Dan Davidson Fellowship Essay: Giselle Jernigan

My experience in TISLP has changed me more than I ever expected, and months after returning home, I am still discovering ways I have been impacted. Despite the difficulties, as I look back on my time in Taiwan, the memories become fonder and fonder and I find myself wanting to return there. Above all, the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship allowed me to create such a fond experience.

When I was looking at study abroad programs, the greatest attraction about the American Councils Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program was the opportunity to engage with the locals and experience Chinese, not just learn it. During my time in Tainan, I engaged with the local people on a daily basis while doing a variety of things, such as going to restaurants, the grocery store, and asking for directions. These types of everyday interactions made learning Chinese feel less like studying and more like simply living and getting to know people. The staff at Chengkung University often described the program as a natural method of learning Chinese, where our traditional class instruction was supplemented by the natural environments of Chinese-speakers. Every single thing, small and big, was fun and interesting, and this made the experience and the country of Taiwan all the more charming.  With regard to the actual the language process, we were provided many opportunities to get real-time practice, even if it was a constant challenge to use our Chinese without any preparation. The part of this type of language-learning experience that I thought was the most significant is being able to learn the nuances and flow of conversation, which is something that is difficult to experience in a classroom filled with fellow language learners. Through all this practice, I gained more confidence in my conversational skills, an area that needed much improvement at the time, as well as my own independence and ability to manage in a foreign country. In the process, I developed a sense of familiarity with the people of Tainan, Taiwan, and Chinese-speakers in general.

As I mentioned before, all of this was possible because I received the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship. This scholarship undoubtably helped lessen the financial burden and allowed me to attend the program. Without the financial help I received, I am certain that studying abroad would not have been an option, despite my desire to go. I am truly grateful that this aid enabled me to have the immersive experience through this program and the opportunity to gain confidence that I could never have obtained if I stayed in America this summer. I believe this trip was a very necessary stepping stone in my progress in many areas of my life, which makes me all the more grateful that I was given the opportunity. One of the greatest benefits I received from my experience is that my passion for language and culture has been reinvigorated, and I have been inspired to continue studying Chinese at the graduate level. I am currently applying for graduate school and hopefully will conduct cultural studies in the near future. TISLP helped me attain precious tools that will be necessary for this journey I will embark on, and the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship is but one major bridge bringing me closer to this destination.

In addition to cultural studies, I hope to incorporate linguistic study into my research. I will conduct both areas of study between Chinese, Japanese, and English while I further my language studies. In the near future, I would like to work in translation/localization and tutor beginner Chinese and Japanese students along the way. In the distant future, I hope to reform language education in the public-school system and beginner courses to help students become more well-rounded language learners and address the issue native-speaking teachers face, which is having difficulty understanding the struggles that their non-native-speaking students face. I have witnessed many teachers who could not properly help their student or explain concepts due to them never having experienced such difficulties with their native language. I hope that I can help upcoming students and give them a better experience with language, because it is very easy for beginner language learners to lose confidence and give up. I truly believe there needs to be a change in the curriculums and teachers’ approaches to better meet the needs of the students, and I hope to be a catalyst in such change.

I am aware that my goals for the future are quite lofty and I am not sure about the path to achieve them; however, I have this strong passion to help people and those interested in other cultures. In this current world with many barriers, it is imperative to reach outside of our small personal spheres and attempt to understand those who are different. I am committed to building a better future, which I believe is a sentiment that American Councils, the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship, and I all share. For that reason, I want to thank American Councils and the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship for giving me inspiration and opportunities to achieve greater goals.

Program: Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program

Term: Summer 2019

The Dan E. Davidson Fellowship supports highly qualified and deserving individuals who would otherwise not have the opportunity to build the skills that allow them to operate, negotiate, and establish ties in countries critical to U.S. economic, political, and social interests through language study and area studies coursework. Click here to learn more about Dr. Davidson and the Fellowship.

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