Name: Brendan Melchiorri
Location of Study: Taipei, Taiwan
Program of Study: Fu Jen Catholic University Language Center (through Notre Dame OIS)
Sponsor(s): Justin Liu
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising senior from Boston, Massachusetts, majoring in Chinese and Political Science. On campus, I am involved in Model United Nations, Student Government, Hall Government, Glass Club, Interhall Dodgeball, Interhall Volleyball, and kung fu. I am currently studying abroad at Peking University in Beijing, China. I hope to obtain fluency in Chinese and am seeking to involve both Chinese language and International Relations in my future career.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
My SLA Grant is important to me and my future plans because it allows me to take a significant step in my goal of becoming fluent in Chinese. Studying in Taiwan will have a profound impact on my personal intellectual development. Being at Fu Jen is more than just an immersive language learning program; studying in Taiwan will be an invaluable life experience, which will give me insight into the culture, lifestyle, and political spheres of Asia. As I will be coming from a semester of study in Beijing, I will be able to contrast the many faces of China by living in their capital cities. I am extremely interested in pursuing a career based around the increasingly delicate political balance of Asia, of which Taiwan is a centerpiece. Understanding Chinese fluently will not only provide me with the ability to communicate with those involved in this balance, but also give me new insight and understanding into Chinese culture and perspectives.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
The first and foremost goal is to better learn the Chinese language. Both through intensive classroom study and through cultural immersion, I will be able to significantly improve my spoken and written Chinese. I will also be able to understand a different dialect of Chinese, as Taiwan’s language differs slightly from the standard Beijing accent. I also hope to gain the Taiwanese perspective on world politics. Coming from Beijing, which disputes that the island of Taiwan is a renegade region of China, I hope to capture the essence of Taiwan’s stance on this issue, especially concerning future relations with China.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to communicate easily and eloquently with native Chinese speakers about a variety of topics, especially global politics.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to understand the Taiwanese opinions on reunification or independence from the People’s Republic of China.
- At the end of the summer, I will understand Taiwan’s political structure, democratic process, and how it maintains its status as a fledgling but undeclared democracy.
- At the end of the summer, I will understand the Taiwanese perspective of and role in the contest for oil in the South China Sea.
- At the end of the summer, I will be place into Advanced Chinese at Notre Dame.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
With only two weeks in-between my semester in Beijing and the start of the Taiwan Summer Program, I will already be used to communicating in Chinese. I have overcome the stage where communication with native Chinese speakers is awkward and forced, and am ready to make more Chinese friends. I am also ready to pursue extracurricular activities, regardless of the presence of other English-speakers in the activities. I love to sing and would gladly take part in the famous singing contest hosted each year. I have studied taichi in the past, and would like to explore other martial arts, such as kung fu. Taking local classes in tennis or other activities would be an excellent way of immersing myself in Chinese and making Taiwanese friends along the way. I am also ready to break out of the confines of campus: I plan to get involved in outside service projects and other opportunities that may arise. In short, I hope to be as proactive as possible in my immersion into Taiwanese society.
Reflective Journal Entry 1: 6/13/12 上
个周末，我们五个圣母大学学生去輔仁大学的 “English Camp.” 这个活动是三天，是为了帮新的輔大学生练习英文。这个活动有很多学生，差不多五十个人。我们进入的时候，我有一点紧张因为我知道他们多要看美国人。对这些 台湾人来说，我们五个学生代表都美国人。如果我们很奇怪，不礼貌，什么的，他们可能觉得都美国人这样！我不要开始新的刻板印象。 张老师告诉我们应该用英文。。。很奇怪！我觉得跟他们说英文很容易，因为他们的英文非常好。他们都说英文说得很可爱！比如说，他们一起吵架得时候，他们会 叫喊英文的粗话。跟他们的声调，听起来很可笑！我的组只有一个女孩，可是她肯定是组的老板。男孩都给她很多麻烦，可是在我们的活动，她做很多的事。女孩则 很喜欢说话，也很外向，男孩则都很安静，不喜欢说话还是当领导。我感觉台湾的社会是这样。我觉得在将来的时候，台湾的领导都是妇女。。。 我们的表演有一点奇怪，可是都很好玩儿！我很顽皮，所以我喜欢鼓励他们做疯的作为！我觉得他们太内向。如果他们想跟美国人交朋友练习英文，他们得成为外 向。结果，我们的表演比较支离，但我觉得他们开放一点，所以是很好的经验。另外，我们都交朋友－活动以后，我们去打棒球，吃晚饭，还有星期日一起吃台北最 好的小笼包！我很感激我们做“English Camp” 因为我终于交台湾朋友们。以前真的不行，台湾人都很客气，很内向，我也紧张因为跟路人说话很尴尬！但是，这个活动是非常好的机会－我跟台湾朋友练习中文， 和他们跟美国朋友练习英文。我们互相有好处！
Reflective Journal Entry 2: 6/21/12
上个星期六，我跟Wendy 去了她外公的房子。他们的家乡是台中，坐高铁就要五十分钟。我们到的时候，他外婆的生日晚会已经开始了。我略紧张因为Wendy 的家人非常多，可是他们都友好，给我欢迎。外婆有很多孩子，他们都爱她。他们也有很多的传统。比如说，每个家人去外婆的桌子，对她说几句话。然后，外婆送 给他们红包。因为我已经二十一岁，他们也送给我红包！我没想到他们那么仁慈。 我最喜欢Wendy 的家人。我跟她的表弟讨论波士顿塞尔特。她表姐送我们去买台中有名的芒果汁。以后，我们去看很漂亮的风景——从山看了两个城市－一个在海边，一个在山的前 面。美丽啊！ 早上，表姐买小笼包，还有教我们开她的摩托车。我们都去慢慢地，不去路上。然后，Wendy 教我拉她外公的二胡。很多时间以前，他跟他的朋友都一边喝茶以便拉二胡。但是，他的朋友们都去世了。太可惜。他告诉 Wendy 的妈妈他希望他的孩子很成功，赚很多钱，可是我觉得他已经很幸运因为他有很棒的儿孙。比如说，他的孙女的心理很不好，所以她住在垦丁，遗弃她的女儿在外公 的房子。然而，别的表姐现在照顾女儿还有外婆外公。她就是二十五，没有上大学因为她照顾三个人。我觉得很特别的人。她的爱心感人。 那个周末以后，我觉得我懂中国传统的家。在北京，我的中国家庭不是这样。我现在看为什么有很多家人爱你很特别。Wendy 肯定很幸运有一个台湾家庭！
Reflective Journal Entry 3: 7/2/12
上个周末，我们圣母大学生去垦丁。从台北到垦丁，台湾最南的地方，只要五个小时。高铁非常方便！垦丁很美丽，从路我们看到了海边。很轻松！我们的酒馆非常 漂亮，跟北京的胡同很一样（可是，酒馆比较干净）。酒馆对海边很近，所以我们走路到海边。我没去过夏威夷，可是我觉得垦丁跟哪儿很一样！海边的地图非常漂 亮，有很多鲁塞德山，棕榈树，和花。水是路蓝色。哪儿也有很好玩儿的活动。温蒂，Daniel, 和我骑橡皮很多次。我很紧张，可是也很兴奋！ 我感觉海边非常轻松。我从波士顿来的，所以我常常去哪儿的海边。世界的海都有一样的水，所以去游泳的时候，我感觉我跟我家同意。对我来说，游泳很自然。我 和我妈妈都是救生员，还有我们的老祖宗是挪威的海盗。因此，我很喜欢游泳。 垦丁的夜市很苦！有很多好玩的活动。卖的东西也很漂亮。我有一点伤心因为我们的时间很短。垦丁有很多有意思的活动，还有风景非常美丽。垦丁很特别的地方。 不巧，垦丁的太阳很强，因此三个人中暑了。温蒂和Matthew生病了，都很不舒服了。他们现在恢复，可是我们下次小心不曝晒的太多。
Reflective Journal Entry 4: 7/9/12
这个星期非常好－我终于交台湾朋友！另外，我交很多台湾朋友。差不多参加英语露营。張瀚元 是一年级的甫大学生。他从台北来的。他的专业是化学，可是他也很喜欢烹饪。我觉得他应该学都的。他很喜欢我们美国人和很想跟我们交朋友！Valerie 是一个TA，她从马来西亚来的。她二十三岁，还有她的专业是音乐。她非常友善。Mark 在英语露营拍照。他也从台北来的，可是他的妈妈不让他晚上出去，所以很多次他不来我们的活动。他也是四年级的学生，可是他安静的很。他的英文很不好，所以 我跟他说中文。上个星期六，我们都去公园，喝非常好喝的茶，买东西，什么的。他们知道台北最好的地方！ 前天，Jasmine 和她朋友，水母，跟我们去很特别的火锅饭馆。哪里有很多好吃的东西，我没想到有那么多选择。水母教水母因为小的时候，她的头发看起来水母，所以人就教她水 母。她们两个女孩都很时髦。水母也很幽默，很喜欢开玩笑。她从台湾南部来的。她也是爱国人；我告诉她我撑腰台湾独立，她哭了。 昨天是美国独立的节日，所以温蒂，Caroline, Daniel, 和我请Henry和Valerie吃汉堡包和大棒球。在饭馆桌子的旁边有一组大学生坐。一个男孩很多次一直看到我们，所以我知道他大概想跟我们美国人说 话。吃完了，我们去棒球的地方。不料一样的学生在这里打棒球！我们打一样的求速度，所以我们一直穿插击打球地方。我觉得 很尴尬因为我知道他想跟我说话，可是他很害羞。我也跟他交朋友，所以我就去他等的地方，对他说：“你打棒球打的非常好！”。 他马上开始说话，然后我们讨论棒球，教育，大学生活还有别的话锋。他不会说英文，所以我都得用中文！他是法律系，所以我终于在台湾找到不科学系的学生！他 给我他的电子邮件，所以我很希望我们可以去玩！他很像我小的时候最好的朋友（一个法国人，他十岁回去法国）。我很高兴我突然教那么多朋友！
Reflective Journal Entry 5: 7/19/12
上個星期五，我們去了一個台北高中學校為了教英文。我很緊張因為我以前沒教學生，可是我也很興奮因為我會有很多權利。我要了他們對我的課有意思，所以我創造一個遊戲，跟飢餓遊戲很像。 禮拜四我花很多時間準備這個遊戲。我創造卡給他們。每個卡上有歷史有名的人，他的畫，還有他的故事。我也寫很多問題問他們。 在高中第一課的時候，我很痛苦。我進來的時候學生都很奇怪，不要跟我說。我覺得了他們的英文不太好，很怕都問題他們聽不懂。可是使一使以後，我覺得他們習慣我的遊戲，一般喜歡。我發現了亞洲學不習慣熱鬧的活動，所以他們在開始的時候沒想到可以說話的很多。 跟下個班有很多成功。他們很喜歡玩遊戲，肯定有意思。我覺得他們以前沒有用這個學習辦法，大概就是很無聊的讀書。在休息時候，我的班不要放棄，所以我們積蓄了。另外，很多學生回來參加遊戲。 我真的很開心，我覺得他們喜歡我。當老師很難，可是我覺得很有意思，鼓勵我在將來教英文，大概在台北還是北京。
Reflective Journal Entry 6: 7/26/12
這個禮拜我很忙！為了下個禮拜的大考，這個禮拜有很多考試。很都壓力！因為我的課太難，我每天從下午到早上四點學習。大考對我們的成績很重要，所以我很擔 心。不知道為甚麼，可是我不會做＂放字在空＂的考試。我覺得很糊塗。 上個週末，我的台灣朋友們情我和溫帝跟他們去五月天海邊的音樂會。非常苦！我們花很多時間開玩笑和跳舞和唱歌。堇修和他的朋友們都很幫！我真的想要跟他們 繼續當朋友，可是我怕我做錯了。不知道甚麼，可是我感覺他避免我。我問他如果他要不要去玩，可是他很多次告訴我他沒有時間。然而在FB他也很有好。 禮拜三我問他如果他可以去KTV因為他以前情我們，可是他告訴我他太忙。幾個小時以後，我去語言中心的外邊所以為了學習。在五點，天空很金色的，所以我看 一看。在那個分鐘，我看我的台灣朋友們在走路。我知道他們去打棒球，可是他們別告訴我。為甚麼？我們三次打棒球，我感覺是我們互相的活動。我很傷心因為我 覺得他們都喜歡我，可是他們為甚麼避免我？我做錯了嗎？是一個文化問題嗎？ 上個週末如果你問我，我會告訴你我感覺我在亞洲的時間最高興。如果我回來，我肯定有台灣朋友可是現在，我很糊塗。我怕我練費我的時間教這些朋友們。 現在時間很短，很快回去美國。我很傷心因為我會想台灣。真的是一個特別的地方，我肯定需要回來！
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
My language acculturation was based heavily on the transition between the realm of textbook Chinese and real-world Chinese. There were many differences between the Chinese I had come to China already knowing, and the Chinese words I learned during my immersion. It wasn’t so much slang that was the problem, but just different terms for the same things. Phrases like “excuse me,” “the check,” and even weekdays threw me off.
The second insight was the massive difference between Beijing Chinese and Taiwan Chinese. Not only did the accent vary, altering pronunciation and changing vowel sounds, but the words used were completely different. As a result of these two factors, I had considerable difficulty even understanding Chinese when I came to Taiwan, even after having spent four months in Beijing!
I accomplished all of my goals. I was able to befriend the students at Fu Jen University, and we had many in depth discussions–including global politics (particularly the United States’ role in the world), as well as Taiwan’s political status according to the natives, and its approach to solving problems like the South China Sea standoff. I learned not only about the political structure of the ROC, but was able to converse with members of both major political parties, getting an excellent sense of the two major opinions towards the People’s Republic of China.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
I am very glad that I was able to travel to Taiwan to study Chinese. Nowadays, nearly all students go to mainland China to learn Chinese, but they are only experiencing half of China. While small, Taiwan’s holding of China’s culture and history is quite large, and the splitting of the Forbidden City best characterizes the dichotomy between the two countries: while Mao Zendong and the communists were left the Forbidden City, Chiang Kaishek and the nationalists took the contents and cultural artifacts that were within it. The PRC was left the physical shell, the mainland, which shed much of its historical baggage during the 20th century, while the nationalists retained the cultural and historical innards of the nation.
Being in Taiwan opened my eyes: they are not entirely a people clamoring for independence. While many do advocate breaking off from China officially, the majority feel a sense of ambivalence towards the situation. None wish for armed conflict, but many are satisfied with the current situation in Taiwan: while they lack recognition from the world, the Taiwanese people have freedom. Consequently, they do not want to make the situation any worse than it is.
To someone who was about to start his or her own summer language study, I would say this: if you want to learn the language, you have to leave a part of yourself behind. Living in a foreign country is about rebirth of character. The you who got on the plane, and the person you are when you exit the terminal are different. When you land on foreign soil, you cannot cling to your old habits any longer. You must embrace the new world around you. Do not find yourself hiding in your room, browsing Facebook and reading American novels, and do not fall into the trap of doing American activities, such as shopping at Western malls, going to bars and American chain restaurants, and spending all of your time with fellow Americans. You must let go of these things. Most of the others on the trip will become entangled in these things. Do not be most of the others on the trip.
Instead, welcome any chance of adventure: go to the popular places in the country. Go to the famous sites and learn the historical legacies of the people you are studying, but find the real people as well–do as the locals do, not tourists. Never be afraid to make a fool out of yourself: dance to the street music, play the games, eat the strange food. And by all means, talk to anyone and everyone you meet! If you are shy, you will miss your chance. Each new person is a potential friend, someone who can tie you to that place and make it vastly more meaningful than just a cliché, “so-college” study abroad experience. Make friends who you will want to go back to visit–and trust me, it makes going back so much easier.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I am currently considering my post-college career prospects in China and Taiwan, and thanks to my immersion, I can finally put forth my Chinese language skills as a practical, useful, and able tool for professional situations–more than just classroom smalltalk. I also very much enjoyed teaching English, and am considering spending some time doing that as well. My future is uncertain, but I know whatever I end up doing, it will be using my this gift of Chinese!
As a person, however, my experience in Taiwan has really changed me. I am no longer the timid person I was prior to studying abroad: I have learned to be forthright, to be brave, and to seize the adventures that make a life worth living. The unknown no longer frightens me, it excites me. I have learned to accomplish my goals with confidence and accuracy, and no longer back down or hide my convictions. I learned that despite intercultural differences, dignity is present in all languages and nations, and every living creature is deserving of it. I have also learned that kindness comes from where one might least expect it, and to always return the favor. In essence, living and struggling to survive in this challenging and immersive world has made me stronger.