Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, AC Study Abroad programs were held virtually during Summer 2020.
Online learning is a challenge and frustrating not only for students but for teachers as well. I was very hesitant to enroll in a language program this summer knowing I would not have the ability to learn through immersion or being able to experience the culture of Taiwan. My concerns about not getting to know Taiwan were quickly expelled. Through not only the textbooks but also my language partner, I have gotten to learn about Taiwan and Taiwanese culture I would not have otherwise known. Through the class, I have learned things like garbage trucks are yellow and play music or that at weddings the newlyweds give out sweets. Information like this is something I doubt I would have learned in the traditional American-based classroom. With the class being remote, I was also concerned about whether classes would be engaging or just being lectured at, or if I was going to be focusing on practicing speaking.
Although I am not in Taiwan, by giving me the opportunity to speak with someone my age, my language partner has not only allowed me to practice my new vocabulary in a more conversational way, but has allowed me to learn about topics and vernacular people my age would be discussing or words they would be using. I have always found reading and writing characters to be easier than speaking, so the thought of a language partner made me hesitant because I could not imagine twice a week holding a conversation for an hour. Because meeting with a language partner is less formal than class, I was nervous that working with them through a screen would be awkward. But despite being in two very different time zones, the twice a week meetings with my language partner have not only allowed me to practice my language skills, but have allowed me to boost my confidence in speaking the language.
Within class, online learning has surprisingly been incredibly engaging and fun. Although there have been technical difficulties along the way, our teacher has managed to keep class going whether it be from moving class to a different platform or restarting the call. Classes were the complete opposite of my expectations. We spend a majority of the time speaking— whether answering questions to practice our new vocabulary or reading the slides to practice not only our reading skills but also our pronunciation skills. While homework may be difficult, it can be very funny: in order to learn more about Taiwanese culture for our chapter on wedding vocabulary, we got to watch a parody of a wedding that was so funny watching it did not feel like homework.
Apart from my professor who has handled teaching through this rapidly changing situation really well, this online program has been so great due to my classmates. I was worried that with classes being virtual that I would not be able to connect and get to know my classmates. Although our pre-orientation call allowed me to meet my classmates, our teacher has made it so our biweekly presentation and even some class exercises allow us to get to know and learn more about our fellow classmates. While we are only halfway through the program, it appears all my fears of online classes have been unwarranted and that so far this program is great for anyone who wants to improve their speaking skills and gain confidence in their conversational abilities.
By: Devin Leonard
Term: Summer 2020