Tag Archives: new experience

Culture Immersion and Reflection for International Students

By Natalie Chak

[3 minute read]

This past January, two professors at Duke University expressed concern over Chinese students speaking loudly in their mother tongue on campus. This led the Director of Graduate Studies to send an email to all international students reminding them of the “unintended consequences” that come with speaking their mother tongue in their academic building and other professional settings. The email went viral immediately and sparked outrage from students across the nation. The Director of Graduate Studies issued an apology and stepped down from her role shortly after.

This particular incident reflects the stigma that many international students face today. Of course, speaking in a native language is one way for international students to find comfort in a foreign place. Unfortunately, emails like the one described above and current policies are the reasons why international students feel uncomfortable speaking their own language or even eating native foods; they are fearful of further perpetuating existing stereotypes that are often associated with different races.

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Teaching in Taiwan

By Tanya Chen

“Good morning, teacher!” Twenty-three little bodies greeted me in English with heavy Mandarin accents. Looking at their gleaming smiles that seemed larger than they were, I couldn’t help but smile. Compared to our first meeting, many things have changed.

On my first day of teaching, I entered the room with a sunny and exuberant persona that quickly dimmed when it was paralleled by blank faces and defensive stares. For a couple of 4-foot kids, they sure held a lot of hostility. But the inner-teacher within me refused to get discouraged that easily. I realized that by growing up in rural Taiwan, many of the values these kids had were not the same ones I possessed. They lived sheltered lifestyles and many had never even seen a plane. As someone with an English accent from a foreign land, I must have appeared frightening.

With each day, I began devoting my time to not only teaching English but also furthering my knowledge of their world. From conversations at lunch and sly observations, I learned that my students were obsessed with a British pig. In an effort to make the task of learning English less intimidating, I swapped out my Google Slides with a more amusing theme: Peppa the Pig. The lesson plans I came prepared with were altered to include underlying examples relevant to Peppa.

As I learned more about their interests, I began to connect the gap between our two realms. These small efforts proved successful when I saw their growth in confidence. Gradually, I became their friend, not just their teacher.

When I submitted my application for this month-long teaching program, I had spent months preparing formulaic lessons. I was confident that the warmth I had made those lessons with could be conveyed into the interpersonal relationships between me and my students.

However, lesson plans could only do so much. This experience has taught me the importance of maintaining personal skills when faced with the task of forging real, human connections.

In a changing, globalizing world filled with differing perspectives, empathy and understanding have continued to play an increasing role in how I develop my personal and work relations. As a young adult faced with opportunities that will invariably lay outside of my comfort zone, this experience has positively impacted how I communicate and perceive others.

During my short time at USC, this has become extremely evident. Having lived in an ethnic enclave my whole life, I lived in a sheltered bubble that prevented me from reaching out to people who are different than me. Upon my arrival at a school as diverse as USC, I have interacted with peers from all across the globe in addition to individuals who come from different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. Rather than defining these interactions through stereotypes or our differences, I dedicate myself to finding similarities and connections that bring us together as two individuals who each have a unique perspective to bring. As the year progresses, I am excited to see how my experiences will continue to enrich my interactions.

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

Tanya Chen is a freshman studying Business Administration. She is from Southern California and enjoys taking advantage of the SoCal beaches. After teaching Mandarin to kids in underprivileged communities, she realized she had a strong passion for social work. On campus, she is involved with LA Community Impact and a Marshall Research Assistant. In her free time she enjoys watching film analysis videos, designing graphics, and playing with her dog, Mochi.

Reconnecting with my Thai Heritage through Los Angeles

By Zoe Navapanich

When I was twelve years old, I traveled to Thailand for the first time. I met much of my extended family for the first time, tasted all kinds of different cuisine, and saw many of the typical tourist attractions that draw people from far and wide to the country. Though I am half Thai, and was fairly well connected to my culture throughout my childhood—calling my grandma “khunya” and going to every Thai festival and celebration at the local temple, I felt like a tourist when I finally had the opportunity to visit Thailand.

For many children of immigrants, especially those from mixed-race families, it can feel very difficult to stay connected to your roots. When I visited my cousins growing up, I was ashamed that the only Thai I knew was the baby phrases my Khunya chided us with like แปรงฟัน (brush your teeth) or the nursery rhymes sung to the children at temple. Now, I wonder how much of my Thai heritage I will one day pass on to my children, or how much I would even be capable of passing along considering my lack of knowledge of the language and substantially lower involvement with the Buddhist temple in the past few years. Continue reading Reconnecting with my Thai Heritage through Los Angeles