Students Explore the Scenic Towns of Hualien and Taitung in Eastern Taiwan
NSLI-Y Korea Students Volunteer at a North Korean Defectors Shelter
On January 15th, NSLI-Y students in Korea had their first meeting with elementary and middle school students at the North Korea Defectors Shelter outside of Seoul. The NSLI-Y students will volunteer at the defectors shelter during their six week winter break for two hours every Tuesday to mentor and tutor youth.
In preparation for volunteering at the shelter, NSLI-Y students learned more about Korean history around the division, when and why the defectors left North Korea, and what daily life is like for a defector. The defectors shelter supports North Koreans’ transition into everyday life and society in the south through providing language and technical skills training in addition to job support. Because it is difficult for children to transition school systems between the two countries, they attend a special school at the shelter. NSLI-Y students mentor, tutor, and support these students through playing fun games and teaching English.
By volunteering at the defectors shelter, NSLI-Y students learn about the divide between North and South Korea and interact with people who are caught in the middle. Since youth at the shelter have changed schools and are behind their peers, the NSLI-Y students provide extra support for them mostly through their Korean language skills.
NSLI-Y Korea Students Show off their Language Skills and Share their Reflections
Whether NSLI-Y students study abroad for a summer or an academic year, all return to the U.S. with a greater understanding of other languages and cultures. In this video, students studying Korean show off their language skills in at the end of their summer program.
Beyond improving their language skills, students gain new perspectives of the world and set new aspirations and goals for their future. Our photo-essay winner, who spent the summer of 2012 in Seoul, describes how the experience impacted him:
Through these cultural exchanges, I was not only able to learn the Korean language, but also catalyze my desire to pursue my studies even further. By keeping an open mind during my trip, I was able to establish many bonds with the new friends I made and grasp onto the knowledge I learned in Sogang University. Being in NSLIY, I realized that staying within comfort zones will culturally restrict a person and not allow him to gain new perspectives to apply to their everyday life; putting aside forks and knifes and trying to eat with chopsticks is a perfect example. Though the program is over, my studies have only begun.
Full highlights from the summer 2012 program in Seoul, South Korea, including photos of students with host families, participating in cultural activities, and in language classes, are featured in a NSLI-Y summer highlights video. Congratulations to all students who participated in the program and built bridges between Koreans and Americans over the summer!
New Cohort of NSLI-Y Korea Students Start the School Year
After two weeks in South Korea, the 2012-2013 cohort of 11 NSLI-Y Academic Year students adjust to a new culture, dedicate themselves to their language studies, and experience their first days of Korean school.
The group arrived in Seoul on August 31st and began their language program with an orientation to help them adapt to Korean life, prepare for host family and school challenges, and share their knowledge of Korean culture. Three students in the cohort are previous participants of the NSLI-Y Korea summer program and were able to help the group practice Korean phrases, learn the transportation system, and order their first meal at a Korean restaurant.
Upon arrival, the students expressed their first impressions of Korea as very clean, safe, and friendly. As the group’s resident director shared, “The seemed very, if not overly, excited as much as they were nervous. They definitely knew more than I expected… some of them seemed to be able to understand Korean well.”
Perhaps most of the excited and nervous energy for the students involved meeting their host families. However, once they met, they were at ease and began getting to know each other and bonding right away. The host families were also happy to finally meet their new children for the year. One host mother shared that her new host student has “become a vitamin to my family, we are so grateful to have her.” Some of the host families do not speak English, as students may have expected, but the students thought that this was a great opportunity for them to speak more Korean.
After an intensive language course, the NSLI-Y students began their first day of school on Monday with their Korean peers. They will continue to study Korean, make friends at their new high schools, and learn about Korean culture throughout the academic year.
Bright Start to the Academic Year for NSLI-Y Students in Taiwan
Five NSLI-Y scholarship recipients arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, August 23rd to begin their Chinese language program and immerse themselves in the local culture and host family life.
After a two-day orientation workshop in Kaohsiung, NSLI-Y students attended their opening ceremony on Sunday, August 27th. All host families, iEARN staff, the office of international programs staff, and the school president attended the opening ceremony at Wenzao. Members of the press were also invited to the opening ceremony and one of the top newspapers in Taiwan featured an article on the group:
Meeting the Host Family
The students met their host families this past Saturday. The host families were very enthusiastic about meeting their new American “children” and welcoming them to their homes. At our opening ceremony on Wenzao’s campus, each host family stood up and spoke about how honored they were to be hosting an American student. The host families presented their NSLI-Y student with a gift. One student’s host grandmother gave him a beautiful traditional scroll painting she painted herself!
The host families have shown a great desire to share Kaohsiung with the students. In less than a week, many students have already visited the most famous sites in the city such as Lotus Pond, temples, the night market, Kaohsiung Arena, and many shopping centers. Some students have also visited their extended “Taiwan family,” including both sets of grandparents.
From their arrival in Taiwan, the group of beginning language learners impressed the iEARN-Taiwan staff and locals with their language skills an when they introduced themselves in Chinese at the airport. Since then, the students continue to take in all of their surroundings to the fullest extent and to speak as much Chinese as possible. On their second night in Taiwan, the students already wanted to order their own food!
All of the teachers have been surprised by the students’ rapid progress—so much so that they have changed their lesson plans. The group’s resident director Logan also shared great first impressions of the group:
“I am very proud of the remarkable maturity, respect for local customs, and passion for learning exhibited by our NSLI-Y students during their first week abroad. I am certain our NSLI-Y students will continue to make an impression on those around them and will return to the United States with a greater understanding of international affairs, Taiwan, and themselves."
The group will continue to study Mandarin Chinese at Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages throughout the academic year. We look forward to hearing more about their academic successes and personal growth through the exchange experience.