I go back to school. This year has been very revealing in what I want to do — to dance professionally and to be a high school dance teacher.

Q: What would you tell someone who is contemplating applying for a Fulbright?

A: I would tell them, it is a crazy year, you will pull out some hairs, you will miss home, you will struggle, you will sweat and probably cry at some point. But if you are someone who wants to challenge yourself and try living in another country, then apply. You will grow and you will learn so much about yourself and experience another culture drastically different from America. But if you never wanted to live out of America, don’t apply. If you only want to apply for the name brand of Fulbright, don’t apply. People can see through a mask, especially students.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


image title

Fulbright Day to help launch ASU students, faculty abroad

ASU faculty, student Fulbright winners tell of joy, challenges of life abroad.
Interested in studying or working abroad? Find out how at ASU Fulbright Day.
March 22, 2016

Current winners describe joys, challenges of living overseas

People in the Arizona State University community who won Fulbright awards this year are living abroad and studying subjects ranging from virus engineering and flamenco guitar to a World War II resistance heroine.

One ASU Fulbright grantee lived through the earthquake in Nepal and watched her community cope with the chaotic aftermath.

Another volunteers helping mothers and children in India.

Several Sun Devils get up every day in countries where they don’t speak the language and face classrooms full of children who are eager to learn English and hear about America.

They’ve unintentionally insulted their hosts with their primitive language skills, taught in schools when the power went out, evaded wild animals and eaten live octopus.

The experience is daunting and challenging and rewarding beyond measure.

Allison Weidemann, an ASU graduate who is teaching English in Turkey, said: “My first time at the grocery store, I remember thinking, ‘Here I am, a Fulbright scholar at the height of achievement, and I’m making my shampoo selection based purely on the color of the bottle since I can’t make anything else out!’ "

Despite the language struggles, Weidemann has found warmth and hospitality.

“I have joined in the lively traditional dancing at an engagement celebration, and stood solemnly at a graveside as flowers were arranged in memory of a beloved sister,” she said. “I’ve watched my host community react to the refugee crisis with concern and respond to the bombings in their capital with courage.”

And now is the time for ASU faculty members and juniors to decide whether they want to pursue the challenge of living and working in another country.

The Fulbright is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, which pays for winners to work, study and teach abroad. ASU has 10 faculty members, called Fulbright scholars, and 22 students who won the grants this year. (Read about some of their experiences here.)

ASU is holding Fulbright Day on Wednesday, March 23, so current faculty and students can find out how to apply for the prestigious program. The event, to be held at the Memorial Union, will include faculty and students who won the awards in the past, plus representatives from Fulbright.

“We want to introduce students to the program to get them excited about it, particularly on the heels of our success,” said Kyle Mox, who’s the director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU.

ASU was the top producer of Fulbright scholars among research institutions for 2015-2016 and was in fifth place for student awards.

The application process is rigorous, but ASU provides a lot of support, said Mox, who also is associate dean at Barrett, the Honors College.

“We get students started and work with them throughout,” he said. “We prep them on coming up with a proposal and drafting their proposal.

“It would not be strange for me to read five to eight drafts of one essay for an applicant as the student revises over three months.”

After that, a faculty committee screens the student candidates, who number up to 75 each year. The students get feedback on their proposals and interviews, as well as coaching on writing if needed.

The process takes months and can be grueling.

“We recognize the intrinsic value of the process in that it’s a transferable skill to a lot of other things,” Mox said.

There are two main types of student awards — academic research and English Teaching Assistant. Applicants for academic grants propose a yearlong research project or area of directed study.

Jaxon Williams in Seville, Spain.

Jaxon Williams in Seville, Spain, where he is studying classical and flamenco guitar after winning a Fulbright award.

Jaxon Williams won a Fulbright award to study classical and flamenco guitar in Seville, Spain, this year after earning his undergraduate degree at ASU in music and guitar performance.

“I've always felt that to reach the next level as a musician, I need to live abroad and connect with the classical guitar's roots, which are in Spain,” said Williams, who has been playing concerts and studying with guitar masters. 

“Much of this music is passed on orally and in person, so it's very hard to learn these things outside of Spain.”

For Matt Ykema, one of the biggest advantages of the Fulbright is that he has no required classes, so he can immerse himself in researching viruses at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.

“I spend about eight to 10 hours in my lab, doing experiments, making viruses, reading papers and writing publications,” said Ykema, who earned bachelor of science degrees in molecular biology and economics at ASU.

Students who apply to be English Teaching Assistants write a proposal describing how they would engage students, Mox said. Those applicants don’t need to aspire to teach English as a career, but should show how a year instructing people in other countries will benefit their goals.

“It’s like a job application in many ways,” Mox said. “The judges are looking for leadership, responsibility and self-reliance.”

ASU grad Claire Cambron plans to go to medical school, but she wanted to live abroad first. She earned her undergraduate degree last year in biochemistry and genetics.

“I felt that by traveling, I could learn more about a different culture, which would help me be a more open-minded and receptive doctor and person,” said Cambron, who is teaching English at an elementary school in South Korea. “I also was looking for an opportunity that would push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me.”

Fulbright scholars are faculty members who win awards to study and teach abroad. They, too, get help in the process, according to Karen Engler, the ASU provost liaison for the Fulbright program.

“We connect faculty to Fulbright representatives for individual consultations and mentoring on their applications,” she said. “If the faculty member has an idea of what country they’re interested in, the Fulbright office can provide individual support for the applicants.”

Maureen Goggin is a professor of English at ASU who is spending this academic year at Karl Franzens University of Graz in Austria. She studies needlework as a form of communications and is an expert on samplers, pieces of embroidered cloth that were typically created by women.

Among her Fulbright projects is research on one piece of needlework — a sampler created in 1942 by a woman who was imprisoned in Terezin Small Fortress, part of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The woman, accused of aiding in the assassination of a Nazi leader, was executed in 1943.

“It offers an interesting insight into Prague resistance during World War II,” she said. “It is a piece that has been ignored.”

Goggin said that faculty members who want to apply for a Fulbright should investigate the country, university and department they want to study in.

“Make sure you have something to offer in teaching that will complement but not compete with what is already available in the department,” she said.

“Research, research, research is the key.”

Fulbright Day will be held at Pima Auditorium 230 in the Memorial Union on Wednesday, March 23. An information session on faculty applications will run from 1 to 2:15 p.m. Faculty members can then meet one-on-one with Fulbright representatives from 2:30 to 4 p.m. A student information session will run from 2:30 to 4 p.m. A networking reception with faculty and students who have won Fulbrights will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Ventana Ballroom 241-C.

  • Read about ASU faculty and students' Fulbright experiences here.

Top photo: ASU graduate Allison Weidemann in Turkey, where she is teaching English after winning a Fulbright award. 

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News